Home Help!
Index Info

The Malcolm McCarthy Collection

How the collection evolved

I am now 52 years of age being born in Redruth maternity hospital after mother braved a snow storm in the local nurse’s car, from Padstow to Redruth whilst in labour, I often wish I had been born in my parish.

I was brought up in Padstow, mother’s family home for many generations. By the age of fifteen I became interested in local history. In 1977 I went to London joining the Metropolitan Police Force, I became slightly home sick so began collecting local postcards to placate this feeling, quickly this became an obsessive hobby.

On my visits home I began visiting older local people that I had previously taken for granted, I started picking their brains as to identities of the local residents in the postcards. This early work has been invaluable to my later publications.  One of these older friends was Mr Melville Kestle, he came from local farming stock. One day in about 1982 on one of my biannual visits he asked me if I would like a bag of old local documents he had in his garage, he suggested that if I did not take them they would be burnt.

The documents upon inspection fascinated me as I had never seen anything quite like them before. They were the deeds of two farms in St Breock parish, Penquean and Tregunna. They were neighbouring riparian farms, both on the banks of the River Camel. There appeared to be two main families, the Brabyn’s and the Key’s, though many other people were mentioned within the documents. I soon realised there was a wealth of information within the pages as the documents went back to 1656, the bundle containing a few seventeenth century Brabyn wills.

In 1990 I returned to Padstow with my wife to have my family, at around this time Donald Rawe gave me a Cornwall Family History Magazine, in it I found a list of members interests, I realised that many of these people could be helped using these documents obtained from Mr Kestle. I corresponded, by Royal Mail in those days, with many enthusiastic people and received enormous satisfaction from sending photocopies of relevant documents to interested parties and later hearing how I had helped them.

In about 2002 whilst working as Berthing Master for Padstow Harbour I decided in the quiet times at work I would start transcribing these documents, at that time in a naive way, I thought it quite an undertaking as there was about 60 documents, some being quite large.  As I worked on these documents in my office many people passed through and questions were frequently being asked by customers out of genuine interest. One questioner turned out to be a Cornish solicitor who I knew well as a regular harbour user. After he saw and understood the implications of what I was doing, he would bring me a black sack of documents on each visit. Then one day I had a phone call from him and was asked to bring my car to his offices, it was filled to the brim with boxes and bags as they were clearing an old store, nothing that was being disposed of was left behind, every scrap was ferreted away in any, and eventually every available nook and cranny in the car.

Before receiving the car load I had struggled on transcribing by myself, working through the bags, I then realised that I would not be able to transcribe the documents I had been given in my lifetime despite continuing working eight hours a day on them.

I then appealed on the internet for help with the transcriptions and over the years have had fantastic group of willing helpers. Every document that is not transcribed by me is checked by me and all the documents have been indexed for surnames, to help genealogists, All documents also have a rider of who transcribed them and where the document comes from, except those documents I transcribed, this was at the request of Myra the OPC coordinator to give the transcripts provenance. The most up to date index has been compiled by Susan Old, an OPC for several parishes, this index is fully searchable using ctrl F and is on this disc.

The object of the Collection

As the documents are transcribed they are then indexed, and also entered as full transcripts into a spread sheet that will be uploaded into the County Record Office database, after the collection has been accessioned. The Index of the documents is hosted on the OPC website, linked to the Old Cornwall Society website and it has recently been agreed to be hosted by the Cornwall Family History website, they will have links from the index directly to the full transcripts in the Members’ Area of their site. The OPC website also has been sent all the full transcripts and these are slowly being put on the parish pages by the coordinator.

At the moment I get emails from researchers who get hits on my index, they email me a file name and I send them the full transcript of the document as an email attachment. To date hundreds of people have been helped in this way. As more people become aware of the existence of the index I get more enquiries.

Over the years I have also deposited a disc with index and full transcripts in the Cornwall Family History Society, the County Record Office and the Courtney Library, these have periodically been updated.

The other object of the collection is to preserve these ancient documents which when I received them were in a damp and rotting condition, now they are dried and stored in archival conditions at the County Record Office strong room.

The primary object of this project is to get all the information in these Cornish documents dating back to the 1500’s onto the internet and available freely to all at no financial cost.

To my knowledge none of the manuscript documents were previously available to researchers.

What’s next ?

The documents collected from the Solicitors office have now been fully transcribed, so this chapter of the project is complete and the County Record Office can begin the accessioning process. They have been waiting for the completion of the transcribing as a new member of staff will be needed to tackle this enormous task.

I am hoping that more documents will follow and the project will continue, I shall endeavour to do this for the rest of my life. The collection as it currently stands consists of over 2000 documents in 46 large archival boxes stored at the County Record Office, in the main the documents cover North Cornwall.

Problems with the competition?

I feel it my duty to make it clear that I have had a lot of help from a great many willing people, so I cannot call this work independent or individual piece of work though that is how it was in the early years.

I also want to make clear that should I receive any more documents the project will continue, and I am actively looking for more material to save so you may say this project is not complete, in my lifetime it will never be complete.  I would describe it as the end of a chapter.

That being said I think that as it stands it is of tremendous benefit to others.

Is this a good research tool?

I leave you to make up your own minds, but to date and with more publicity many genealogical conundrums can be solved by this work.

I realise that compared to the OPC community, and the Cornwall Family History Society my work is but a grain of sand, I just hope that it will go a tiny way to making a fine sand castle on the beaches of research being washed by the tides of time.

I would lastly point out that this is called the Malcolm McCarthy Collection not through pretentiousness, but purely because at the County Record Office they have stored and named the documents the “MY Collection”, M and Y being the first and last letters of my surname as is their system, the name is purely to save confusion.

Thanks to this work I have been privileged to be made an honorary OPC, and my reward for all the work has been the great satisfaction I have received from helping  many people over the years.

What is on this disc

This disc has on it:

  • An index which is the key to the collection
  • Many images of the original documents, but not of all of them.
  • The full transcripts of all of the documents in the index

Have fun and I hope that you find something of interest.


Malc in sunny Padstow


Malcolm McCarthy  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



Last Updated (Friday, 14 January 2011 11:25)