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  1. #1
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    Default Census searching with Wildcards

    I have been transcribing census returns for FreeCEN for almost two years. Our instructions are to transcribe everything exactly as recorded apart for Place of Birth where corrections can be made.
    If an enumerator has recorded a forename, for example Margret we should not assume Margaret.

    The 1861 batch of images I am currently transcribing has highlighted something that will make searching for specific people a little more difficult. I am not talking about illegible writing or damaged pages but the enumerator’s decision to abbreviate forenames.
    For example, Edw; Chas, Robt, Rich, Wm and many others for males. Eliz, Margt, Chal., etc., for females

    So the reason for this posting..............................
    If you cannot find the person using the full name you should use wildcards, for example “Ma*” for Margaret or Mary; “Ed* for Edward or Edmund. Even resorting to entering only the initial if still unsuccessful.

    After I had completed a dozen pages I thought I would check how a commercial site such as “findmypast” had handled the transcriptions. So I called up a page at random to compare with my efforts. Of the 25 persons on that schedule I noted that for some of the names the abbreviation had been expanded and transcribed to an “assumed” name; some had been left as written on the schedule. But one thing that really intrigued me, this original image had two instances of “Jno” ----- which had been transcribed as “Mi”.

    So if you had been searching for John, even with a wildcard there would be no results. In such a case I would have used a differing family member.


    I am sure there are other tips and tricks.


    David

  2. #2

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    David, could the two Jno entries be due to bad handwriting? I can just about imagine how the J and n got merged and came out as m, and o can sometimes look pretty skinny...

  3. #3
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    Sounds like the FreeCEN search engine isn't very clever. If you search for William or George isn't it reasonable it expect that it should also look for Wm and Geo?

  4. #4
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    It was the same years ago when I transcribed pages for FreeBMD you are told to type what you see on the page not what you think it should be so lots of spelling mistakes on there too.

  5. #5
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    I have come across lots of Jno entries and always believed it to be a peculiar abbreviation for John.

    I have posted here before my experience of finding several public online trees claiming that I (and presumably they) have an ancestor called Josh. Most of the tree owners had obviously copied one another, as tends to be the case, without looking at the census image itself where elsewhere on the page Elizabeths were Eliz., Williams were Wm, Roberts were Rob't and my ancestor Joseph was Jos'h.

    Tony
    "People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors. Edmund Burke

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lesley Robertson View Post
    David, could the two Jno entries be due to bad handwriting? I can just about imagine how the J and n got merged and came out as m, and o can sometimes look pretty skinny...
    It certainly is bad handwriting - the clues are really found in other entries of the page, for example "M" in the relationship column, and "J" for entries such as "Jas" and "Jane".
    Please do not get me wrong, I'm not criticising anyone just making an observation about the difficulties faced in decipherinng old hand writing.
    David

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Goodey View Post
    Sounds like the FreeCEN search engine isn't very clever. If you search for William or George isn't it reasonable it expect that it should also look for Wm and Geo?
    Peter, I wasn't referring to the FreeCEN Search engine - it may well return records as you suggest.
    But if any search engine doesn't find those entries then wild cards are the next step.
    And if an entry on the image which looks like JNO but has been transcribed, say on findmypast as MI., entering "John" with Variants ticked wouldn't find the record you were searching for.

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