Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Sharrocks of Cornwall

In 1620, the College of Heralds visited Cornwall. Their visit was to check on the pedigrees of families claiming the right to bear arms. Armigerous families. Amongst the minor gentry of Cornwall was a family listed as the Sharrocks of Veryan. A later note was attached to the family tree claiming that they had originated in Lancashire, fled to Ireland, where they stayed for a hundred years before moving to Cornwall.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to link my wife’s paternal line to the Visitation family. She seems to be descended from a Thomas Sharrock, born about 1640, location unknown. His oldest known child was Matthew, baptised in St Just in Roseland in 1671. Matthew is my wife’s 6 times grandfather.

The family lived in and around St Mawes, where they were farmers. Matthew described himself as Yeoman, one step above a tenant farmer, and fairly respectable, as he was the Reeve of the Manor of St Mawes.

Throughout the 18th century, the family remained in St Mawes, presumably farming and also fishing. Certainly Joseph Sharrock, who died in 1833, was a mariner. The next generation joined the Royal Navy and then the Coastguard. The Coastguard was recruited from Navy personnel. Usually, tours of duty were not in the man’s home town, so the family moved to Boscastle on the north coast of Cornwall.

The next generation of my wife’s family was born near Swanage in Dorset at yet another Coastguard station. Joseph Pascal Rowe Sharrock, born in 1843, became a mariner in the Merchant Marine, often sailing out of Boscastle. The family now remained on the North coast of Cornwall, spread out between Newquay and Bude.

The next generation left the sea and settled in Newquay.

Although I cannot find any link between the Visitation family and that of my wife, all of the Sharrocks in Cornwall till quite recently are members of this one family. There were also Sharrocks in Cornwall before the Visitation family. So, the note on the 1620 pedigree might be correct and the Sharrocks arrived in Cornwall in the 14th century. Long enough to be naturalised?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011


In 1961 I was a 25-year old sergeant in the RAF. I was stationed in Singapore flying Shackletons out of RAF Changi.

In the British colonies, as in the UK, the military were committed to assisting the Civil Power However, in Singapore it was a bit more immediate than in the UK. Which is how I came to be in a scruffy street in central Singapore. I was not on my own, there was a very young officer (younger than me), a Chinese magistrate and 30 airmen. We were a riot squad. Six of the airmen had rifles but no ammunition; the rest had batons. They wore khaki shirts and shorts with long socks and boots. They also wore steel helmets. The officer and I were dressed in similar fashion and we had revolvers - also with no ammo.

The opposition was about 20 Ghurka soldiers in sports kit The weren’t allowed to throw things at us, so they shouted, leaped about and pulled faces. A bit like the New Zealand rugby squad in their pre-match dance.

The magistrate read the riot act and we then unfurled our banner. Disperse or we fire. The airmen with rifles moved from the rear of the squad to the front, but didn’t aim their weapons. This had no effect, so the officer ordered me to send in the snatch squads. There were 3 pairs of airmen detailed off for this and they ran forward to nobble significant rioters. Three fights started, but eventually they secured three Ghurkas. I turned to my officer to report this and found him gone. Half a dozen Ghurkas had snuck up a side alley and seized this commissioned twit. He was supposed to stay in the middle of the squad but had wandered off for some reason. I watched him being hustled off down the alley and out of sight.

I was then seized of the dilemma that had bothered Hannibal, Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington. Should I split my force, deal with the rioters and at the same time chase after my officer. Things seemed to be going well without him, so I decided to deal with the rioters and forget about him. My own inclination was to order the riflemen to open fire (shouting bang bang), but the magistrate thought not. In fact, I was now in charge, once he had read the riot act he was out of the loop. However, I took his advice and got ready to lead the squad in a frontal attack on the Ghurkas.

At that point, the Army officer acting as observer stepped in and halted the exercise. He thought it had gone well, although he did suggest that losing your officer was pretty bad form. The Ghurkas returned my officer and we all got into our truck.

Another part of life’s rich pattern was complete!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monthly newsletter for FreeBMD, FreeCEN and FreeREG

Issue 1 - March 2011

Welcome to the first FreeUKGEN newsletter, updating you on the latest information about the three constituent projects, FreeBMD, FreeCEN and FreeREG.

Dr Nick Barratt - Executive Director (nick.barratt@virgin.net)

1. Tri-project seminar

The tri-project seminar will take place on Thursday 21 April 2011 at The National Archives.

2. Executive meetings

In advance of the Tri-project seminar on 21 April, I will be meeting the Executives of FreeCEN and FreeREG on 29 March to discuss detailed requirements for each project.

3. Access to data and copyright

This issue remains a major concern to FreeCEN and FreeREG, and is currently being addressed in conversations with various organisations, including Familysearch, Ancestry, Find My Past and the Federation of Family History Societies. Contact with county and diocesan archives will also be made, once the first set of discussions to obtain material via partner organisations have concluded.

However, the situation is complicated by copyright issues which need to be addressed at the same time. This is not an easy area to work in, given the way copyright is created and assigned especially when ‘format shifting’ original raw data into printed format, microform or digital image. Similarly, copyright of transcriptions entered into the three project websites needs clarification as well and is also being addressed as an ongoing issue.

4. Software and website development

We are currently examining ways to make the three project websites look more synchronised, as well as provide elements of synchronicity when searching for people. The aim is to move towards a front-end platform that serves as a portal to the three sites, permitting the user to search across all three datasets by name; or drilling down into each individual website to search specific datasets, as they do at the moment. The look and feel – the skin – of the sites needs to be updated, and decisions made about the level of advertising hosted on each site, as without funds we cannot survive as an organisation.

Linked to this is a recognition that amendments need to be made to the current software for creation and submission of transcription data to ease the workload of Dave Mayall, and make the data easier to search across the projects. As with copyright, this is a tricky area because of the ongoing nature of the work; integrating new software could cause problems, whilst a completely new operating system might be equally disruptive. Work is ongoing, though, to fix existing problems based on the feedback we receive from the project Executives and Co-ordinators; however, as with any volunteer network, these things can take time so one route under consideration is the injection of funds to commission some work in this area. We are talking to a couple of organisations that might be able to assist with this, as well as the possibility of Open Source coding from the web or recruiting more technical volunteers. If you know of anyone who would be able to assist with coding and web development, please let me know via email.

5. Marketing and Promotion

Until the website situation is addressed, there is only a limited amount of marketing and promotion we can do around the three projects. However, an article about the work of FreeREG in Your Family History magazine generated a flood of enquiries from potential volunteers; and at the recent Who Do You Think You Are Live event, held at Olympia 25 – 27 February 2011 the projects won third place in Family Tree magazine’s Website of the Decade award, as voted for by the readers of the magazine. Given that this is the largest circulating magazine in the sector, and considering the number of commercial websites out there with large budget spends, this is an amazing achievement and one of the Trustees, Camilla von Massenbach, proudly collected the award at the event. Congratulations must go to everyone – the transcribers for producing the data, the Co-ordinators and Executives of the three projects, and the Trustees for facilitating the site.

We are also looking into using the social network Twitter to promote our work, and encourage volunteers to join up for transcription. At the moment, the most obvious user names have already been taken – FreeBMD, FreeCEN and FreeREG – so alternatives are being sought. If anyone would like to manage their relevant project account and post information, please let me know.

6. Open Genealogical Alliance

The three projects, under the banner of FreeBMD, have become major supporters of the Open Genealogical Alliance, announced at Who Do You Think You Are Live on the main theatre with the support of actress Miriam Margolyes. The aim of OGA is to challenge the current predominance of commercial organisations in the sector, as they skew access to data towards ‘pay-per-view’ models which means organisations such as ours are disadvantaged when trying to access data at source from the archives. This is one of the issues we’re facing at the moment when negotiating with county archives for access to parish registers, albeit a special case since parish registers are not considered public records per se, something else that OGA will be examining as part of its remit. As a consequence, OGA is questioning whether pay per view data is truly open; and if not, then projects such as ours should be given free access to the digital images to work off – thus producing higher quality ‘clean’ transcriptions which will benefit everyone.

Other projects that OGA are investigating include an economic survey of the genealogical sector, examining ways in which the market can still be monetised, but more room is made for volunteer transcription projects without compromising the need for archives to digitise, and recover costs (linked to what’s been outlined above); a survey of the various means of access to genealogical data, to produce a one stop shop guide to all data on the web (think ‘genealogy supermarket price comparison website, and you’re on the right lines); an assessment of Big Society Government projects that we could get involved with, such as the civil registration digitisation and indexing project that was halted last year; and an assessment of the legal status of parish registers – public record or private deposit by the church.

The other key driver of OGA is the Open Rights Group, and supporters also include the Open Knowledge Foundation and the Federation of Family History Societies. The website has only just been launched www.opengenalliance.org and you can follow them on Twitter @opengenalliance

This is an edited version - edited by me.