Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Early toast

The clocks went back at the weekend, but I didn't really notice until this morning.  I think I was too tired on Sunday and the OH had already adjusted all the obvious clocks before I got up.  I must have managed to sleep through yesterday as well, but this morning both myself and the cat thought 4am was time for breakfast ... unfortunately when my stomach says eat the message comes with accompanying pain so turning over and going back to sleep isn't an option.  Toast and a co-codamol later I did try but a discovery yesterday kept running about in my brain so here I am typing at 6am.

At the Cudworth Local History Group (CLHG) we have two meetings a week, the Wednesday one is a formal meeting, and I do mean formal, the chairperson has a gavel and we have a proper agenda every week!  On Mondays however it is the Working Meeting, this is when we wheel the group's computer around from the library main room into the meeting room and scan and catalogue photos that have been donated.  When I first heard of the group's existence they had just produced a CD with nearly 1000 pictures of Old Cudworth and groups of people in Cudworth.  They used some software called Comma which had been produced in the early noughties especially for local community archive projects.  Unfortunately the producer of the software has now gone out of business, and by the time I joined them this spring the group had bought a new computer with Windows 7 only to discover that Comma won't work on it.  As a result they were cataloguing all new submissions in a Works database (yes, yes, I know that's only a flat db, no better than a spreadsheet really, but at least it gave them forms to work in).  In fact Comma was based on an Access database with a fancy front end to allow novices to save and index photos and the names of the people on them.  So I offered to write a new Access db that would allow them to do a similar job, with much more functionality than the Works db they were using.

It is now the end of October and things haven't moved on very quickly.  I have Office 2010 at home and soon discovered that the relational db I created for the group with data entry forms, a person index, the ablility to easily attach the photos and a few ideas for reports to search and display the data, did not back port into Office 2007, the suite CLHG had installed on their computer in the library.  They tell me that they didn't buy that either, it appeared on their computer after they asked the library techie to try to install Comma onto that machine for them. Prior to that they had only had Works on it.  On asking for the group to invest in at least Access 2010 I set off a long winded discussion about why they needed it, whether buying the whole suite was a better idea (I think I've touched on this in an earlier post) and whether they should claim money from a local community grant or just buy it. 

This means that on Mondays we are now saving photos to a simple Access db with only one table (yes, not much better than Works).  We can attach the pictures and printing a hard copy for the file is only one process rather then the three it was before so that's an improvement.  We can also save multiple images to a record and that's where yesterday comes in.  BS and LL are two members of CLHG who work together to discover and record the names of people in photos.  LL takes the donated pictures around to known contacts of the group, older people who have expressed an interest but who maybe can't attend the meetings to obtain the names of people inthe pictures.  BS creates Excel sheets with a copy of the picture pasted onto it, numbered circles to indicate the people and an index below.  Once these have been created an electronic copy of both picture and index sheet is saved to the Access db under one record number.  Well that's the plan anyway ...

BS and LL usually attend on Wednesdays, but yesterday they arranged to come to the Working Meeting to hand over some more indexed images and their accompanying original photos.  However on arrival we discovered that the other regular Monday attendees were unable to attend which left myself, BS, LL and one other.  We spent more time talking about the best way to organise our data than we did actual work - and in the process LL found a data stick with some few hundred images on it of Cudworth parish records.  BS and I were very excited as it looked as if they might run up to quite recently and currently Ancestry only has Cudworth records up to 1910 for baptisms, 1935 for marriages and 1985 for burials.  I took a copy and through yesterday evening sorted through the images.  The majority were burials with a shorter run than Ancestry, and there were no marriages but the banns did run on to 1991.  I was particularly interested in the baptisms, but quite a few of those images were corrupt.  Eventually I decided to download the available images from Ancestry with a view to preparing a transciption for use by the CLHG.  One of the drawbacks of the meetings in the library is that we have no internet access, even my dongle doesn't work in the room we have the meetings!  So a spreadsheet transcription/index is often useful, currently we only have burials up to 2005 and marriages up to 1935 plus an index of the Monumental Inscriptions done years ago by the Barnsley Family History Society (it's a bit out of date).

Now I'm wondering if CLHG can be persuaded to buy copies of the parish records for the church, especially the marriages and baptisms, so we can create a full transcription.  No doubt the discussion about this will carry on well into next year ...

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