13 April 2012

But I Searched...

You may have searched an online collection for a specific record, tried all sorts of name variations (i.e. Gillespie, Gellaspie, Galespy, etc.) and came up empty. You still have a few more options.

1. Every search engine is different.
Is the collection available on a different website? Or maybe an index of the collection is available on a different site. Even if the transcriptions are the same, try searching the other site. Searching Mexican church records I've noticed that some letters are used interchangeably, i.e. V and B, S and Z. Because Family Search has so many records from Mexico their search engine takes those interchangeable letters into account. Searching Ancestry.com for the "Bernal" family in the 1920 census did not yield a matching result in the first few pages but on FamilySearch.org the "Vernal" family was on the first page of results. I then went back to Ancestry, searched for Vernal and found the correct record to attach to my tree. 

2. The transcription is so far off it wouldn't matter what name variation you tried, no one could possibly come up with the actual transcription that is being used.
Sometimes it just takes persistence. It may seem overwhelming to look through search results that show over 5500 hits but sometimes that's what it takes. I found one set of my mom's cousins pretty easily in a birth index. I sent the list of names to Mom to double check. One cousin was missing. The cousin who died in Vietnam. Of course I couldn't let that one go so I started in on the list of 5536 search results on Ancestry. I found him on the very last page of results. On the left is the indexed record, on the right is the correct information.

Name:     Ysevio Soliz             Eusebio Solis                        
Father:    David Soliz              David Solis
Mother:   Maria Barrnal           Maria Bernal

Another mangled transcription that was found by searching death certificates by date:

Name:       Prufidio Carion Demues          Porfiria Carreon Dimas          
Husband:  Eserido Demues                     Ysidro Dimas                        

Depending on what record you're looking for you may need to search a year of a county's records or a year of state records or pages of a few enumeration districts. Be sure to keep a log of your searches. If you spent hours searching death records in 1929 Ohio page by page you don't want to do it again next year because you can't remember which year you searched.

3. There may have been a problem when the collection was uploaded.
Have you ever uploaded a group of pictures to Ancestry.com or Facebook and then noticed that one or more were missing? Maybe your internet connection went out for a split second. Maybe your electricity flickered in the middle of the upload. Now imagine you're uploading MILLIONS of images. This is another good reason to see if the record collection you're looking at is available on another site. Large websites don't have special, infallible internet connections so it's possible no one caught the upload error.
Maybe you're the first person to notice that you can't find great-great-grandpa not because his record is missing but because an entire county of records is missing. Be sure to report the error to the website. If they don't have direct access to the records a correction may not be possible but if you don't report it a correction definitely won't happen. Reporting the error is especially important with the 1940 census which has just been released. Whether it's NARA, Ancestry, or Family Search, the records, or at least the storage drives, are still easily accessible and it's likely the problem can be remedied.

NEXT POST: You've Got It All Wrong


  1. That's a really good point about keeping track of what you've already searched. I do not do that. And I often regret it... So many organisational lessons still to learn. :P

    1. As hard as I try I'm terrible at the organization aspect of genealogy :-P I keep a list of microfilm I've ordered. Just noticed that I ordered something that was already on it. It only works if you remember to check the list BEFORE ordering ;-)