What is an Online Parish Clerk?

Information on what an OPC does and how to volunteer

The idea for the Online Parish Clerk (OPC) scheme started in Cornwall in 2000, was taken up by Devon and has now been adopted in Dorset and other Counties.

Basically the idea behind the scheme is to make freely available all the records relating to a County in order to further research in family, local, social and economic history. Dorset has around 275 parishes, if we could get to the stage where we had 275 OPCs we could have all the parish registers and census for the entire county transcribed within a year or so - and what an amazing resource that would be!

So, an OPC chooses a parish (some do more than one) and starts transcribing records to create a database of information for research purposes. This is done at your own pace, as we all have limited time. What you choose to transcribe first is entirely up to you, it could be the Bishop's Transcripts, census, churchwardens accounts, poor law records, land tax records, directories, militia records, wills, etc. Most of these records are available through your nearest LDS centre. You might also want to gather any other material about the history of the parish. Ultimately you could end up with a database of every person who has ever been in or through a parish since records began.

However, please remember that OPCs are volunteers, giving their time freely to improve the ease of access to parish information. Please treat them with courtesy and be patient. Also remember that the OPC may not live anywhere near the parish they are working on - we have volunteers in very distant places

There is also a choice on how to make the information available to all. You could have your contact e-mail listed and resources on a parish page on the OPC site and people would make enquiries direct to you. You might want to put your transcripts up on your own web site with a link from the OPC page, or you might want to send them to in to put on this OPC web site.

You will find the work rewarding, it may help identify further sources for research and will generally add to your knowledge of parish life through the centuries. If you work on a parish where you have ancestors, you may find distant relatives and uncover more 'twiglets' on your tree.

I hope that everyone will also be willing to donate some of their data to the FreeCens and FreeReg projects, who share the same objectives of free information to all.

Are you interested? If so, please complete the Volunteer Form, and send it to the Co-ordinator by email (at the address on the Contact Page). I can also give you further details, including sources of information and advice on the issue of copyright.

Alternately, if you have transcriptions you would like to donate to the site, but feel unable/unwilling to be an OPC, please go to the Contact Page . Donations of transcripts, photographs, articles and general historical information are very welcome.

There are guidelines for transcribing data from the various records and suggestions and templates on how to provide these transcriptions on the Transcriber's Guide page on this site. Sample pages can be downloaded and templates are available for various popular document types to help.


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