Thursday, July 20, 2006

COCP Newsletter No 11

Thick mist in my part of Cornwall and I am about to depart for England. About 7 hours of motoring misery - and that is only if I am lucky. Back online on Monday morning.

This week saw a couple of pieces uploaded, several more are in post validation and I have three pieces here ready to be validated. As I am going to England to pick up a couple of grandchildren, census returns are likely to be stacked for now!

Currently, we are within a month or so of completing the 1861, with only five pieces left to do. The 1851 won't be far behind and the 1871 is approaching 50%. This week we recruited three more people. They all want to be transcribers, but we don't have work for them. We are now in the end game period of the whole Cornish project - not just the 61 & 51. More and more volunteers must be persuaded to switch to checking; there are already plenty of 1871 pieces waiting for checking.

The big task is the 1881. We have a transcript of the whole of the Cornish 1881; it just needs checking. So everyone who sticks with us will have to try their hand at checking. You might ask why we are doing the 1881. Well, wonderful though the LDS version is, we are finding mistakes as we compare our transcript with theirs. Anyway - there is question of symetry! How nice to have the whole of the Cornish 19th century returns online!

Checking is less painful than transcribing - and I have tried both! You have to tab through each field of each record, looking closely at the transcriber's work. If you find mistakes - and you will - you fix them. If you can't, you flag them up for me to look at during validation. Checking is a vital part of the project and has to be done properly. It is not difficult - just hard on the tab key!

So - be prepared - a grovelling email will arrive one day asking that you volunteer to try checking.

The Free Census database was rebuilt on July 12th and the Cornish volunteers remain by far the biggest contributors to the nearly 8 million records now online.

Onwards and Upwards!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

NWOCP Newsletter No 2

We now have our own web site ( courtesy of John Pope. On this you can see those pieces that we have completed – four 1871 and one 1861. The 60 or so pieces that make up the Nth Wilts coverage for those two years are all being worked on.

Most of the 1841 for Nth Wilts is also being tackled, with a steady flow of parishes arriving from transcribers. Finally, three people, equipped with microfiche readers, are working on the 1891.

Several people have joined the project this week, but we can always use more. If you have friends or family who would like to help out – drop me a line.

The next hurdle is to get the necessary data file constructed by Free Census, so that I can get checkers to work on the 1841. These will be posted by parish to our own web site.

Please stay in touch; don’t leave me in the dark!

COCP Newsletter No 10

Ann & Michael

This picture has nothing much to do with anything!

Slow week on the census front this week, with nothing much happening. So I have been busy with C-PROP stuff - the new Cornish Parish Registers project. Over a quarter of a million records online and rising.

If anyone wants to drop me a line and tell me your woes or good news - please do so!



The COCP and Birth place data

The guiding principle of the COCP is to transcribe “as is”. When applied to the place of birth data, this produces a slight problem. Many of the Cornish place names have a number of variations in spelling. St Hilary is a good example; there are about six different ways of spelling it and they can all come with or without the “St”. However, we are not conducting family history research; we are providing a tool for those people who are. They ought to be able to work out what the place name is on their own.

The book I often quote, by Edward Higgs, says that Cornwall is particularly prone to variations in place name spellings.

The enumerator’s instructions asked that from 1851 onwards, householders state the county and parish or town of birth. Frequently, the place named is a farm or other place, not a parish or town. Sometimes, even a street name or other address is given.

We just transcribe the enumerator’s words.

The enumeration instructions only required the county name for Irish or Scots. If, like me, you have Irish ancestors, this is particularly annoying. Its even worse when they just say Ireland or Scotland. For places like London, where all it says is London, this is treated as a county; just enter LND in the County field and a hyphen for place born.

Now for an innovation – a competition! There will be a prize for the volunteer who can explain to me why no one uses the Chapman codes for Irish Counties. It is not just the COCP volunteers, the Nth Wilts and Warwickshire ones are just the same. I am not sure what the prize will be for the best explanation – I’ll think of something.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Census Birth Place Data

The quality of the birthplace data in the 1841 census is far from satisfactory. The household schedule contained two columns for this information headed ‘Whether born in the same county’ and ‘Whether born in Scotland, Ireland, or Foreign Parts’. Householders were instructed to write ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in the first column. In the second they were to write ‘Scotland’, ‘Ireland’ or ‘Foreigner’. The latter designation only referred to those born outside the UK who were not British subjects. Those born abroad who were British subjects were to be entered in the firsts column with the word ‘No’. The number of British subjects born outside the UK but resident there in 1841 cannot, therefore, be calculated. The enumerators were instructed to abbreviate these entries when copying them into their enumeration books, using ‘Y’, ‘N’, ‘S’, ‘I’ and ‘F” respectively.

In 1851 more informative answers were required. In the case of those born in England, householders were to indicate first the county, and then the town or parish of birth. This order was to be followed in all subsequent Victorian censuses. In the case of those born in Scotland, Ireland, the British Colonies, the East Indies or Foreign Parts, the country of birth was to be stated. The term ‘British Subject’ was to be added to the latter where appropriate. Interestingly, Wales was not mentioned in the instructions on this matter until 1891, when the principality was treated in the same manner as England. Presumably the Welsh had simply been overlooked, and this may affect the form of some entries. Some other minor changes were introduced in the course of the century. In 1861 a distinction was to be made between ‘British Subject’ and ‘naturalised British Subject’. In 1871 those born in Scotland, Ireland, the British Colonies or the East Indies were to state the country or colony of birth; and those born in Foreign Parts the particular state or country.

One may have doubts as to the extent to which householders understood the instructions with regard to those born outside the UK, but those relating to people born in England, Scotland and Ireland appear fairly straightforward. It may be something of a surprise therefore, to discover that the chief clerk of the GR in 1910 said:

“the birthplace tables were probably the most inaccurate of any of the Census Tables but feared they could not be dispensed with as some people seemed to attach considerable importance to the figures. Not only did a great many people not know in which county they were born but a place which was now a town might easily have been a small village at the time of the birth of persons aged 20 years and upwards who were enumerated in other towns.”

Occasionally the grasp of British geography shown by households and enumerators was not strong. However, the 19th century was a period of great re-organisation in local government, and some changes in the county of birth may reflect boundary changes. There was also a tendency to record the place of residence, or the earliest one which could be remembered, as the place of birth. In institutions such as workhouses there appears to be a propensity on the part of some returning officers to give the location of the institution as the place of birth.

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

Sunday, July 02, 2006

COCP Newsletter No 9

During June the COCP uploaded three 1861 pieces, ten 1871 & one 1881 piece. Well, it will have any moment now! Another 1861 piece is in the works, which means we are down to the last five pieces of the census out of 89.

There are about 20 parishes of the 1851 left to do, out of over 200. All are being worked on and could be finished soon. We are still recruiting people but are increasingly starting them off on checking rather than transcribing.

This year should see the completion of the 1851 & 61 projects and Rick is already working on the 1861 disc. We are really rolling on the 1871 and should complete that by the middle of next year. The 1881 is a big task, but we have a complete transcription already and if people are willing to move over to checking, it shouldn't take too long.

On the wider front, Free Census managed a rebuild on 24th June and the COCP now has 1,254,528 records online with them. One in seven of the records they have are the product of the COCP and its volunteers. If only the rest of them would get on with as we do!

The Warwickshire 1891 project is nearly complete. The penultimate piece is about to go online, leaving only one piece out of 122 to be completed. The North Wilts project is speeding up with the 4th piece completed and online on its own web site.

The Cornish OPC scheme has its online db up and running with over 200,000 records already uploaded. If any of you have parish register transcripts, why not send them in? 10 or 10,000, all are very welcome.