Thursday, February 20, 2014

From Mouth to Ear to Brain to Notes to Paper -- HOW MISTAKES ARE MADE

When using census records -- both searching and interpreting -- think about how that word got to your screen.

Your ancestor said it.
The census enumerator heard it.
The enumerator thought about it.
The enumerator wrote it down in his notes.
The enumerator put it in his actual census report.
It was microfilmed.
It was digitized.

And maybe somewhere in there it was transcribed or indexed, in which case it was read. 

At any (or every) point in the process there could have been a misunderstanding. Multiple misunderstandings compound errors which easily resulted in entries that are a far cry from what was said by your ancestor.