Tuesday 5 November 2019

Online Parish Clerks and GENUKI

I had occasion to post some comments to the Devon-L Rootsweb list this past week. And had some very good and a few very strange responses back. One of the posts was about the Online Parish Clerk OPC) program and how it seems to have died down in terms of people contacting OPCs for information. Here is part of my post:

In many recent email messages to Devon-L I have noticed that researchers are not as acquainted with the OPC program as they used to be. What is also apparent is that experienced genealogists and members of DFHS do not offer newbies and others any information about what data OPCs might have.

The rise of Internet sources has, of course, led to people finding their own way more often. That should allow them to find the OPCs as well, but it does not seem to be the case.

In my own parishes, the ones I look after as an OPC, I am very cognizant of the people and families that lived there for many generations. I am also aware that there have been many changes in the spelling of names over the centuries, as well as the births, deaths, marriages and migration of people. Only through transcribing all the parish registers and other documents, with the help of many volunteers I would add, have we been able to put together a significant database on families.

Yes, many of the registers are now online and you can pull up images of the various pages. That is, of course, if you search for the right name and spelling. I know, from my own experience that there are problems with indexing on most of the major databases. I also know that even though sites like
FindMyPast or Ancestry say they have all the records, there are still some missing from their library.

For Devon, not all parish registers can be found on FMP or Ancestry, or any other site. Many can be found on the DFHS
[Devon Family History Society] site, though, in the Members Only area. More importantly, the information may be available from OPCs who look after the parishes. Not all parishes are covered but there is still a good-sized group that are.

In the discussion and commentary from other list members, many people made the point that many family researchers do not take advantage of another quality source of information and advice – GENUKI (which stands for UK and Ireland Genealogy). https://www.genuki.org.uk/

We all agreed that this site, along with OPC information probably need more promotion in the genealogy world.

Many counties in England have OPC programs. You can find out which ones here. https://www.genuki.org.uk/search/site/online%20parish%20clerk I am most familiar with the Devon program https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/DEV/OPCproject as I look after four parishes in that county. https://www.cornwood-opc.com/ (Which reminds me that I really need to update my website pages.)

As I indicated in my Devon-L post, we get fewer queries these days than we used to. Not zero yet, but other Internet sites seem to pull researchers in different directions. Those people that do come to ask about my parishes all are pleased they did as I am usually able to provide information about their ancestors who lived in the areas, but also to give them some advice about other sources. I have even met a few cousins through my role as an OPC.

OPCs generally have a great deal of knowledge about, and expertise in the areas they administer and the people that lived there. They are a great resource for beginners and advanced genealogists alike.

I have written about the OPC program in a few journal and magazine articles. One of my first blog posts, back on 14 August 2013 was about The Online Parish Clerk (OPC) Program. Other people have also published pieces about OPCs. See the list below.

·         Shepheard, Wayne. (2012). The Future is Still in the Past: An introduction to Online Parish Clerks. Crossroads. 7(2). pp. 6-13.
·         Shepheard, Wayne. (2013). Experiences of an Online Parish Clerk: Examples of information gleaned from parish registers. Relatively Speaking, February issue, 41(1), pp. 14-19.
·         Shepheard, Wayne. (2013). Experiences of an Online Parish Clerk: A case study involving the use of information from parish registers and other sources. The Devon Family Historian, May issue, No. 146., pp. 24-29.
·         Shepheard, Wayne. (2017). The Role on Online Parish Clerks in the Search for Surnames. Journal of One-Name Studies, October-December issue, 12(12), pp. 9-10.
·         Stockdill, Roy. (2012). Online Parish Clerks. Family Tree, April issue, 28(7), pp. 38-41.
·         Shepheard, Wayne (2013). Discover Genealogy Blog Post, The Online Parish Clerk Program https://discovergenealogy.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-online-parish-clerk-opc-program.html

If you would like copies of any of these papers, you can email me at cornwood.opc at shaw dot ca.

GENUKI is an especially wonderful resource for finding what information is available, and where it can be found for areas throughout the UK and Ireland. Most of us who have looked through their pages agree it should be the first stop for genealogists who are beginning their research adventure or looking at a new area. It is constantly being updated with new data and sources so is a place where you can revisit frequently and find new information that may be relevant to your studies. As participants on the Devon-L list, we get monthly memos of what has been added from Brian Randell, the Devon GENUKI manager.

I highly recommend genealogists consult both GENUKI and an OPC, if there is one in the area of your study. Both are resources where I am confident you will find relevant information that will further your family history research. Let others know about your perusal of these sites, too.

By the way, both GENUKI and the OPC program are always looking for more volunteers to assist them in making those programs and websites even better.