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Widecombe History Group - The Parish Documents Project

Please note that this page refers to a project carried out in early 2000. The data contained in the Parish Documents CD has now been incorporated in the Widecombe Archive and is available online at

Introduction    Sample Document    Further Details    Input Form

Version One of the Parish Documents CD was produced in 2000. Please read the note above. You can also click here for more details.


We are in the process of storing and cataloging all the items in the Widecombe Parish Chest of which there are many hundreds.

We have prepared calico and acid-free card wrappers for the documents prior to grouping the documents and securing them in their custom-made folders.

We have also designed a database to carry the pertinent information from each document - mainly the apprentice records, examinations and removal orders for now. Capturing of the information from the documents onto forms and thereafter into the database is currently in progress.

We have also built a series of browser enquiries to enable information in the database to be searched and displayed. We hope to make these and the database available on-line at some point in the future, or at least provide copies to authorised and interested parties on CD or maybe via download.

Further information on the progress of this activity will be posted here from time to time.

Sample Document

If you are interested in viewing a sample of an original document, then please click on the thumbnail below. Please note this picture is c. 150,000 characters and may take a minute or two to appear properly on your screen. 

Thumbnail of 1786 DocumentClick on this thumbnail for an example of an Examination Document dating from 1786.

The document text reads as follows:

"Devon to Wit. The examination of Alexander Warrin an Inhabitant in the Parish of Widecombe in the Moor in the said County Labourer, touching his settlement taken on oath before us. Two of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace in and for the said County this 18th Day of September in the year of our Lord 1786.

Who saith that he was born in the said parish of Widecombe in the Moor, as he hath been informed and was bound an Apprentice by his Father when he was about fifteen years of age to one John Smerdon of the Parish of Ashburton in the s'd. County, yeoman and liv'd with him in Ashburton afores'd about three years and then ran away from his s'd master and went back into the s'd parish of Widecombe in the Moor and liv'd there about five years as a Labourer, and then went to serve as a substitute (?) in the South Devon Militia, where he continued about eight years, when he returned back into the s'd Parish of Widecombe in the Moor, where he married, and has ever since liv'd there as a Labourer. And further saith that he hath not since rented Ten?? pounds a year nor done any kind of act whereby to gain a settlement.

The Mark of Alexander Warrin

Taken and Sworn at Woolborough in the s'd County the Day and Year above written before us.

Thos. Taylor

Thos Baker"

More Detail on the Parish Documents Project

The work on the Parish Documents commenced with analysis of the information contained on the documents in order to understand what pieces of information it would be worth capturing for cross-reference purposes.

A sample form was then produced for completion and groups of members took batches of documents and completed the forms. From this exercise, a revised form was produced. This will be found here.

An MS-Access database was then designed to hold the captured information.

This database basically consists of:

  • Document Details
  • Locations
  • Occupations
  • Citizen Details including:
    • Document Subjects
    • Examiners (local worthies who examined the subjects)
    • Employers
    • Spouses
    • Children of other Citizens

These are then inter-related to allow searching facilities later.

A Visual Basic program was then written to capture the information from the form and store it in the database. This consists of a main input screen for document details with separate means of entering and maintaining Citizen, Location and Occupation details. Document types can also be defined so that a wide cross-section of documents could be captured if required.

The aim is to capture all references to citizens, occupations and locations on the forms. So, whether citizens are the subject of the forms, the examiners, employers, spouses or children, all details would be captured. Similarly locations, whether where born, where worked, where lived, all this could be captured.

The final stage is to write a search and enquiry system to access the information in the database. This has been written, again in Visual Basic, but using a Browser format, so that it is similar to the access of information over the Internet.

This provides the facility to search for documents, citizens, locations or occupations and within each of these to search further as follows:

Please note that 'containing text' refers to the supplied text being present in any text field within the corresponding database records, including comments fields.


  • List all

  • List by Document Type
  • List by full or partial Folio (the physical document storage reference)
  • List by date range
  • List by Subject Name
  • List by 'containing' text


  • List All

  • List by Role (Role = one of Subject, Examiner, Employer, Spouse, Child)
  • By Name
  • List by 'containing' text
  • List by Occupation
  • List by Location of Residence


  • List All

  • List by 'containing' text


  • List All

  • List by 'containing' text

Once one of the above has been chosen all items that match the criteria are displayed. An individual item can then be selected for detailed viewing.

From an individual item you can then inspect further information as follows:


  • Children, then details of a selected child

  • Occupations, then details of a selected employer
  • Examiners, then details of a selected examiner
  • Spouses, then details of a selected spouse


  • Related Documents - shows documents where this citizen is referenced, whether by Subject, Spouse, Child, Examiner, Employer


  • Related Documents - showing documents where this Location is referenced as a Parish

  • Citizens - showing citizens where this Location is referenced, e.g. by 'where born', 'resides', etc.


  • Related Documents - showing documents where this Occupation is referenced, either directly or through an employment of the document subject

  • Citizens - showing citizens where this Occupation is referenced

As well as this basic searching, we will be able to deduce statistics from the data. For example, the proportions of occupations in evidence by types of citizen.

This browsing system will be made available on CD once a substantial number of documents have been captured into the database.

There are also plans to make this browsing system available from this website. Further news on this during 2000.

Input Form

Please complete as clearly as possible, preferably using block capitals.

All boxes to be completed as far as information available, otherwise leave blank.

Completed By





Folio Reference


Document Date


Document Type



Removal Order

(Please Tick)


Other (Please Name)








Fore Name(s)


Where Born


Date/Year Born




Age At Interview*


Who First Apprenticed To:


Age/Year started Apprenticeship




Fore Name(s)


Apprenticed to what Age/Year*


Stated Occupation


Their Residence


Age/Year left Apprenticeship*


To Work Where


To Do What









Age/Year married*


Spouse's Name


PLEASE TURN OVER * Right-Hand Box: C=Circa, D=Deduced,Blank=Stated

Examined By  










Total Number:












Other Apprenticeships/Occupations/Residences

Total Number:




Who with


How Long






Other comments

Notes on form completion

In order to cross-refer the completed forms to the original documents, we need some form of unique reference and one that enables us to find the original relatively easily.

The documents do not currently have a unique reference on them and we do not want to deface the documents in any way.

We have therefore decided to sort the documents; perhaps in date or surname order, or type of document combined with one of the other orders. We could then place the documents suitably divided into a number of the calico pouches that have been produced, which from now on will be called 'Folios'. Perhaps there should be no more than 20 documents per Folio (??agree).

As we fill the Folios, we will use a permanent ink to mark a number on the Folio in a standard position. We can then take the Folios in turn and use the documents to capture the data onto the forms., marking the Folio reference on the form in the box provided. When storing the information from the form into the database, we will use a combination of the folio number, surname and date as a complete reference. This will enable anyone who consults the information to easily find out which Folio contains the original document and further to fairly easily locate the actual document form within the Folio.

Make sure that documents from which information has been take and those not yet studied are kept separate and you know which is which. Remember you cannot mark the documents in any way.

Different documents contain differing amounts of information. Even the same type of document varies considerably in the amount of information it carries. Do not worry if you appear to be completing few boxes. You can only complete the box when information is available.

Where age details are required on the form, we have provided a box to indicate with a 'C' whether the details are circa or approximate and with a 'D' where the details have been deduced. Where the age is explicitly stated leave this box blank. Furthermore, it does not generally matter whether you provide the age or the year, so use whatever information is provided on the document (it is also quite possible to get no idea of age at all).

Where the total number of children (with details) and of other occupations, exceed the number of columns provided, please enter the extra details in the 'Other Comments' box and mention what the details are.

If the form does not seem to give you enough space, please use an extra sheet of paper to record the additional details.

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The information on this page was last modified on March 20 2015 16:45:30.

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