Thursday, November 16, 2006

This week in Cornwall

Here in Cornwall, we are always looking for new ways of doing things. We are also very conscious of the past - we are sort of moving forward into the past.

Until about 1850, there was a treadmill in Bodmin Gaol; there were other gaols in the county that also had them. Criminals would be sent there for a few weeks to while away their days turning a treadmill. Usually, this was for minor offences such as being drunk and disorderly. This was in the days of course, when you could be hung for stealing a sheep, or even worse, sent to Australia!

We have just as much disorderly behavour on our streets now as we did then, perhaps more. In 1850 there were very few people from England taking their holidays here. If any.

So, the authorities have decided to re-introduce the treadmill. It has two main advantages as a punishment. It is cheap. Criminals will live at home; have to make their own way to the treadmill and bring their own food and drink. The treadmills will be linked to banks of batteries that will provide power for the lights and for boiling the kettle for the supervisors.

In the 19th century, the treadmills were used to grind flour and this week a deal has been struck with a well known organic biscuit maker. His name is a commercial secret but think feathers..... Just imagine, not only organic, but hand-ground flour. Well, foot-ground anyway.

Of course, there might be people who get in the wheel and refuse to walk. A small amount of electrical power will get the wheel moving, when it will become very uncomfortable to refuse to walk.

In fact, I say walk, but many people will be running. The person who completes the most miles in each day will get one day knocked off their sentence! Of course, there will some sort of handicapping system so that little old men will have a chance.

The first bank of wheels will be in a well known seaside resort and it is hoped that the building will incorporate a viewing gallery, entry to which will incur a small charge.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

NWOCP Newsletter No 3

Hello Folks

I have been a little remiss with these newsletters just lately. Partly summer visitors, partly computer problems (self inflicted) and partly biting off more than I could chew.

However, things are rolling along and we have recruited several new people, including one this morning. Some people have completed their task and left; others have dropped out for various reasons.

1861. We have 22 pieces to do; 4 are online; 2 are being checked; another 4 are waiting for a checker to appear and the rest are with transcribers.

1871. 32 pieces to do; 6 online; 7 being checked; another 5 transcribed and waiting for a checker; the rest are all with transcribers.

1841. 12 Hundreds to do. All are being worked on and 5 have some parishes complete and online. The 1841 is being done and uploaded by parish. One Hundred is nearly finished, when I shall stitch the parishes together and upload it to Free Census.

1891. 4 pieces online; one being transcribed. There is another piece partly transcribed. The transcribers for this were an Australian couple who have worked for me on the Warwickshire project for six years. Dick was diagnosed with cancer and died in less than two months. A real blow to me, even though I had never met him.

Don't forget to visit my blog on now and again. Although it is called Cornish Census Returns, much of it is equally applicable to our project. This will be posted on it this morning.

And of course, you could check out our own web site - have a gloat!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support. Keep them coming!


Organiser, Nth Wilts Online Census Project

Sunday, November 05, 2006

British early census returns

The arrangements for the taking of a decennial census were set out in a Parliamentary act in 1800, but there had been discussions on the necessity of taking a census for many years. At the time of the first census, in 1801, the country was at war. We had had several bad harvests and maritime conditions were unstable. Many of the agricultural workers were in the Army or at sea. The government needed to find out how many people lived in Britain, what they were doing and where they were doing it.

The first census consisted of six questions. The first 3 were to be answered by house-to-house enquiry on 10 March 1801, or as soon as possible after that date. These questions established how many dwellings, how many people and what occupations they had.

The next two questions were addressed to the local clergy asking how many baptisms, burials & marriages had taken place. These covered the period back to 1700 in the case of baptisms and burials and back to 1754 for marriages.

The final question just asked if there was anything else the respondents would like to say.

The government sent out printed forms and the whole exercise was supervised by the Overseers of the Poor or “other substantial householders”.

The results consisted of numerical totals and did not include names. However, some local returns still survive giving names. The returns were affirmed before local Justices of the Peace by a certain date. They then went up the chain to the Home Office in London. The answers given by the clergy followed a different route and ended up with the Privy Council.

In 1811, the census asked the same questions, but with knobs on. It distinguished between uninhabited & building dwellings. The question about occupation was also amended. The clergy were asked to record the numbers of baptisms, marriages and burials registered in each of the ten years since the last census.

In 1821, additional questions were asked about the ages of the people. These were grouped in five year bands up to 20 & in 10 year bands after that.

In 1831 more extensive questions about occupations were asked. There were seven categories. Agricultural, manufacturing, retail or handicraft, capitalists, mines & fishermen, retired or disabled and finally, those employed as servants.

In addition, the clergy were asked to indicate the number of illegitimate children born in 1830.

In 1841 changes were made that are, in essence, still with us today. The returns included, for the first time, the names of the respondents. The carrying out of the census was handed over to the General Registration Office and the census was organised on tbe basis of the new poor law administrative districts.

The story of the British censuse is one of gradual change. It is also a story of a struggle between those who wanted to keep it simple (Home Office, GRO etc) and those who wanted to ask as many questions as possible. These latter including various scientific and social institutions as well as government departments. This struggle continues, as could be seen in the UK press last week.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Free Census checking software

Yet another volunteer checker struggling to get the checking software to work! We have repeatedly asked Free Census to sort it out but its like talking to a rather dim brick wall.

Here is a simplified way to do it:

Download WINCC

Save to desktop

Double click on icon

Unzip into c:\wincc. This folder will be the one suggested by WINCC. Say yes to creating a shortcut, it will take you to Windows Explorer. Drag the shortcut icon to your desktop.

Open WINCC & follow the instructions. Enter personal details - 4-digit code, first two letters of surname & first two letters of forename.

WINCC will then want to test the external drive. Normally it would expect to use the A drive, the floppy drive. If you don't have one, but you do have other removable media drives, WINCC will say it has detected more than one removable drive. Removable in the sense that you can put media in yourself.

Select one of these, but you must have something in the drive. Perhaps the best option is to plug your digital camera in and try selecting that drive. You must restart WINCC after plugging the camera in.

If you don't have any removable drives, then WINCC will just ignore the test requirement.

Once WINCC has a drive, it will create a small TEST directory. You can open this and play with it.

When you open WINCC you get the first record overlaid with the first household panel. You must tab through all fields on this household panel to get to the first record. You must check as you tab on both types of record. The second field is Ecclesiastical parish. If there isn't one, then enter a hyphen.

Don't spend a lot of time with the TEST directory, import the data zip under Options and try it out. You can import from the floppy drive A, or there is a folder in WINCC called ZIP. Copy the still zipped data file to that folder and import from there.

Remember that you can re-install WINCC and re-import the data file if things go wrong.

Pay particular attention to the BROWSE button; it will allow you to insert records, split households ect. Right clicking on the BROWSE screen brings up help.