Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Take advantage of spelling mistakes and transcription errors in family history research

You may already have come across some spelling mistakes in your own research. Keep track of them.

Spelling and transcription errors happen all the time in family history research

For example, when I did my search for John VERNELL and his wife Eleanor Anne in the 1871 census, here is the transcription of the entry I found for them.

John Vernell Good.

Spouse: Eleana A Instead of Eleanor A, the person who transcribed the page put Eleana A. Transcription errors are extremely common! It's no wonder. The handwriting on the digitized version of the original is often hard to read. I will not keep a particular note of "Eleana" being a common mistranscription of "Eleanor" because the first five letters are the same, and a search for Eleanor Anne VERNELL will also pull up Eleana. However, if this were a surname, or if the mistake was a little more bizarre, I would make a note of it, and use the mistaken spelling if I get stuck in a search in future.

Birth: abt 1845 - Whitiebapel, Middlesex, England This is referring to John's birth, and is calculated by subtracting the age John gave on the census from the year of the census, 1871. This is a more precise estimate than I had before. I started out with "about 1844" based on John being under age (under 21) when he and Eleanor Anne got married in 1864. I simply guessed that he was around 20 then. Now we have a better estimate of his birth year, 1845.

Did you notice that his place of birth is shown as "Whitiebapel"? This is a fairly obvious and easily spotted mistranscription of "Whitechapel".

Residence: 1871 - East Dulwich, Camberwell St Giles, Surrey, England The census transcript doesn't give the house and street, nor does it show the occupations of the people, and their marital status. But you can get that by looking at a copy of the original handwritten census return, which is just one click away on Ancestry.com. I always look at the original, first because there are so many errors in the various transcriptions (and I don't blame the transcribers for that! Many of them are volunteers doing their best under less than ideal circumstances sometimes.) Another reason to look at the original is to see if another interesting person lives close by. It's always worth skimming the whole page just in case.

The first book I've included below has no picture, just a link.
Reading Old Handwriting (Guides for Family Historians)

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