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Friday, April 3, 2015


Excellent article about something I recently discovered on a couple of web sites, on my own.  Not everything, in all online databases, are indexed.

In addition, there are many, many transcription errors.  I've found relatives' and ancestors' names transcribed incorrectly because, of course, I know their names and I'm looking for them but the transcribers have only the written, microfilmed, digitized images to work with and do their best to transcribe and index what they see.  Some have been so obvious to me that I react incredulously, at first, then realize that I have the advantage of knowing exactly who a particular family is.

On Ancestry, in particularly, you can submit corrections, although I only seen a few of my corrections implemented.  Again, consider the size of the collections at Ancestry and imagine the number of staff they have to deal with all of them and with the submissions.

Just another example of size limiting quality.

So, browsing the images of individual databases is a solution to overcoming the limitation of indexing of online databases.  For example, if you know a person was living in a particular town in Sullivan County, NY in 1850 and the same town in 1860 but the index for the 1855 NYS census doesn't show that person or anyone in their family, there's a chance that they're not indexed.  There's also a chance that the census taker or the transcriber misspelled their surname. If you need the information from that census, you have to go the 1855 NYS census, to that town and look for them.  If you still don't find them, it might be worth your time to browse other towns nearby.

Another tactic is the following:  Say you have a John Whatever, age 49, in Town X, Sullivan Co., NY on the 1850 census.  You've also found him, age 59, same town, on the 1860 census.  In 1855, he would have been 53-56, depending on his birthdate.  Say his surname was Spate but, the census taker had bad handwriting and his surname looks like Spole on the 1855 census and that's how his name was transcribed and indexed.  Unless you make a wild guess that was the mistake, you'll never find him.  But, you can try this:  At Ancestry, do a search in the 1855 NYS census database for John, no surname, and his birth year.  Since you know that he was living in Sullivan County before and after that census, you can add that in the search.  You can add the name of his wife, as well.  Using wildcards in this particular search is not advised.

You'll get a substantial list of individuals but the more information you include in the search, the shorter the list.  The list will be partially alphabetized.  

Happy searching.

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