Friday, June 20, 2008

Tithe maps

When I started out in this business, one of my first tasks was to copy the local Tithe maps. I spent many happy hours copying them in County Records; quite a complicated task, as my village sits at the junction of four parishes.

In 1836 it was decided that the owners and tenants of land could buy out the Church tithes. To do this, it was necessary to work out a fair price. Local surveyors were engaged to wander round the countryside, mapping the fields. Their sizes would be worked out and a price given. The maps are interesting, not least because it makes you realise how little the countryside has changed in Cornwall. I would say that most of the field boundaries round Mitchell look much like they did 168 years ago.

The maps are attached to an Apportionment Roll. This records who owned the land, and if rented, the names of the tenants. It is handy to compare this with the 1841 census returns because the 1841 is a bit short on address details. The Roll also records the size of each field and the rent assigned to it. More interestingly from a family history point of view, it gives the names of the fields. In Mitchell there were several fields named Kneebone, but there were no families of the name that I know of in and around the village. Other fields had names that gave clues to the past, Chapel Close suggested the site of a long lost chapel. Fair Park pointed out where the annual fair was held. Just what Puzzling Chain means I don’t know.

There were three copies of each map. One was handed to the parish and is now probably in County Records. One went to the church, and that is also probably in CRO. The third was sent to London and is now at Kew.

As I said at the start, copying these maps was one of my first projects in my study of the village of Mitchell. This was in 1995 and illustrates how far we have come since then. Nowadays, the CRO photographs them and sells them on disc.

The maps are very large; one of them was 12 feet by 12 feet. To copy them by hand involved placing an A4 acetate sheet on the map with a piece of tracing paper on top. Only pencil could be used and the acetate stopped indentations on the map. Using this method resulted in a pile of tracing paper sheets, all carefully labelled.

Arriving home, I then reversed the process. The tracings were retraced onto acetate sheets with a felt tip pen. Each acetate sheet was taped on the monitor and using the mouse, I traced the field outlines using an Apple application called MacDraw - long gone! I then joined all the sheets together, having carefully gone in for some overlap. Luckily, the long ago surveyors seemed to have gone in for straight edges to the fields.

On the maps were all buildings; dwellings and other sorts. The Roll also gave the type of farming; arable, pasture, woods, furze etc. So I built up layers; you could easily see which farmer owned which land and where all the furze was! Quite important - furze. One of the complications in the project was that of the four parishes; one, the most important one at that, had a different scale to the other three.

I am afraid that these maps have vanished somewhere between computers. However, they haven’t quite vanished, because I printed them out and they hang on the stairway walls. I don’t know how many hours I spent on them, but perhaps as I return to studying Mitchell and its history, they will come back into use.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The English Parish Registers

While I slave away over a hot computer - Mrs McCormick quilts away!

The development of the English Parish Registers took place during times of turmoil in England. There was the Reformation, which established the Church of England. Then we had a civil war, which ended with the beheading of the King. We then tried out a Commonweath and after that we restored the Monarchy. As with the poor laws, there was a constant stream of acts of Parliament attempting to make everyone follow the rules.

In 1538 the government ordered that all parish priests should record all marriages, christenings and burials in their parishes. These records were to be kept under lock and key, with one key held by the priest and the other by the Church Wardens. There was a penalty of 3s 4d for failing to do so.

In 1598 it was ordered that the records, previously mainly on loose pieces of paper, were to be recorded on parchment in books. All records previous to 1538 were to be copied into the new books. Conditions being what they were, many of the register pages were missing, or damaged by damp, insects or rodents. Also, a later order emphasised that particular attention was to be paid to records after the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I. Some priests interpreted this to mean that only records after 1558 should be copied. In 1598 it was required that an annual return should be made to the relevant Bishop within a month of Easter.

In 1563 the Roman Catholic Church ordered the keeping of registers of baptisms and burials. In 1645 it was empathised that baptisms should record the date of birth and the names of parents. In the mid-17th century there were changes following the civil war. These were superseded by the restoration of the Monarchy. In 1755 it was ordered that Banns of Marriage should be recorded. In 1812 it was required that each parish purchase a parish chest to store the registers and many other types of documents in safe and secure conditions.

Before 1538, the Roman Catholic Church was developing a system of parish registers. As early as 1497 instructions were issued in Spain that all baptisms were to be recorded. I have no idea if any such records exist. Perhaps deep in the vaults in the Vatican there are treasures yet to be found.

This information is taken mainly from “The Parish Chest” by W.E. Tate.

Monday, June 02, 2008

COCP update

Afternoon walk near Mitchell (Medeschole)

The 1871 is finished and uploaded and there are only 5 pieces of the 1881 left to do. Won’t be long now.

As you know, my own intention is to concentrate on my own family history (dead-in-the-water for 8 years) and the history of the village I live in. As a vital part of the latter I intend to transcribe the parish registers and upload them to our sister project – C-PROP.

The deal with C-PROP is the same as the one with the census returns. In return for loaning us the filmed registers on disc, the LDS will get a transcript. We have standardised spreadsheets to transcribe the data to and there will be advice on this blog and by email. If possible, I will email you the images rather than posting a disc. This is a single-pass project – no checking involved.

C-PROP is a daughter project of the OPC scheme. Although I was involved in the conception of both, I don’t run either. Allocation of discs gives priority to OPCs, most of whom want to transcribe their parish themselves. Therefore, I have access to a limited number of discs. This makes it difficult to satisfy people who have interests in one parish rather than Cornwall as a whole. In many ways it might be better for volunteers to contact Myra Cordrey the OPC co-ord directly; or write to the relevant OPC offering to help. If, however, you would prefer to work with and through me, then let me know.

The LDS wants all of each film transcribed; but C-PROP will only upload data up to 1908. Personally, I don’t mind a slight overlap but I have no interest in working for the LDS. I will not, therefore, be supplying 20th century discs. If you want to work on a particular parish, let me know and I will ask.

So – you have a number of choices. Wave goodbye! Write to Myra or the OPC of your choice. Transcribe from a disc supplied by me. Be a checker for Wiltshire (which I also run). Take a break and keep in touch.