30 March 2012

With Your Own Eyes

Most of the records we deal with are handwritten. We've already discussed being open to different spellings of your ancestors' names since those writing the information rarely asked, "How do you spell that?". These records are then transcribed or indexed to make them searchable online. That involves someone looking at the record, deciphering the handwriting and typing in the information. So let's see...
1. No concern for spelling
2. Indexers deciphering handwritten records
3. Data entry typos
It's a wonder we find any of our ancestors!
If you find a record has a few things in common with the person/family you're looking for don't dismiss it based on the differences you find in the transcription. When it's possible, take a look at the original record for yourself. There's a reason Ancestry.com allows its subscribers to submit alternate information.
The record linked below has been corrected since I bookmarked it to use as an example and the original transcription is listed as alternate information. (Links go to Ancestry.com for those of you who are subscribers.) There are other members of all these households but I've only included a few names here.

Head of household  Ann May, born abt 1870
Mother                  Missouri Blackard, born abt 1912 in Nova Scotia, Canada

More after the jump.

ⓑⓐⓡⓚⓘⓝⓖ  ⓤⓟ  ⓣⓗⓔ  ⓦⓡⓞⓝⓖ  ⓣⓡⓔⓔ

Looking at the original record it is clear that Missouri Blackard's age was given as 108 not 18 which means her birth year should have been transcribed as 1822 rather than 1912. It does not seem likely that she gave birth to Ann at the age of 48 but it's certainly more realistic than Missouri being born after her daughter. After finding other census records for Missouri (below) it's clear that no one knew how old she was or how old any family members were for that matter.

 Head    Herbert May, born abt 1851
 Wife     Ann May, born abt 1866
 Son      Emery May, born abt 1900
 M.I.L.  Musaire [Mearavri]* Blackard, born abt 1850 in North Carolina

 Head      Herbert May, born Apr 1855
 Wife       Ann May, born May 1858
 Son        Emory May, born May 1899
 Mother  Missouri Blackard, born Jan 1840 in North Carolina

 * On Tuesday I submitted 'Missouri' as an alternate.

Besides the dates, another reason someone might dismiss the 1930 census if they have the 1920 census, or vice versa, is her birth place. Canada in one record and North Carolina in the others. All are transcribed correctly so maybe it's just a coincidence that there's a Missouri Blackard living with an Ann May in 1930. This would be a good time to stop and look around. Further down the page/street in 1930 is an Emory May with his family so it's looking less like a coincidence.
These records, the 1900 and 1920 censuses, show up in the "Suggested Records" (on the right side of the page when looking at the census above) but if the record you're looking for doesn't show up in "Suggested Records" there are other options.
1. Vary the spelling of the name
2. Expand the range of the birth year to +/- 5 or even +/- 10 or eliminate the birth year altogether 
3. Narrow the results to the state or county where they may be (use the auto-fill options when entering the place of residence, birth, etc.)
Missouri was not living with Herbert and May in 1910. If someone were researching her it would probably be helpful to look for her other children to see if she was living with or near one of them.

I came upon the 1930 census record when someone on Twitter was looking for information. She insisted that the Missouri Blackard in the 1930 census was her ancestor who was born in 1912. She refused to listen to any information to the contrary. *smh*

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