Saturday, September 30, 2006

Warwickshire Farewell

It is six years since, encouraged by the easy start-up of the Cornish 1891 project, I decided to run a similar project for the Warwickshire 1891 returns. At first, the project only covered the districts of Aston and Birmingham, because all my ancestral lines lived in Aston from 1845 onwards. But gradually, the project grew till it covered the whole of Warwickshire – 122 “pieces” that eventually produced about 780,000 records.

Each record has been transcribed, checked, validated and generally buffed up; finally being uploaded to Free Census and to the Warwickshire web site run by Pickard Trepess. Each piece was produced from a 3 or 4 fiche set, loaned to me by the Church of Latter-Day Saints of Jesus Christ – the LDS or Mormons. Transcribers, living anywhere from Hong Kong to Vancouver via Australia and New Zealand, transcribed the contents of the fiche set to produce a data file that was then sent to a checker. The checkers worked their way through the data, identifying and fixing errors. Finally, I validated the work, ending up with a data file for uploading to Free Census. This file also went to Pickard to convert to html for his web pages.

About 150 people worked on the project and a list will be published shortly. I would like to particularly mention Jeanagh Punter, who for several years worked as the project recruiter and Pickard, who not only produces the html files and hosts the web site, but for the early years was an invaluable help with “technical” issues. I do have another list, luckily a lot shorter, of those people who vanished with the microfiche set. I won’t publish that. An even sadder list is of the five people who died “in harness”; one of them only a couple of weeks ago. This last one, an Australian, had worked on the project from the very beginning. I owe him, and all the other the other volunteers, a great debt.

What now? First I shall cut a disc containing the data and send it to the Mormons, The National Archives and the Archive of Historical Data at the University of Essex. I might also send a copy to the various societies engaged in Warwickshire family history; although none of them have ever shown the slightest interest in the project. Then I shall settle down to a slow steady review of the lot – to try and eliminate some of the uncertainties and to incorporate the corrections that kind people have emailed in.

I am not going to do any more Warwickshire census returns, but I wish the organiser of the 1861 project all the best and hope that someone somewhere will be encouraged enough by my words to start up the 1871 project! Better than watching television!

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