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Waving Errors Off in Family History Search

| Articles | July 9, 2013

Census is one the many resources you can utilize in having your family history search. For those who are not thoroughly familiar with a census, basically it is a list containing all the population members of a certain area or locality. Apart from the actual account of the number of inhabitants census also indicates vital records which include names, citizenship status, and age.

It should be made clear that census offers one of the crystal clear look of a family background. But it is not a perfect mechanism as errors may sweep in the midst of counting and documenting. Here are some tips on how to ward off certain errors in family history search involving census.

In order to combat errors, you must first know why such things take place. When it comes to the census there are two aspects revolving around errors. One of which has something to do with the takers of the census themselves who are labelled as enumerators. The other one can be attributed to transcribers’ errors. Name spellings can be done through the use of phonetics, initials, and abbreviations. In this manner, errors occurred due to the fact that they get misheard. Present transcribers are trained to be well-versed in terms of past handwriting styles but mistakes do still occur.

There are a lot of means of getting passed through the road blocks that errors build in front of your search. You can start by doing your searches in variations. How can this be done? Well, use abbreviations, phonetic spellings, foreign translations, or even nicknames that were fondly used during the past. You can also have initials to trigger off your searches. This is how enumerators commonly record. Play with the names by interchanging the first and last names. Different enumerators have different ways of writing the complete name.

Other ways of waving off errors during your search include narrowing your search by specific parameters such as the location and the birth or death date of the person. You can also try your luck by doing the search involving other family members. You just have to be savvy in your search and learn all sorts of mechanisms involved in the recording of census in the past.

There are also times when transcribers get mixed up on how certain letters were written by their past counterparts. You should be wary of such letters which include s and l; t, f, j, and i; p, k, and r; o and q; and u and w. Another search technique that is commonly utilized is by using a wildcard search. This involves the characters asterisk and question mark. The asterisk can be used to represent up to six characters while the question mark is for only one. One method that can be time consuming but offers accuracy and reliability is by looking at the page of locality and town accounts page by page.

Whatever the error may be you just have to know how to ward it off and manipulate it to your advantage. Enumerators and transcribers are only human. No matter how good they are in their work mistakes can really take place. In order to make the lives of other researchers that may follow you, make sure that you submit a correction of the mistranscribed name to the proper agencies concerned.

Accuracy is very important in family history search. It takes wit and diligence in order to wave off errors that can deal your search to a temporary halt.

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