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Discussion in 'General Genealogical Queries' started by Bob Spiers, Jan 26, 2021.

  1. A. Muse

    A. Muse LostCousins Member

    Not suggesting that transcriber should have used a ligature, but they could have used 'oe'. My only reason for saying this is that when I went to look for Henry I typed in Phoebe as an exact name (having seen the transcription in your original post), and got a 'nil' result as it is transcribed as Phebe on Ancestry. Another good reason for checking on both A and FMP, as well as some films being better on one site than the other.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  2. At home in NZ

    At home in NZ LostCousins Star

    Sometime in the dim distant past when I started using Ancestry I seem to remember reading about what transcribers are asked to do. They are supposed to write what they see and not what they 'know'.
    Hence, I have never volunteered and, I understand why what seems like abominable transcription occurs.
    I had a case in point, recently I decided to see if I could locate one of my third great grandmothers in the 1841 census as I had found her death record and knew she was alive in 1841.
    I knew her last name was Tyler and I knew which little village she was almost certainly living in because she died in the village she was born in.
    Fortunately there are only about 14 pages for the particular census, I trawled through every page and finally found her on the last page recorded as Tiler and transcribed as Jiles.
    • Useful Useful x 1
  3. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Superstar

    I wish I had a pound for every time I came across similar and I have even made notes of the worst in my Tribal Pages, but your example pretty much covers the issue. I know Peter gets upset when one castigates Transcribers who, as you say, are supposed to just interpret what they see, but sometimes, with the best will in the world, their results qualify more as a transCRAPtion, than a transcription. Thankfully, the majority do accurately transcribe and some latitude has to be given to the Enumerator for the mis-interpretation of name spellings such as your Tiler/Tyler and my Spires/Spiers.

    PS To be fair my 'Phoebe' example lies squarely at the door of the Enumerator as I do not believe for a moment anyone in that particular household was named Phoebe. On that basis I am happy to eliminate the Transcriber from my enquiries.;)
  4. At home in NZ

    At home in NZ LostCousins Star

    Totally agree.
  5. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    It's a perfectly plausible error - it can be very difficult to tell apart a capital 'T' and a capital 'J', and neither Tiler nor Jiles is a common surname. I cannot empathise with people who criticise transcribers - they generally do an amazingly good job.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  6. At home in NZ

    At home in NZ LostCousins Star

    Look at #24, I am not criticising them.
    It is the method of transcription that I do not like, what you see is what you get doesn't cut it for me because I think it's sloppy.
  7. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    I did read #24: in the first half you were grinning in response to Bob's attempt at a joke about transcribers; in the second half you were defending the enumerators, not the transcribers.

    Ancestry are not exactly out on a limb with their instructions to transcribers, for example US National Archives advice to transcribers is: "Type what you see". Last time I checked Findmypast gave the same instructions to their transcribers.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  8. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Superstar

    Probably because I have just been through a spate of Ancestry subscriber corrections to surnames, it made me wonder yet again why I get so upset at mis-transcriptions because Transcribers are told (in a nutshell) to 'write what they see'.

    Perhaps because I have always worked in an Office and whether as a lowly Clerk or later in Management I never received or gave such laxity of instruction. "If you can't make out the invoice amount make a best guess" ..."If you can't make out the Clients name or address when sending them an invoice ...write what you see". It all smacks of parental advice to a child to "do their best." Good advice for a child but cuts no mustard in a working environment.

    Secondly, I would love to be able to console two of my ancestors; one I knew as a child and the other had died well before I was born. I could tell Great Uncle Peter not to take it to heart because someone mis-read his Cunnington surname as Cummington or Currington. I could commiserate for Cunningham, and likewise substituting an 'a' for a 'u'. I would find it harder to excuse Cunnioton or truncated to Cunning, Canning and Conning; but I'm sure he would have understood!

    As for my ancestor John Fennellow what chance did he have. Famous in my Tree as the second spouse of a Grand Matriarch who together ran a thriving Green Grocery business and infamous poor chap for being the most mis-transcribed as: FENELOW, FENDELOW, FINNELOW, FINNELON, FINETONE (& FINELTONE),FINDLOW, FENNELY

    I realise my examples are at one end of the scale and have not even begun to recount surnames with no more than 5 - 7 letters that are mis transcribed and the number of subscribers (like me) who take time out to notify corrections.

    It all gets accepted because with Censuses who cares from a Government perspective, about names. Censuses are about statistics so no wonder Enumerators/Transcribers are told to best guess names.

    I feel much better for getting that off my chest and will pass by a Witts ancestor being shown as Wickes. They did their best.
  9. At home in NZ

    At home in NZ LostCousins Star

    I grinned at the word Bob used , not at the transcribers. Bob has now got things off his chest, or has he??

    Witts and Wickes, I can relate to that and it's not due to transcribers, it's enumerators in censuses. I have seen handwritten Wicks, Weeks, Wix and Wickes for the same family.

    Like Bob I always make corrections even for people who are not related to me in any way.
  10. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Superstar

    I agree especially when it only takes a moment to spot a family member mis-interpreted. Of course if the Enumerators gets the first name wrong and uses ditto (Do.) for the rest, all will be wrong, but in one case recently I found the family name Westley morphing to Wesley and for the infant a scrawl that looked like Wesby. Of course the Transcriber followed suit for all.
  11. Tim

    Tim Moderator Staff Member

    Bob, I'm not sure why you get so upset at transcribers typing what they see. What would be your instruction then, leave out the letters you can't read, or the whole word or even the whole line?
    Even when it's transcribed wrong, we still have a good chance of finding the correct entry. But the other problem is that you already have in your own mind what the correct name is, I'm sure I could provide examples where you would be guessing at what the surname that's in the census image.

    I transcribed for FreeBMD for a few years, and I know how difficult it is to read and transcribe some of the sheets that I had. These were typed and in alphabetical order and yet there were some letters/numbers that you couldn't read!

    I'm not sure your angst is with Transcribers or Enumerators, as the first source of the issue is when the Enumerators write it on the census form. Your example of Fennellow says to me Enumerator.

    The phrase "Don't knock it until you try it" springs to mind :D;)
  12. Bob Spiers

    Bob Spiers LostCousins Superstar

    You make some good points Tim, and yes I do believe much of my 'angst' can be directed at Enumerators. The other day for instance I came across the most beautiful set of handwriting when checking out an original Ancestry Census. As I also needed to go back to the previous pages, and even forwards, it was a pleasure to see such clear and distinct handwriting. My wife - as I have mentioned before in the Forum - writes copperplate (I think people enjoy her C card envelopes more than the cards) and I called her to view the writing. She said something to the effect, that that is how people should write. But sadly, it is a rarity, and some handwriting (and probably my own) would task the best Transcriber. However, that said, and - as you also mention - all to often the surname is obvious to me and with the best will in the world should be to everyone else; but it seems this is not the case.

    I don't know what skills are required of an Enumerator, but hand in hand with good education and spelling skills (knowledge of the area of course) should be the ability to provide clear handwriting, making transcription easy.

    Years ago -but not as far back as the Censuses available to view - the Computer age dawned and the first manifestation of same were machines that could read punched cards. These were of course produced by operators interpreting handwritten script, or if they were lucky typewritten. If the punched card operator wrongly interpreted something, that could be a mistake in perpetuity. So it was quickly learned that cards needed to be verified; requiring a different operator to go over the same script. By this method mistakes were picked up, although not removed entirely as a second operator could make the same mistake as the first. But but by and large errors were few and far between.

    Sadly time and money is not available to verify transcripts, so in effect we Researchers do the job for them. So when we judge a transcription to be anything from a pure abomination to an unlucky mis-read, we reserve the right to voice an opinion.
  13. Tim

    Tim Moderator Staff Member

    I can't speak for Ancestry and FMP, but FreeBMD used 2 people to enter the same sheets. From memory, when both transcripts matched the entry turned bold.

    I agree that it's such a pleasure when you see some excellent handwriting. Maybe we should start a new discussion on the worst cases of handwriting that we've seen? And another one for the best?

    To our earlier points, the researchers are actually the best people to review and correct our relatives. We have the benefit of seeing all their names from a wide variety recordings, so we know when an initial has been misread or even whole names, and can add a correction to benefit searches.
  14. At home in NZ

    At home in NZ LostCousins Star

    Hear, hear.

    I agree. I'm about to go off line for about 10 days, it would ne nice to come back to see some examples of lovely handwriting.
  15. PhilGee

    PhilGee LostCousins Member

    That would be good! I struggle somewhat with my maternal side where enumerators enter place names (almost) phonetically - eg Llangavelach for Llangyfelach, Cwmdee for Cwmdu and Cwmburla for Cwmbwrla :eek:

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