Monday, 23 July 2012

Transcription challenges

The current buzz in some high-profile American blogs concerns the allegedly high error rate in the 1940 Census Indices published by Ancestry.

This reminded me of a puzzling aspect of the 1911 England Census for our 2xgreat grandfather Frederick THORPE. The transcript available on line listed the family's address as 300 New Sunnyside Worksop. But the neighbours appeared to live at numbers 16, 15, 14 and so on. Why the sudden jump in numbering?

At the time, I was more worried about what seemed a strange change of occupation. In 1901, Fred had been a Spindle Setter. How was it possible that in 1911 he was called a Naturalist?

When I saw an image of the 1911 form, I realised that my two concerns were one and the same. Fred had indeed become a naturalist and dealer in animals and, as a result, the locals regarded his home as being like those new "Zoological Gardens". What had been interpreted as a number (300) was actually a word written in script (Zoo).

As we move to on-line completion of census forms with built-in error checking, our descendents will be deprived of the thrill of making these wonderful little discoveries in our returns.

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