I don’t know if you have seen this? The National Archives have added a new tool onto their Discovery search.
As they say on their blog, since February 2014, they’ve been investigating methods for linking people who appear in their records, to start revealing the connections that tell the real stories of people’s lives.
Two years later the project that they have called, Traces through Time, is at the point where users of the Discovery catalogue can benefit from these efforts.
The blog goes on to say: “If, in the last few days, you’ve been researching a person who served in the First World War there’s a chance you’ve noticed our new feature: a section reading ‘other possible matches’. This feature went live just a few days ago at the end of March. If you have already come across it, we hope you liked it.”
TNA point out that many of us will have made links like this on Discovery while researching our family history. As they say it is relatively easy for us humans to make a decision whether two records relate to the same individual that we have found in the returns from a search on Discovery. People can make a judgement based on the information presented to them. For example if the date of birth is very close for an individual, or if we are lucky enough to be searching for someone with an unusual middle name and spot this in the mix of results.
Naturally the blog raises the question that many of the readers will be asking. Just how can TNA ‘teach’ a computer to make these very human judgements?
Their answer is that their data scientists and statistical experts have identified ways of linking names across records, with the added value of a confidence rating.
Take a look at their blog post Making Connections: tracing people through our collection here.