Updated 15 Jun 2007

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Palmer's Codenumber System

for sorting name variants in genealogy.

Glenda Breslin emailed saying: "I'm considering doing some writing on name variations and how we often miss data because we don't do a broad enough search with name variations". I replied, claiming to have solved the problem and asking would she like to know more? Details of "Palmer's Codenumber System", were then emailed to Glenda, see below.
See also an article written about the Transcription of Wirksworth Parish Registers.

    Hello Glenda,

    >Yes, I'd like to know more, and if I can quote you when I write an article about how you found a solution to name variations.

    Sure you can quote me. Been trying to communicate my system all this century.

    PCS (Palmer's Codenumber System) for sorting name variants in genealogy.

    When you have a large database (88,000 records on my Wirksworth Parish Register database), indexing is all important.

    To get an idea of the size of the problem, in the Wirksworth Parish registers 1608-1899 there are:
    Entries: 87,966
    Surnames: 6,171 different spellings of 1,072 basic names.
    Firstnames: 4,087 different spellings of 533 basic names
    Placenames: 767 different spellings of 348 basic names

    This variant problem can be handled by giving a unique code number to each principal name and all its variants. For example:
    2003=Abernathan, Abernethy, Abarnathar, Abanathan, Abernathy, Abanathah, Abernatha
    2351=Zachariah, Zacharias, Zacharia, Zachary, Zechariah, Zecheriah
    3002=Alderwasley, Alderwaslee, Alderwasly, Alderwashlee, Alderwaslye
    3347=Youlgrave, Yolgrave, Yoldgrave, Yeolgrove, Youlgreave, Yolgrove, Yolgreve, Yolgrieve, Youlgreve

    Generating these codenumbers depends on the genealogist's skill and patience.
    It took me a week's work.
    My skill was good as I'd been transcribing the Wirksworth registers for 3 years.

    Applying these codenumbers in the right place is made easy by writing a macro using the database's DPL (Database Processing Language)
    Contact the author for details. My database is MPRO.

    The database is then indexed on the codenumber, not the spelling of the name. This drags all the variants together. They can be separated by eye later, but this is rarely necessary.
    This way a funny spelling doesn't get missed (like RYGHT and WRIGHTE)

    These codenumbers are applied to:
    Christenings: subject's surname (codsur) and firstname (codfir)
    Christenings: father's firstname (codrfir) and mother's firstname (codrsur)
    Marriages: spouse's firstname (codrfir) and surname before marriage (codrsur)
    Burials: father's firstname (codrfir) and mother's firstname (codrsur)
    Placenames: (codpla)

    The database is then given two indexes:
    B= [codsur,codrfir, codrsur, ddat]

    The square brackets show the hierarchy within each index. For example,
    'A' first displays codsur in numerical order.
    For each codsur it displays codfir in numerical order.
    For each codfir it chooses ddat (the date) in date order.
    Similarly for 'B'

    Now suppose you want to work out a family tree for SPENCER (codenumber 1936) (the commonest surname in the Wirksworth Area, there are 3,184 entries)

    Select all codsur=1936, and transfer these to a separate database for convenience.
    Display all the SPENCERs, flipping back and forth between indexes A and B.
    Start from the latest date and work backwards in time, drawing a pencil tree as you go. You'll find its delightfully easy and good fun (if the records are there of course).

    Some tips.
    Burials often give ages which enable the baptism to be found.
    Men usually married at 25 which enables the baptism to be found.
    Choosing index B displays all the children of a marriage together on the same screen.
    Mixed marriages (parents with the same firstnames having children at the same time) can often be sorted out because all the alternatives are on the same screen.
    Keep a lookout for children given their mother's maiden name.
    Keep a lookout for a child named after a dead sibling.
    Keep a note of fertility (usually 2 years between births, the younger the quicker).

    Work your way backwards in time, tagging each entry found to be on the tree.
    When finished, select all tagged entries and display in date order.
    This way, they can be rechecked then stored or output to an email to send to the lucky customer.

    That's it. I'll edit this email occasionally, then put it on my website at http://www.wirksworth.org.uk/B78-PCS.htm

    Best wishes,
    John Palmer, Dorset, England
    Author of Wirksworth website

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