When Free Census started in the summer of 2000 the only software was INCENS which was used for transcribers. The checking software, CHKCENS was developed on the hoof just in time for the first Cornish and Devonian pieces. At that time it was decided that the Ecclesiastical Parish needed to be captured. The project was only working on the 1891 at the time and the EP was almost always given in the top right slot on the page. It was felt that this was a valuable lead for researchers who would know the most likely parish registers to search. As the decision was rather late in the day for the numerous pieces already in the hands of transcribers, it was decided the checker should insert the EP.
The next set we tackled were the 1841; there was no slot for EP on the page. In 1851 there was a field for Ecclesiastical District, but it was rarely filled in. In 1861 the Ecclesiastical District had moved to the top right field, but didn't seem to be filled in very often. The position remained the same for the 1871 but in 1881 the field was changed to Ecc Parish or district. These were not often filled.
The difficulty is knowing just what an Ecc District is. The census returns themselves do not define it and enquiries made to people who might know have produced no answer. The fact that many of the returns have no entry for the relevant field suggests that the enumerators didn't know either. The assumption might be that it is a group of parishes, but that is only an assumption. And we don't do them, do we?
Sometimes, the ecclesiastical parish is mentioned on the enumerators "patch" description, but if it is not on the actual pages, we don't use that. Because it isn't "as is". We do take the ED number off that page, but nothing else.
So - what is required of transcribers and checkers? For transcribers it would be nice if they would leave a note against the first record of each ED, saying if the the Ecc field is filled in and with what. Or that it is empty. This will alert the checker. Checkers MUST fill in this field. At the first prompt you are required to do so. If there is nothing there, then enter a hyphen. Checkers must check the header detail at the start of each new page. Quite often, parishes, both civil and ecclesiastical change or go missing. You must follow these changes faithfully.