16 October 2009

Getting a second opinion

It's often said that a person with one watch knows the time; with two, she can never be sure. The same applies to multiple census transcriptions.

Most of us have cause to grumble about census transcriptions from time to time. Interpreting a handwritten name is notoriously tricky. If you're looking for a person known to be in a particular location you can often figure out an otherwise undecipherable scrawl, a benefit not available to the person transcribing in bulk.

The earlier the record the more difficult the task, so I was pleased to see an announcement from Find My Past, www.findmypast.com that they have now updated their database for the 1851 census of England to include 10 additional counties.

* Kent
* Shropshire
* Staffordshire
* Cornwall
* Lincolnshire
* Leicestershire
* Westmorland
* Middlesex
* Hampshire
* Surrey

FMP, according to some reviewers, has better transcriptions than Ancestry. I tried a test with my Reid family in Islington, Middlesex. In 1851 there were three families in one house. I know that from having seen the original record on Ancestry. The two lodger families were completely missed by FMP's transcription. The first family was there. I wanted to check the original but in FMP the original census image wouldn't appear in my browser!

One of my latest research projects, using the Canadian 1911 census, showed another situation. Ancestry transcribed the surname one way, Automated Genealogy another, and neither was correct!

1 comment:

Alison (Vancouver) said...

In general, FMP is far better than Ancestry in my opinion. I think you were just unlucky. They are also very good about correcting errors. To view the original, you have to download and DjVu Plug in, which works pretty well.