GENUKI Maintainers' Pages
Adding Or Modifying An Entry In The Church Database
The searches are all performed on a central MySQL database using SQL queries. Changes made by maintainers are not made to the central database itself, but to a set of source files which are used collectively to replace the entire database at regular intervals or when the need arises.
The source files consist of comma separated text files named churches.csv, with one file per county. The churches.csv file for a county can be held in any convenient location on a server accessible to both the county's church database maintainer, and the system administrator. Note that the county's church database maintainer need not be the same person as the county maintainer. Contact the system administrator if you have a problem locating your churches.csv file.
The URL for a county's churches.csv file is held as part of the county's entry in the County database table. Contact the system administrator if you need the entry changed.
A program is run by the system administrator to collect all the county churches.csv files and build the database from source. When any section has been changed, a database rebuild is required to activate the change; a simple rebuild is performed at 06:00 every day.
Updating the church database
Refer to the definition of church database fields for details of what to enter in each field.
Use an editor to update the churches.csv file for your county. A simple text editor will be adequate, but it might be easier to use a spreadsheet editor if you have one available. Don't forget to save the updated file back in its original csv format.
To add a new entry, simply insert a new empty line in the file and add the new entry. The file can be held in any sort order convenient to the maintainer (Place, Denomination, Dedication has been found convenient for some maintainers) so locate the right point in the file for the new entry.
To modify an existing entry, locate the entry and edit the fields that need changing, taking care to use the correct flags - some of these are not obvious, so look at similar entries to get the right values.
Improving the church database
There are some tasks that county maintainers should undertake to improve the church database. It may well be worthwhile recruiting a competent volunteer to do the bulk of the work but quality control procedures will be needed, and cooperation to ensure the correct URLs are used on the entries.
The church database is maintained on a county by county basis by the volunteers providing individual county pages. At the county level, adoption of maintenance of that section of the database depends on the amount of effort that the maintainer can offer alongside their other commitments. The church database statistics provides information about the number of entries for each county and the state of development.
The database is split into county sections which are almost always maintained by the same person who maintains that county section of the GENUKI pages. But we can cater for the case where another individual separately maintains the church database entries for a county, although it is essential for them to liase with the county maintainer.
The data is maintained as a comma separated text file, the format of which is defined elsewhere. If you want to take on maintenance of a county section of the church database then please contact the system administrator to discuss it, and to obtain the initial data for that county.
A database table is used to hold information about how each county is maintained. Each devolved county section has to be defined in the database before it is used. This has been done for all the existing devolved county sections of the church database. If you want to start maintaining your county section of the church database contact the system administrator who will set the field in the database table.
The options we have for the church database within this county table are:
- A flag to say whether the church database is being developed for this county.
- Name of the maintainer if it's not the same person who is maintaining the county.
- Their email address. This does not appear on web pages, but is used in the contact scripts to direct church database contacts to the church database section maintainer rather than the county maintainer.
- The URL of a place on the web holding the churches.csv file if it is not in the normal place. It can be in a different place to the county and the file does not need to be called churches.csv
- A range of flags controlling some of the fields that appear asking
users to contribute information. This gives the ability to supress some
- Church history
- Church records
- The URL of the church's own web page.
- Suppress queries for an exact grid reference (12 char) and use approximate ones (8 char). This is a special for Yorkshire. It does mean though that markers on the online maps will be imprecise and appear wrong to the users. The 8 char grid references are within 100 metres, but this could very easily be on the wrong side of the road, or with closely packed streets, in the next one.
- An email address, which does appear in web pages, to which users can send church pictures as attachments.
The main component of this system is a searchable database which contains basic details of the church, e.g., its name, where it was located, and when. This is sufficient to be able to generate dynamically a results page for the user. However at the next level users want to know further information such as what records exist and where to find them. This is not as easy to manage in a database and so there is the facility to permanently have a unique page for the church, which is displayed as a result of the search, and which can hold as much information as is required. It's best to collect all the basic details first before moving to individual church pages because this reduces the effort required to provide the information, and removes the need to make changes in two places.
The churches.csv file
The database is used to record details of all churches and places of worship used by any religous group. Regard church as a congregation rather than the building in which they worshipped. If more than one denomination use the same building then put in two entries. If they moved between buildings at different locations then, again, use two separate entries, with different locations and dates. When you get to the later stage of producing a separate web page for the church, then have both entries in the churches.csv file point to the same page. In addition, municipal cemeteries not associated with a particular church can also be recorded here, as that is what is expected when readers look for burials.
The raw data is maintained as comma separated text files, with a separate file for each county. The recommended technique is to use Excel (or OpenOffice) to view and edit this file, but always saving it back in its original csv format. Excel lets you easily view the data in tabular format and to sort it as required. The most convenient order is probably Place, Denomination, Dedication. You can add a line of headings at the top of your columns if that helps, and the program that builds the database will ignore it. The database build programe recognises such header lines as those in which the grid reference field contains the characters Gridref.
Sources of information
There are many sources of information which can be used to identify churches that exist now or have existed in the past. The major difficulty is that each source uses different ways of describing the location of the individual churches and there are a significant number that provide insufficient information. This can lead to duplicate entries that need an expert with local knowledge to identify and resolve. Many of the older sources were targetted at an audience that knew the information already and so an implied reference was enough. Nowadays that isn't common knowledge and research is required to resolve the conflicts. Some of the sources of conficts are:
- Local district names have changed.
- Street names have changed.
- If a church is on the corner of two streets then different sources may use different street names.
- Modern directories and listings frequently provide the address of the minister, and not the church itself.
- Churches with a dedication are much easer to identify, but dedications can change.
- Many churches have closed and merged. The current name of a church may be St. xxxx and St. yyyyy. This might be the original name, but frequently it is a combination of the names of two merged churches, and you have to work out which is which.
- Over the years the denomination may have changed, e.g., if it was originally Independent then at the end of the 19th century it is likely to be described as Congregational.
- In listings of register holdings, the description might provide a distinct reference to identify the church. However it may contain just xxxxx Methodist church. This may be enough to uniquely identify it within that set, but what if there was some other Methodist church in that place for which no records survive?
A good starting point is found in the lists published by record offices detailing their holdings of parish registers. That will give you the basic infrastructure of the older churches. The areas that will be most deficient will be those churches that haven't deposited registers and many of the non-conformists will be in this group. Note: don't fall into the trap of using the earliest date in the deposited registers as the founding date of the church. You need to use other sources to check that so, when searching online, use the form <yyyy.
Look at directories, and start with one dated around 1900 which should give most of the churches that are normally used. Later than 1900 you will get a few more but also lose some as non-conformist churches started to combine. You will probably find that the Anglican and larger or older churches of other faiths are covered reasonably well and more detail is given in the large towns. But for smaller places you may get something like. "There are also Wesleyan, and Primitive Methodist chapels".
Websites exist that will help and are particularly useful for finding churches founded fairly recently. Use a search engine, and look for "xxxx diocese" and that should locate details of Anglican and Catholic churches. The Church Near You website will locate CofE churches near a given postcode. The amount of information present on a church website will vary enormously. The address might be that of the minister, the founding date might be of the current church building, and watch out for joint benefices where some churches have closed. The information on the web about the history of non-conformist churches is usually less useful because of recent merging of congregations. You will find the present structure and names but it will be difficult to match that with the older, individual, churches.
Order of construction
Experience has shown that approaching the task of building up a county section of the churches database in a structured way minimises the total amount of effort required.
- Start by adding entries for churches in lists of deposited records, using approximate grid references from the GENUKI gazetter.
- Use a gazetteer published around 1900 to add in churches without deposited records. When this has been done you should have a good framework containing a high proportion of the churches in your county.
- Ask people with local knowledge to give you the exact location of a church, whether it is still open, and the street on which it is located. Switch on the facility for the search pages to invite help from readers because this makes it easier for them to see what is required in the list of churches that the search pages produce.
- Don't build individual pages for each church until you have the basic information including a precise location as this will miminimise the number of changes that will need to be made. The easiest way to create a page is to search for the church on the web, (save the page if it's generated automatically). Only seek further information, such as where records are deposited, when you are ready to create individual pages.
Most churches have been located on the same site for many years even if they may have occupied more than one building. But some have changed locations, usually because the congregation has grown too large for the current church building. In these cases, create a separate entry in the database for each location with appropriate closing and opening dates for each site. Then, when you decide to produce an individual web page for the church, make each related entry in churches.csv point to that same individual web page and describe the change in location in the Church History section. Note: don't create multiple entries for the case in which a church has been demolished and rebuilt on the same site.
Viewing auto-generated pages when individual church pages are in use
If you decide to add individual web pages for individual churches before all the basic information is available, it is sometimes useful to be able to compare the page with that which would have been generated automatically, e.g., to cut and paste the generated data. To do this, search the database, and get a list of links up to and including the church in which you are interested. Click "Nearby Churches" at the top of the page to find a URL for the list of churches. Add another parameter ,AGP=Y to the end of the resulting URL and that will provide a list with links to the auto-generated pages.