Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Cornish Family History for Free

Occasionally I get emails asking for advice on researching Cornish family history. Sometimes the writer seems to be asking me to conduct family history research - to which I say no thank you. However, I do have advice on how to carry it out online - and for free.

The first port of call should be the Cornish pages of GENUKI. Not only is there lots of information about Cornwall in general, there is a page for each parish. Numerous sources of information are linked to these pages.

Then you might check out the Cornish OPC scheme web site. Here again, each parish has its own page and there is much information, both in general and in particular. The Online Parish Clerks are committed to helping FH researchers and you should write to them asking for help. At the very least, they should be able to give advice on where to look.

A daughter project of the OPC scheme is C-PROP. Originally intended to carry parish register transcripts (which it still does), it has expanded its scope to include other sorts of data. It is a FREE online searchable database. No other county has one.

All of the Cornish 19th century census returns have been transcribed and posted online at the COCP web site. You can search them as texts or you can use the accompanying search engine. All of the 2.25 million records have also been uploaded to the FREECEN database.

You should join the CON-GEN Rootsweb mailing list. Post your questions there remembering to give as much detail as you can. List your surnames of interest in the subject line in BLOCK capitals. You can search the mailing list archives for these names, hopefully other people have included your names in their subject lines. In any case, an archival search will also search the texts.

On the wider national front, you can search for free the index of certificates for the UK on FreeBMD. Over 16 million census records are available on FREECEN and about 5 million parish register entries on FREEREG. Not all of these are Cornish obviously.

Finally, there is on the international scene, the LDS, the Mormons. Their database, which is free, contains hundreds of millions of entries and is constantly enlarging itself.

There are other avenues open to you, such as the Cornish FHS, but these are not free.

By the way, I have attended a number of “granny hunts” at Wadebridge. I usually ask beginners (and others) if they have taken the time to type their names and places of interest into Google. It is surprising how many haven’t, almost as surprising as what turns up. My brother-in-law, who is in the film business, had about ten thousand hits!

I haven’t listed any URLs (lazy) but Google will find them for you.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Cornish OPC scheme - a personal view.

Looking round at the family history scene now, it is difficult to remember what it was like ten years ago when the OPC scheme was conceived. No Ancestry, no Familysearch and most people using computers had just been promoted from using toasters!

The three of us first met at the AGM of the CFHS, although we had been in touch via the internet and Paul and David had actually met as the latter returned from Canada. At the AGM we asked what were the plans of the CFHS to use digital media including the internet. Not only did they have no plans, but later correspondence revealed that the Chairman at that time was actively hostile to anything electronic.

The first sign of the changes to come was the successful launch of FreeBMD. All those hours we spent pouring over microfiche or huge books to locate the reference numbers you needed to buy an ancestral certificate. Now, hundreds of volunteers were transcribing the indexes and putting them online – free-to-view.

A sister project of FreeBMD was FreeCen. In 1999 that project was running a pilot project transcribing the Devon 1891 returns. I invited myself aboard and started off transcribing the Cornwall 1891. I was pleasantly surprised to find volunteers easy to recruit. So easy, that we started up the 1841 in parallel.

After the AGM, the three of us decided to meet for a pub lunch once a month to discuss family history. Occasional shouting attracted interest from the regulars and we got FH questions from some of them. We thought that, given the successful launch of the census project, that it would be nice to turn to the parish registers and give them the same treatment. Then we decided that we quite liked the “adopt-a-parish” idea. But it was the arrival of the name “Online Parish Clerk” that spurred us into action.

We liked it because it married the internet to family history. We also widened the scope to include any data, not just parish registers. We also liked it because it involved the worldwide Cornish online society. A feature of the Cornish census project was something that the organizers of FreeCen didn’t like. The emphasis in recruiting was on the Cornishness of the project.

Initially, the job of scheme co-ordinator was just to maintain a list of parishes and OPCs. Recruiting was done by occasional messages on the Cornish Rootsweb mailing lists. In addition, we appealed for anyone who had transcribed parish registers to gift their work to us. Our intention was to accumulate these transcripts to place them online free-to-view – one day.

This approach was maintained for two or three years with considerable success. Things changed when Myra took over as co-ordinator. The scheme acquired its own web site with a page for each parish. Then the searchable online database was created. The transcription of parish registers took off when the LDS started to supply copies on disc. Under Myra’s epic leadership, other sources of data were incorporated into the database.

In my opinion, Myra, aided by Diane Donohue, Julia Mossman and Bill O’Reilly, has created a scheme that is better than our original vision. I look forward to the next ten years!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The history of Mitchell

Michel is first styled a manor (manerium) in 1301 and a borough (burgus) in 1305, but both these titles were in process of creation in the earlier part of the thirteenth century. It is evident that the community was in its infancy at this time and we need not look in Domesday for any reference to it. In 1239 Walter de Ralegh and Isabel his wife (in whose right he was lord of the Manor of Degembris) obtained a royal charter for a yearly fair on St Francis’ day and a weekly market at Meideshol. It is probable that the chapel of ease at Michell dedicated to St Francis was erected by Walter de Ralegh at this time. We find it mentioned in a deed of 1292, and its dedication shows that it could hardly have been erected before the canonization of St Francis in 1222 and probably dates from about 1239. St Francis was the patron of the community and the chief Court Leet was held on the day after his feast.

In the early thirteenth century we can picture the infant community of Michell as a mere appendage to the Manor of Degembris. In 1284, however, Peter de Ralegh sold that manor to Sir John de Pello Prato. Michell was at this time cut adrift from the manor and sold separately to Sir Reynfry Arundell, who died lord of it in 1288. Once separated from the parent manor, the new Manor and Borough of Michell could hope to develop as an independent community. In 1283 it had sent its own representatives, a jury of six, to the Eyre at Launceston, thereby showing its right to a separate representation from the Hundred of Pydar. It did the same in 1301 and 1305. In 1283 and 1301 it bears the humble title of ‘villa’ but in 1305 the style ‘burgus’ is used to the first time. Sir Reynfry Arundell probably purchased Michell as a speculation. His son in 1289, regardless of the laws of political economy, raised the tolls at the fair, to the great hurt of the whole country. For this he was punished at the Eyre of 1301. At the same time he was compelled to show by what warrant he claimed ‘emendation of the assize of bread and ale when broken’, in his Manor of Medeshole.

Michell never became wholly exempt from its duties as a tithing of the Hundred of Pydar, despite its separate representation at the Eyre. It had to pay 13s. 4d. as smoke-silver and also maintain a thing-man at the Hundred Courts. In 1327 the ‘villa de Medeshole’ pays the subsidy apart from the parishes of St Enoder and Newlyn in which it was situated. In later rolls, however, no distinction of this kind is made.

Besides the actual village, the limits of the co-extensive ‘Manor and Borough’ included the tenements of Goonmarth and Nantellion. The greater part lay in St Enoder parish, the residue in Newlyn.

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries there were probably some eight free burgesses, holding burgages of the lord (freeholders). Some of these holdings were amalgamated and their holders at the end of the eighteenth century became the five ‘Mesne-Lords’ of the borough, who were created by the chief lord of the manor by lease and release; and it was from among these that the portreeve or returning office had to be chosen. The lord of the manor had become the ‘chief lord’. In 1552, when the borough acquired parliamentary representation, these offices and titles gained a real importance. After constant disputes the House of Commons finally decided that the mesne-lord (including the portreeve), and the inhabitants who paid scot and lot (i.e. Rates), were alone entitled to vote. In 1829 there were four mesne-lords and three rate-payers!

Michell was probably at the zenith of its prosperity in the fourteenth century, before the Black Death. It sank in the fifteenth to rise again under Henry VII. Parliamentary representation failed to do more than keep it a living and increasingly corrupt corpse. After 1832 it became a peaceful country hamlet.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The People of Mitchell 1851

The people of Mitchell were enumerated in April 1851. There were 183 people, divided into the parishes of St Enoder (101) and Newlyn East (82). The number of people and households has doubled since 1851, this is mainly due to the lead mine a mile to the north at Wheal Rose.

Household 1 Richard Pope Head M 33 Ag Lab born Lanteglos

Household 2 Thomas Courtis Head M 36 Ag Lab born Newlyn

Household 3 Mary Moyle Head U 25 School Mistress born Kenwyn

Household 4 Simon Yeoman Head M 45 Blacksmith born Lower St. Columb

Household 5 William Harris Head M 25 Lead Miner born St. Clements

Household 6 John Curtiss Head M 47 Labourer born Crantock

Household 7 Ann Batten Head W 43 Employed On Farm born St. Dennis

Household 8 William Nancarrow Head M 57 Mason Emp 2 Men born Newlyn

Household 9 John Trenberth Head M 43 Lead Miner born Gwinear

Household 10 Samuel Brabyn Head M 35 Ag Lab born Mawgan

Household 11 Philip Oates Head M 39 Lead Miner born St. Agnes

Household 12 Mary Ann Williams Head W 65 Retired Dressmaker born St. Minver

Household 13 Francis Bassett Head M 28 Innkeeper & Farmer Of 140a born Mitchell

Household 14 Mary Williams Head M 61 Maltster's Wife born Kea

Household 15 Charles Woon Parks Head M 49 Farmer Of 180a Emp 6 Men born Newlyn

Household 16 William Bassett Head M 27 Miner born Roche

Household 17 Henry Henwood Head M 30 Butcher born Newlyn

Household 18 Grace Tamblyn Head W 38 Shopkeeper born St. Erme

Household 19 Michael M Chegwidden Head M 33 Lead Mine Agent born Gwennap

Household 20 John Vincent Head M 60 Retired Farmer born Crantock

Household 21 William Tremayne Head M 31 Lead Mine Agent born St. Mewan

Household 22 Ann Long Head W 48 Grocer born Gwennap

Household 23 William Tremayne Head M 55 Lead Mine Agent born Phillack

Household 24 Timothy Symons Head M 62 Retired Farmer born Grampound

Household 25 William Tamblyn Head M 37 Master Carpenter Emp 1 Man born St. Enoder

Household 26 Elizabeth Merrifield Head W 51 Blacksmith Widow born St. Enoder

Household 27 William Merrifield Head M 28 Blacksmith born St. Erme

Household 28 James Tamblyn Head M 54 Farmer Of 10 a born St. Enoder

Household 29 Richard Manhire Head M 49 Farmer Of 30a Emp 1 Man born St. Enoder

Household 30 John May Head M 53 Ag Lab born Newlyn

Household 31 Richard May Head U 20 Lead Miner born St. Enoder

Household 32 William H Martyn Head M 25 Master Blacksmith Emp 1 Man born Newlyn

Household 33 John Manhire Head M 46 Master Shoemaker Emp 2 Men born St. Enoder

Household 34 William Whetter Head U 57 Ag Lab born Mitchell

Household 35 James Martyn Head M 30 Carpenter (Journeyman) born Mitchell

Household 36 James Oliver Head M 29 Lead Miner born Ladock

Household 37 Amy Francis Head U 70 Annuitant born St. Minver Blind

Household 38 Robert Vincent Head M 25 Maltster Farmer 23a 3 Men born St. Enoder

Household 39 Richard Tabb Head M 35 Lead Miner St. Enoder

The People of Mitchell 1841

On the 6th June 1841, the people of Mitchell were enumerated. The census showed there were about 70 people in 18 households. Just over 50 were of working age - 14 years and upwards. The rest were children and one Army Pensioner. At that time, the village straddled the parish boundary between St Enoder and Newlyn East. Households 1-12 were in Newlyn East, the rest in St Enoder. Addresses were not in general use in 1841.

Household 1 - Tamson Bilkey 65 Female Servant Born Cornwall

Household 2 – Francis Bassett 20 Inn Keeper Born Cornwall

Household 3 - John Kendall 60 Ag Lab Born Cornwall

Household 4 - William Nancarrow 40 Mason & Builder Born Cornwall

Household 5 - Richard Bassett 50 Farmer Born Cornwall

Household 6 - Charles Parks Woon 40 Farmer Born Cornwall

Household 7 -Richard May 35 Ag Lab Born Cornwall

Household 8 - Thomas Curtis 25 Ag Lab Born Cornwall

Household 9 - Nathan Tamblyn 30 Carpenter Born Cornwall

Household 10 - John Curtis 35 Ag Lab Born Cornwall

Household 10 - James Morcom 30 Ag Lab Born Cornwall

Household 12 - Mary Kea 40 Independent Born Cornwall

Household 13 - William Whetton 47 Ag Lab Born Cornwall

Household 14 - John Vincent 50 Farmer Born Cornwall

Household 15 - Edwd. Budge 50 Drainer Born Cornwall

Household 16 – Harriet Tamblyn 20 Female Servant born Cornwall

Household 17 - Amy Francis 55 Ind Born Cornwall

Household 18 - John Manhire 35 Cordwainer Born Cornwall

Household 19 - Richd. Manhire 40 Farmer Born Cornwall

Household 20 - William Bassett 40 Farmer Born Cornwall

Monday, May 17, 2010

The House of Lords

One of the worst characteristics of the Blair-Brown governments of the last 13 years has been their cavalier attitude towards our constitutional arrangements. Nothing has been sacred to them, from a botched Scottish devolution to the abolition of the heretidary peerage.

Here is my plan for reform of the House of Lords.

There should be an elected House of Lords, populated by Senators. These Senators would be elected under our normal first-past-the-post arrangements, with two Senators from each of our ancient counties with extra ones from London and a few other large cities. They would serve a fixed five-year term. None could serve more than five terms or for more than three consecutive terms for a particular county. Minimum age would be 40 and retirement would be automatic on reaching the state pension age.

One of the most noticeable things about the recent election was the almost total absence of women from the national campaign. This is carried over into the current government, with only one major office filled by a woman. So each county would be required to elect a senator of each sex.

A major objection to an elected House of Lords is that we don’t really need another layer of party politicians. Obviously, you couldn’t prevent political parties putting up candidates but you could discourage them by banning Senators from being members of the government of the day. They would have to resign.

It is often said that the current arrangements means that the House of Lords holds lots of expertise and experience. This might be true, but it also houses a lot of clapped out ex-politicians. Personally, I can’t see why Melvyn Bragg, for instance, should be making laws for me. The new Senators would be salaried and would have a substantial budget to pay for any expert advice and research they needed. The remaining hereditary peers and the life peers could retain their titles but would lose access to the Palace of Westminster.

As they are serving for a fixed term, there would be a fixed date for Senatorial elections. This would be the first Sunday in May and 20% of the Senators would be up for election every year. This would also be day for local elections. The current government seems to be inching towards a fixed term for the House of Commons, so perhaps this “Election Day” could serve us for all three types of elections.

This new Senate should inherit the powers of the current House and its first task should be to instigate a joint commission with the House of Commons into their future relationship. If this commission resulted in proposals for change, then they must be put to a general referendum.

Indeed, this is my final proposal. The switch from appointed Lords to elected Senators must be first agreed by the electorate in a referendum.