Friday, April 28, 2006

Transcribing Cornish Parish Registers

The three basic tools of Cornish family history research are the registers of Births, Marriages & Deaths; the census returns; and the parish registers. The first two are coming on nicely, so we would like to turn our attention to the parish registers.

Recently a well-known Australian traveller has discovered what many of us have known for a long time. The records bequeathed us by our ancestors are often faded, damaged, badly written and poorly reproduced. They also, in the main, have to be viewed on antiquated equipment.

We would like to get the Cornish parish registers transcribed and placed online free-to-view. It has been estimated that there are 5 million records in the Cornish parish registers. In spite of hard labour by quite a few people, the surface has hardly been scratched.

I don't know how you are dealing with parish registers, but many of you may do what I do. I usually transcribe any that look as though they might be useful. So, looking for ROBERTS in Coverack in the late 18th century, I find there are 5 families, but only one is mine. So I transcribe the lot including any in surrounding parishes. Just in case. These transcripts can be used by us.

If you have got the film at your local FHC, it's worth the time to transcribe anything that might be yours - however remote. If you have bought parish registers on fiche and have extracted your ancestors, why not get some added value and help other Cornish researchers to find their ancestors?

It doesn't matter how many you have done, 10 or 10,000, just send them in. Nor do they have to be sequential or provide complete coverage, just send them in.

Those transcripts, however incomplete, can be added to the pile. 1 or 10,000 - they can be used. Ideally, we would like you to transcribe to our prescribed layout - this can be seen on But we don't insist on this.

How will they be used? There will be a new OPC online database - searchable & free-to-view. We have several hundred thousand records already - so five million shouldn't take long. Our policy on distribution and ownership is that of the COCP. The information belongs to no one and everyone. Bit like the Cornish motto really.

Obviously we need another confusing set of initials - so we have decided on the Cornish Parish Registers Online Project - C-PROP. It even has a motto - Send us your dead!

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