Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Democracy - rant by blog owner!

Democracy is a funny thing. Wildly popular, but not all that common. If you want a definition, then hop over to Wikipedia. The word is Greek in origin and means, roughly, rule by the people. Of course, in Ancient Greece, people were the free men. Two thirds of the population were women or slaves, and they didn't get to vote.

Generally speaking nowadays, we think it means "one man one vote". Or "one woman one vote". But in my opinion, this needs a caveat. There has to be an alternative bunch of people who could also form a government. In the UK the government could be run over by a bus and the opposition would be there to take over. Excellent!

Why am I rabbiting on about democracy? Well, democracy in the UK has taken, and is taking, a big hit. The Scottish government in London is handing the UK over to the French government in Brussels. I am rather biased about this I am afraid. I would rather there was an English government in London and a Cornish one in Truro. I don't want to rule the French and I don't want them ruling us. I feel much the same about the Scots.

Democracy in England is not quite as old as democracy in Ancient Athens, but it has been around for a long time. The Anglo-Saxons came to power in much of England about AD600. They elected their kings. Of course, I am not suggested that this was democracy as we know it - a big sword or a large axe was pretty handy in elections. But there was no divine right to be king. This was introduced later on by the Church. What about the Normans you say. Well, they mainly just adapted their system to the Anglo-Saxon one. Most of the Anglo-Saxon system just carried with a different top layer.

So it wasn't all that long after 1066 that parliament arrived. Because the Normans (Norsemen) were also fairly democratic. Since about the 12th century, the parliamentary system moved forward, quite a few hiccups, but it did not fail us.

Now our Scottish Prime Minister is handing us over to the European Union. The EU has one man one vote to elect people to the European Parliament but they have limited powers over the real rulers, the Council of Ministers and the EU Commission. Nor are these people drawn from the parliament. The government is separate from the parliament and there is no handy alternative government around.

Nor is the government elected. Of course, the Council of Ministers are all elected - but not as such. Our Prime Minister is not elected because he is on the Council of Ministers.

My forecast for the present UK government is that they will lose the next election. They will lose it because they are not trusted. So, the handy opposition party takes over as government. But it will make NO difference. The real government, the French one in Brussels, will just sail on. They cannot be removed by the voters.

Before the present treaty comes into force, it is said that 80% of our laws are made in Brussels. EU law outranks UK law. We are about to lose our veto over another 40 or 60 (depends who you listen to) areas .

The UK will then be a province of the new European Empire. Perhaps it will all turn out alright. But if it doesn't, things might get nasty!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Occasional notes No 5 - Copyright

Our basic philosophy is that our transcripts belong to everyone and to no one. Recently, the question of copyright has reared its head again.

If you ask ten experts then you will get ten opinions. So the question of copyright in family history is shrouded in confusion but as far as I know, no one has been prosecuted for breach of copyright in the field of family history. Here is my take on the situation with regard to the UK 19th century census returns.

The Crown has copyright of the UK census returns; this is vested in The National Archives (TNA). The Crown has waived its copyright in the contents of the returns but not in the images. TNA has obviously sold licences to reproduce the images to people like ACDB and Ancestry. Anyone who has transcribed the returns holds the copyright in that transcription - it is theirs. As a collective group, COCP & NWOCP hold the copyright in the completed transcriptions, that is those that have been through our procedures. Legally or not, I hold this copyright on behalf of the volunteers of those projects. The only obligation levied on us by TNA is that we acknowledge that the copyright remains with them in the name of The Crown.

Because we post our completed transcriptions as texts on our web sites, anyone can download them. We have a copyright statement but it is primarily there to try and discourage wholesale copying for commercial purposes. As far as we know, no one has been tempted to do this. We are quite happy for people to download what they need. In addition, completed years are cut to disc and distributed to national and other institutions interested in our areas. We are only bound to supply copies to TNA and the LDS, but the discs go to about 15 institutions.

We are quite happy for people to cut and paste sections into emails or to chat forums. We only ask that you acknowledge where the information comes from.

As I said at the beginning; this is my take on the situation. I am happy with what we do and have been for the last 7 years. Other people may have different views but this outlines the position of the COCP & NWOCP projects. And that of the Warwickshire Ancestors Project 1891 returns.

Occasional notes No 4 - Header Data

Along the top of each page of the enumerator's books is a lot of interesting information. The amount and type varies from census to census; there is very little in 1841. At the start of each enumeration district, there is also a page that records a description of the district including the registration district and sub-district names plus its number. Very little of this information is recorded by Free Census.

The reason we don't record it is due to the limitations of the original programme, INCENS, written back in 1999. There wasn't, it seems, space to record everything. So, from the district description page, we record only the ED number. From the individual page we record the folio number, page number, civil parish and ecclesiastical parish. Page numbers are printed within the page frame, top right or left. Folio numbers are stamped top right on every other page, top right and usually outside the frame. Each two pages are in fact the front and back of one page. So pages without folio numbers take the number of the preceding page. If a page is blank, then leave a note against the last record of the preceding page. This procedure is also followed if a page is missing. You don't have to do this with blank pages at the end of a district.

Returning to the lead-in page. Although we don't record the district description, it is worth volunteers transcribing it, because it is often better written and gives addresses that are used later on. Having worked out what it says, take a look at a map of the district and try and match up what is written with the map. The ED numbers on this page vary a lot. They might just be 1 or 2; or 1A, 2B, or something entirely different. Up to 3 numbers and one letter can be recorded for Free Census. If there are more (some 1851 ED numbers are 1ac and so on, then just input what you can, and leave a note. Free Census also has a system of ED suffixes. These identify certain types of returns and the numbering system has been lifted from the 1861 census instructions. If you have an ED number 1A, then the "A" is replaced by the appropriate number when necessary. According to Free Census, only those returns in institutional books get the suffix numbers. The COCP disagrees with this, and we give them for all institutions. One reason for this is that the census takers themselves didn't always stick to the rules about institutional books and the returns appear in the normal books.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

NWOCP 1841 update 4th October 2007

The NWOCP project for the whole county of Wiltshire for 1841 is being transcribed and checked by parish. When all the parishes in a Hundred are complete, they are all stitched together and reloaded to the NWOCP site and uploaded to Free Census.

The 1841 was enumerated by Registration District, then the returns were cut up and stuck back together into Hundreds. Hence the often confusing state of the returns.

This is the current position for the 1841 project:

1164 Alderbury complete
1165 Amesbury complete
1166 Bradford complete
1167 Branch & Dole complete
1168 Calne complete
1169 Cawden & Codsworth complete
1170 Chalk complete
1171 Chippenham 10% complete
1172 Chippenham 50% complete
1173 Nth Damerham 10% complete
1174 Dowton 70% complete
1175 Dunworth 20% complete
1176 Wroughton complete
1177 Heyesbury 15% complete
1178 Highworth 90% complete
1179 Swindon 80% complete
1180 Kinswardine complete
1181 Malmesbury 25% complete
1182 Melkesham
1183 Mere 10% complete
1184 Potterne & Cannings complete
1185 Aldbourne complete
1186 Swanborough 25% complete
1187 Warminster complete
1188 Westbury 5% complete
1189 Whitehorse 5% complete
1190 Salisbury complete