Just this week I was helping a contact find the death record for one of their forebears and the official death records had listed the deceased using an alternative spelling of the person’s middle name and so throwing some doubt on whether we had got our man or not. In the event the decease’s home address matched the information known about the family home and so it could be confirmed that this was the correct death certificate for my correspondent’s ancestor.
In my own tree I have come up against stumbling blocks provided, on the one hand, by poor transcription and, on the other, by variable spelling in newspaper reports that I had been investigating. One of my ancestors had a reasonably common first and second name, for his time, but he had been given the middle name of Crosland that enabled me to distinguish him from his same named contemporaries. Sometimes, however, he would appear as Crossland with two ‘s’s and other times with just the one. Similarly, one of his sons had been baptised with a middle name of Massy but this could be found in records written as Massey or Massy so adding to the chance of missing him.
Other problems, found using the search facilities of the main look up sites, were with transcriptions. It needs to be remembered that, when searching for an entry in a census, we are actually making use of the transcription provided by the website and not of the actual data written in the census. This would be impossible to use as it was completed in handwriting and so not open to search engines to interpret.
Using the census collections I have had difficulty finding my grandfather, a Hubert Thorne, as he had been transcribed as Herbert. Going back one generation and his father was Sydney, not Sidney and this doesn’t even consider the problems created by the enumerator shortening names such as Thomas to Thos, Elizabeth to Eliza and William to Wm.
Other difficulties arise, in my own family tree, when persons are baptised with a first and middle name and then adopt the middle name as a first throughout their life. To compound it all, there middle name is even used on their death certificate as if it was their first. And this doesn’t even touch on the fact that many of us have nick names that we prefer to be called by!
The point that I am making here, is to always beware of searching with strict parameters for a person’s name when doing your family tree.
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