Cornwall Online Census Project

“Bringing YOUR ancestors to YOU, free of charge!”

Search tips

Using a text based search engine for a census transcript is rather different to other web pages. Each large page contains a lot of data, mostly names and places rather than English words, but each line (record) is independent of the ones around it. The search engine is unaware of that, so searching for ‘John Smith’ will locate all pages that have any ‘John’s (forename or surname) and any ‘Smith’s (surname or occupation) and may not give the results you expect. Also note that the search engine will only give you one result per page, even if there are more matches on that page, so you will need to use your browser “find in page” function to find the remainder.

FreeCEN, which includes most of the data available on this site, provide a database type search which treats every record separately. This may be more useful in some circumstances.

This site has a detailed Table of Contents which shows which pieces are available for each year and parish so if you know the rough location it may be quicker to go direct the the relevant pages and use the browser ‘Find in Page’ options.

To get more specific results from searching on this site, try using the following tips:—

Check and vary spelling

Make sure your search terms are spelled correctly. The search engine may suggest alternative spellings if very few results are returned, but it’s always best to try to spell the search terms correctly. Also be aware that the transcripts are done keeping the original spelling intact and names could be spelled and abbreviated in a variety of ways.

The search engine ignores capitalisation and many common accents (e.g. ‘é’), umlauts (e.g. ‘ü’) and ligatures (e.g. ‘æ’) so you don’t need to discover how to type them into the search box. No words containing digits (0–9) have been included in the index to reduce the size so ages, house numbers, piece numbers etc. are not indexed. Some words which occur on every page such as ‘Cornwall’ and ‘Page’ have also been excluded. Sorry to those researching these as surnames but it can’t be helped.

Use similar words

The more similar words you use in a search, the more relevant your results will be.

Example: fisher fisherman mariner seaman

This search would require the ‘Any Words’ option.

Use quotation marks

Use (double) quotation marks "like this" to find words which must appear adjacent to each other, for example, "John Smith". Common (otherwise excluded) words can be included in quoted strings (so "John Page" would work) and quoted strings can be mixed with separate words. The index is very large so searches of this type may take longer than you expect. Very long strings may time out.

Use minus (-)

Use a minus sign to indicate undesirable term(s). The minus sign indicates that a word or phrase must be absent in the search results. Minus cannot be used with quoted exact string searches. This feature is probably not a lot of use for census search but the option is there.

Example: carbis -bay

Use wildcards

Wildcard searches can expand the number of matches for a particular request. The ‘*’ (for many characters) and ‘?’ (for a single character) are used as wildcards. Wildcards cannot be used with quoted exact string searches.

For instance, searching for ‘wh*’ will find the words what, why, when, whether, and any other word that starts with ‘wh’ but ‘wh?’ will only find ‘why’ and other three letter words. Searching for ‘*her*’ will find the words here, whether, together, gathering, and any other word that contains ‘her’ anywhere in the word.

Use the census year

The site is divided up into the different census years 1841–1901. Selecting just one can focus the search to the time of interest. The introduction and information pages are excluded from the search engine

Look at the structure

Take a look at some sample pages to see how the records are laid out. This may help in composing a search for more specific information. For example, a standard format is used for the relationships which could be used in a quoted string search.

Example: "Caroline Williams wife" (note the quotes and that the commas have been omitted).