Wednesday 21 August 2013

Thanks to the Volunteers

As I indicated in an earlier posting, with the help of many volunteers, we have been able to transcribe thousands of pages of parish registers and other documents for my four parishes in Devon to date. And work is still ongoing!

Volunteers are, of course, the lifeblood of genealogy. While commercial firms have been of great benefit in being able to find indexes and images of old records, much of what we all use is a result of thousands of volunteers each spending countless hours poring over and transcribing old documents.

I want to acknowledge here all the individuals who have assisted me: Alick, Bob, Brian, Bronwyn, Catherine, Chris, Cindy, Ellie, Gina, Joan, John, Laura, Linda, Noreen, Pamela, Sue and Vivian. I haven’t used their last names here for privacy reasons but they will recognize themselves if or when they find my blog.

As I also said before, I like to get my data in an organized form for easy reference. I have spreadsheets containing the names and dates of all individuals who were baptized, married and buried in my parishes, from the early 1600s to present day. I can sort these lists and come up with summaries of entire families over several generations.

Just for the Shepheard family in Cornwood parish, there were 124 baptism entries (see table below), 47 marriage entries and 90 burial entries in the parish registers between 1685 and 1995 That is not an overly large number compared to some other families but it represents 40 individual families related to me and spans 8 generations.

Our surname has been recorded with several different spellings but, by combining the data from the BMD registers, censuses, tax lists and other documents, I can show that, in that parish at least, they were almost all related. One unrelated Shepheard family did move into the parish in the late 1800s and an occasional person with a similar name appeared to get baptized, married or buried there, but these can all be easily differentiated from my ancestors in the lists. I can also show the history of all those other families who intermarried with the Shepheards and who are also my ancestors, as well as those who didn’t match up with a Shepheard, of course.

This is the list of Shepheard children baptized in Cornwood parish between 1685 and 1993. It contains information on the children’s and parents’ names; date of baptism, and occasionally date of birth; residence location; fathers’ occupations; and, for a few children, their illegitimate status. Readers will not be able to distinguish details but it serves as an example of what I can do with transcribed data from the parish registers. This list is sorted by (1) surname and (2) father’s forename. Each separate family is arranged together. From the list I can then match marriages, burials and censuses (after 1841) and compile a rough, initial “history” of the various families.

Having the data organized in this manner allows me to do many different analyses that help with unravelling the parish history as well as the lives of the residents. I will discuss some of these discoveries in later posts.

The point is that, segregating families over many decades would not be possible if we did not have complete lists of BMD entries from the transcription of parish registers. And we would not be anywhere near having those lists available to for our research without the help of so many people.
So, again, a big thank you to all those who volunteered, and continue to volunteer to help!