Friday, May 26, 2006

Are your ancestors missing?

Regrettably the surviving census returns are not a full record of the population of nineteenth century England and Wales, and it may not always be possible to track down individuals, addresses and householdld These omissions reflect both under-enumeration at the time of the census, and subsequent loss or damage to the returns.

In the early censuses under the GRO, certain groups, usually those not living in conventional households, were simply not enumerated by name. These included the members of the Royal Navy on board ship in 1841, and possibly in 1851; all members of the merchant marine in 1841, and various sections of it thereafter, all fishermen afloat in 1841, and sections of this group thereafter; the crews of vessels engaged in inland navigation in 1841 and 1851; and all itinerants, travellers and night workers in 1841, and probably a considerable number of the same in later years. The soldiers serving abroad were never enumerated by name.

Undoubtedly, some individuals and households that should have been enumerated will have completely slipped through the census net. Some of these omissions might reflect clerical error as enumerators and households made inevitable slips in the recording or copying. A house might have been omitted, perhaps because it was unoccupied on census night, and the enumerator forgot to note it down as empty; a wife might have been absent because of an enumerator’s copying blunder; an elderly visitor might have been temporarily lost sight of; and so on. But in some districts, or among some social groups, it might have been difficult for hard-pressed enumerators to ensure that they had handed a household schedule to every family.

In the absence of any detailed research on the subject it is difficult to put a figure to such levels of under-enumeration. It should be noted, however, that post-enumeration surveys for the 1981 census indicated that 0.5% of households were missed in that census in the whole of England and Wales.

Some of the original returns, which were not always kept in optimum archival conditions in the nineteenth century, have been lost or damaged. Often such damage was confined to the backs and fronts of enumerators’ books, but more extensive gaps exist. Special returns, such as those for shipping, were often appended to the back of enumerators’ books, were especially liable to damage. In the 1851, all the ship returns seem to have been destroyed.

Making Sense of the Census Revisited by Edward Higgs. Copyright TNA

As far as the COCP knows, no large sections of the Cornish returns are missing, just odd pages here and there. Also, Cornwall was free of large urban districts, which are particularly hard to enumerate. However, the Cornish would have been heavily represented in the maritime returns that were not taken or which were lost in the earlier years.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

COCP Newsletter No 7

Hello folks

There are only 8 out of 89 pieces left of the 1861 and about two dozen parishes out of the over 200 parishes that make up the 1851. Should finish both before the end of the year.

We have just completed another 4 pieces of the 1871, which means we have done over 30% of that one. And the 1871 is my main topic today.

When we started the 1871 we were in the habit of sending multi-piece discs to transcribers. Obviously, we hoped you would do more than one, but it also saved on our considerable postal costs. It costs me about £2 for an overseas disc and £1 for a UK one. (these figures include the disc, packaging etc). I am not whinging about this - after all I am a volunteer!

We turn no one away, so we have a steadily increasing number of volunteers. So we are re-allocating pieces from multiple-piece discs. We try and keep everyone posted, but rely on you reading the emails!

We are also trying to persuade some people to try their hand at checking. This will continue to be a feature of grovelling emails from me! The next big task for us is the 1881. We are fortunate in having a complete transcription of the 1881 (don't ask). But it has to be reformatted for Free Census purposes and then checked. So we will end up needing to persuade you all to switch to checking for the final push.

I would like all 1871 TRANSCRIBERS to check in with myself or Kay; please give the piece number you are working on and a rough estimate of your progress.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Cornish Online Research

If you are a newcomer to online family history research in Cornwall, then your first port of call should be to the Cornish pages of GENUKI (x Not only is there a lot of information about the county in general terms, but each parish has its own pages. These pages also contain useful information, but perhaps more importantly, they all contain many links to other Cornish web sites. In particular to the Census Project and the OPC scheme.

The OPC (Online Parish Clerk) scheme was started in Cornwall about 5 years ago and has since spread to 8 or 9 other English counties. It could be called the “adopt-a-parish” scheme, but OPC sounded more interesting. Public spirited people step forward and adopt a parish or parishes. Their aim is to provide information and advice to anyone who contacts them. Some of them have their own web sites and some of them contain transcribed data, things such as parish registers. Others have their data hosted on other web sites and the scheme has its own web site ( which contains details of Cornish parishes and of the OPC themselves.

The OPC scheme is about to launch itself into a new project – C-PROP. This is the Cornish Parish Register Online Project and aims to get all 5 million Cornish parish register entries online free-to-view in a searchable database.

The Cornwall Online Census Project (COCP) is a sort of semi-detached part of the Free Census project. The COCP is busy transcribing ALL the Cornish 19th century census returns and placing them online. They are available on the Free Census OLDB ( and on the COCP web site ( The whole of the 1841 & 1891 are online plus most of the 51 & 61. The 1871 & 81 are also appearing.

There are of course, lots of Cornish web sites you might find helpful. West Penwith is perhaps the best (, but there are lots of others, including St Keverne (

Finally, there are the commercial sites, the national projects (FreeBMD for instance) and the Cornish Family History web site. I cannot speak for them, but you can easily find them via Google.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The governance of Cornwall

Two hundred years ago Cornwall was largely governed by Cornishmen living in Cornwall. There was, of course, a national government in London that made the rules, but the implementation and enforcement of these laws was mainly in the hands of Cornishmen. They were, of course, largely drawn from the upper and middle classes.

There were no district or county councils. The representatives of The Crown were here; they lived here amongst the Cornish. Lord Leuitenants, High Sherrifs and Judges enforced the laws laid down in London. At the lowest level was the Ecclesiastical parish, ruled by the local vicar. The parish had acquired various civil functions over the centuries, and the Vicar was constrained by law and by the elected Vestry. The Vestry was more or less self-selected from amongst the more prosperous inhabitants of the parish, but in the last resort they depended on the support of the parishioners.

From the time of the Tudors, the civil parishes (which usually covered the same ground as the ecclesiastical parishes) were given powers & duties governing the poor, the highways and petty crime. The system was supervised by the judiciary through the Quarter Sessions. At the same time, the manorial system was still around in many areas, with its own courts. The Court Leets & Baron were still meeting late in the 19th century and these appointed officials for such things as Ale tasting and Bread weighing. One of the chief officers was the Constable; he was responsible not only for local law and order, but for collecting local taxes such as the poor rate. Elected Parish Councils arrived in 1894, after the formation of County Councils.

Throughout the 19th century, the government in London refined the laws relating to social order and public good. New obligations and new rights were set out. But it is a mistake to see this entirely as a top-down process. There was pressure from the bottom to change things. A good example is the Poor Law Unions and the associated workhouses. The groans of those paying the poor rates forced the government in London to do something. The workhouses were sited, built, manned and maintained by local boards. There was a local board of governors and the jobs and the contracts to supply and maintain the workhouses were advertised in local papers.

By the end of the 19th century, elected County and parish councils had arrived. In the towns there were borough councils and in between the county & parish councils were Rural & Urban district councils. In 1830 Cornwall had more Members of Parliament than any other English county except for Wiltshire. These two counties had more MPs than Scotland! But in 1832, the reform act swept all that away and Cornwall was reduced to six. My own village had returned two MPs for 200 years. In the election of 1830 there were only 7 electors and they managed to elect three MPs instead of two!

In spite of constant change, much of the basic structure of Cornwall remains the same as it has been for a thousand years. Although I live in the modern district council area of Carrick; it covers almost the same ground as the ancient Hundred of Pydar. The parish of Newlyn East has been where it is for over a thousand years. The village of Mitchell is first recorded on paper in a court case of 1234 AD. The four local Domesday Manors of 1086 are still the sites of farms today.

Since the 1980s there has been increasing centralisation with more control going to outposts of the central government in regional authorities. The South West one lives a long way from Cornwall. The police force merged with that of Devon and the fire service is to be controlled from Taunton in Somerset. Even higher up, more and more power is shifting from London to Brussels and the County Council now has an office in that city.

Whether the shift from Cornwall to Swindon, London & Brussels is a good thing is an argument for another day!

COCP Newsletter No 6b

Second newsletter covers the "end game' situation for the 1851. This looks worse than the 1861, but these are parishes, not pieces and many of them are quite small. Same request as before - if anything looks wrong, drop me a line.

Otterham HO5a1898 being transcribed by Lauren Patey
Tintagel HO5g1898 Transcribed, allocated to David Trounce for checking
Lanteglos by Camelford HO5h1898 transcribed
Davidstow HO5j1898 Transcribed, allocated to David Trounce for checking
St Clether HO5k1898 Transcribed, allocated to David Trounce for checking

Maker HO5a1900 ED1 online; rest being done by Gillian Johnson
Rame HO5b1900 being transcribed by Mike Beck
St Germans HO5f1900 being checked by Arthur Hodge

Menheniot Ho5a1902 being transcribed by Hazel Labka
St Cleer Ho5b1902 being transcribed by Nick Russell
St Neot Ho5d1902 being transcribed by Ainslie Jones
St Pinnock Ho5e1902 being transcribed by Lauren Patey
St Keyne Ho5f1902 being transcribed by Lauren Patey

Duloe Ho5b1903 Being transcribed by Brian Hulme
Morval Ho5c1903 being transcribed by Nick Russell
Lanteglos-by-Fowey Ho5h1903 Transcribed, waiting for checker
Boconnoc Ho5k1903 Transcribed, waiting for checker
Broadoak Ho5l1903 Transcribed, waiting for checker

Bodmin Ho5l1904 Transcribed, waiting for checker
St Kew Ho5p1904 Being checked by Di Thompson, more or less ready
Endellion Ho5q1904 Being checked by Di Thompson
Egloshayle Ho5s1904 Being checked by Di Thompson

Fowey Ho5a1906 being transcribed by Lauren Patey
St Sampson or Golant Ho5b1906 Transcribed, waiting for checker
Tywardreath Ho5c1906 being transcribed by Lauren Patey
St Blazey Ho5d1906 Not allocated

St Stephen in Brannel Ho5e1908 being transcribed by Sharon Strange
St Mewan Ho5f1908 Transcribed, waiting for checker

Kenwyn Ho5e1910 being checked by Mark Hattam
Tregavethan Ho5f1910 being checked by Mark Hattam

St Stithians Ho5a1914 Being transcribed by Vivienne McRitche
Gwennap Ho5b1914 being transcribed by Fiona Russell

Redruth 221069 1915 Ho5a1915 Being transcribed by Vivienne McRitche
Gwinear Ho5b1916 Transcribed, waiting for checker
Gwithian Ho5c1916 Transcribed, waiting for checker
Phillack Ho5d1916 Transcribed, waiting for checker

Towednack Ho5d1917 Transcribed, waiting for checker
St Ives Ho5e1917 being checked by John Nance

COCP Newsletter No 6a

Hello folks

We are now in the "end game" period for the 1861. Here is my list of what remains to be done, given that 1527 & 1557 have now gone online:

1522 Anthony, being validated now
1525 Saltash, being transcribed by Joy Hungerford
1528 Liskeard being checked by Denise Ravenhill (ex-WAR, not yet started)
1540 Padstow, transcribed, waiting for checker - Chris Uphill?
1542 St Columb, transcribed, waiting for checker
1544 Newlyn, online except for ED2, which is going to be transcribed by Celia Wikert, I hope
1578 Gwennap, being checked by Marion Paul
1579 Redruth, being transcribed by Shirley Franklin, about halfway
1580 Redruth, transcription just started by Tina Russell, already one third done by Barbara Schenck.
1583 Camborne. ED1 transcribed by Sue James; she is now finishing it off.
1584 Phillack, being transcribed by Carrol Parfitt
1590 Marazion, being transcribed by Jim Rusk
1591 Penzance, being checked by Kathy Keyes.

If anybody disagrees with this, please drop me a line.

This past week we have uploaded RG112315 Falmouth plus 2246 & 2248 from the 1871 and the two 1861 pieces I have mentioned. I should get 1522 finished this weekend, especially if it rains!

Free Census has finally managed a rebuild and their stats show us with 1,119,221 returns online out of a global total of 7,395,113.

Monday, May 01, 2006

NWOCP Newsletter No 1

The North Wiltshire Online Census Project (NWOCP) started about three months ago and now has about 40 volunteers. It is a subordinate project of the main Wiltshire project, which is run by Terry Waters-Marsh, who is also the England co-ordinator for Free Census.

I decided to do it because the Warwicks 1891 project is nearly finished and I have personal ties to North Wilts. I also wanted to demonstrate how a project could be run - there are a lot of whingers around, continually moaning that there are no transcribers or checkers to be found. So I chose a small compact area; to make it a worthwhile size, we are doing ALL the 19th century census returns at once. Or nearly at once.

Currently the project is working on the 1841, 61, 71 and 91 census returns using discs and fiche sets supplied by the LDS. Recently we have produced our first piece and this is now online with Free Census. Once the 61 & 71 are done, I intend to start up the 1851, then the 1881.

Part of my plan is to have a project web site. One of your number is busy constructing web pages that will host the project. There are a number of advantages in this, not least that completed returns would get online in a couple of days instead of a couple of months. But its main purpose is to foster a sense of identity amongst our volunteers and researchers. The returns will be displayed as texts and the transcriber/checker teams will have their names in lights.

Each of our census years has about 30 pieces. Some 17 have now been transcribed with most of the others being worked on. One piece has been completed and half a dozen are in the checking stage. Mainly, these are 1861 & 71 pieces, but the first 1841 parishes are now rolling in.

We have got off to a good start; all that is needed now is for you to keep plugging away, nibbling at the task we have volunteered to do!

Warwickshire online census returns

The Warwickshire Ancestors' Project (WAP) started just over five years ago. Initially, the project just covered the urban areas in the parishes of Aston and Birmingham. The rest of Warwickshire was covered by a joint Free Census/BMSGH project known as Rural Warwickshire. However, the organiser of Rural Warwicks got disinterested, and his project was absorbed into the WAP, making a total of 122 pieces.

The 1891 project is now nearly complete, with only two pieces to go. When it is finished it will have about 800,000 records online. These can be searched on the Free Census OLDB and on the web site belonging to Pickard Trepress. (

About 4 years ago, a commercial company produced the images of the Warwickshire 1841 census returns on disc. One of the 1891 volunteers, Wendy Boland, recruited volunteers who had purchased the discs for their own purposes. In the face of indifference and hostility from Free Census, she achieved the amazing result of completing and placing online the whole of the 1841 online in two years. Over 400,000 records! The final stages of this project were greatly accelerated by the arrival of the ACDB discs of the 1841. These records are also available on Pickard's web site.

Wendy has now got cracking on the WAR61 returns, using discs supplied by the LDS.

COCP Newsletter No 5

The 1861 could be finished before the end of the year! With a bit of luck and some more hard work by the far-flung volunteers of the COCP.

At the moment, there are three 1861 pieces going through validation etc and these should be online within a week or so. The rest are as follows:

Being Transcribed:

1525 Saltash Joy Hungerford
1540 Padstow Jean Cochrane
1579 Redruth Shirley Franklin
1584 Phillack Carrol Parfitt
1590 Marazion Jim Rusk.

Transcribed, waiting for a checker:

1542 St Columb (just done by Celia Wikert)

Being checked:

1528 Liskeard Denise Ravenhill
1578 Gwennap Marion Paul
1583 Camborne Chris Uphill
1591 Kathy Keyes

1580 Redruth is partially transcribed. Needs another transcriber.

There are 89 pieces and so, when the 3 in progress go online, there will be 11 left.

If any of the people named don't agree they are doing what I think they are - please drop me a line.

The 1851 is also in sight of the end and might also be finished before the end of 2006. Over 30% of the 1871 is online and the rest is underway. Another piece of the 1881 is here being finished and will be online soon.

On the wider front, pieces sent to Free Census have not been uploaded since 23rd February. If anyone asks you - tell them that the COCP coverage is both more extensive and more up-to-date. Our approach to this whole business is much more professional than theirs.