Online Parish Clerks
Early in 2001, three Cornish gentlemen met for their monthly discussion of all things, including genealogy, and considered the establishment of a group of people who could/would aid researchers in their quest for family history information.
Out of their discussions, a proposal arose for the establishment of a particular group of volunteers, who would develop resources and freely share them upon request. Each volunteer would take on one or more parish, and concentrate on that specific area, learning its history, developing an understanding of what influenced the parish, while at the same time obtaining specific information regarding the inhabitants. Part of the effort would be directed at transcribing records, which would be placed so that the work would not need to be re-done. All information had to be provided at no charge. The name "Online Parish Clerks" was adopted, as their work involved the Internet, and old parish records, and the volunteers became known as "OPCs".
A general request for volunteers was then sent to the Cornish Lists at Rootsweb.com, whose members were enthusiastic genealogists. Many stepped forward, delighted they could do as they pleased in the development of resources for their special interests. Some set up websites, while others bought commercial CDs for "look-ups", and one enterprising person created "parish reconstructions" and conducted Great Granny Hunts at local libraries. Eventually, most if not all of the parishes were "adopted". In an on-going process, as people make life adjustments, connections between specific OPCs and parishes sometimes change. These changes are reflected in the OPC pages of the website.
The group had no rules or formal structure; each person could act as they pleased. However, one of the founders acted as "co-ordinator", so that parishes were assigned, and duplication of work was avoided. Since that time, practices have evolved, but rules and regulations have not developed.
A website was set up for Cornish OPCs who did not have their own, to act as a "directory" for researchers to find the OPC for a specific parish and to record what references were available. Later, a Cornish OPC database was added, containing records from all of Cornwall in a very searchable form. At first, it was limited to BMDs, but has since grown to include such things as the Hearth Tax of 1660, the Voters Lists of 1850-1864, etc. The BMD database alone has well over one million entries thusfar.
Through these efforts, the Cornwall OPCs look forward to creating a free, reliable database that is valuable to researchers for years to come.
There have been three co-ordinators for the Cornwall OPCs to date (2010); David Stick, Paul Brewer, and currently, Myra Cordrey. Both David and Paul have since moved on to other enterprises, while Myra has done (and does)tremendous work on the database along with Bill O'Reilly.
From this base, other OPC organizations have grown in various U.K. counties. Those organizations have different structures and practices, but follow the same basic concept of individuals developing resources for a specific area of the county, and offering those resources to researchers free of charge. Co-ordinators help keep things in order, and act as a contact point for those researchers having specific problems.
The term "Online Parish Clerk" and it's insignia are copyright.