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Tip of the day...Finding the missing

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Sandgroper Report 27 Oct 2009 22:24

Wonderful tip, thank you. I've been looking for Anthony Heester for a friend. Couldn't find him on the 1881 census.

Tried your tip of leaving out the surname. It was easier, perhaps, because he was born in Holland.

He came up as Herstor and there they all were. His wife poor love with 4 small children was working as a laundress.



InspectorGreenPen Report 26 Oct 2009 14:15

In the case of place names, the nearer to the place of birth, the more likely that a district or locality is recorded, especialy in towns or cities.

Whereas if the family has moved to another part of the country, it is more likely that only the town or city is shown as their place of birth.

So, someone born in the Everton district of Liverpool, but living in Anfield would show their place of birth as Everton.

However, ten years later, when the family had moved to Newcastle, their place of birth is shown simply as Liverpool.


InspectorGreenPen Report 26 Oct 2009 14:08

Good advice, it shows that less is often better. Quite often people put in too much information thinking it will give a better result without fully realising that this is often counter productive as it eliminates possible results from the search.

In my own experience, it is not enumerator errors that are the problem, rather the poor handwriting on some of the returns, which in turn leads to masses of transcription errors.

The best on I have is my wife's grandmother Norah. Her name was transcribed as Beval


Potty Report 26 Oct 2009 12:01

Entering just a forename and forenames for the parents can also find missing people.


AllanC Report 26 Oct 2009 09:04

Spot on as usual, Jonesey!

Just to add a couple of points about birthplaces. People moved around more than we sometimes think, and the poor were often in fear of being sent back where they came from if they became destitute, so they would say they were born in the place they were living even if they weren't.

But if they did state their real birthplace there can still be confusion because several villages might be part of a larger parish. On the census someone might have said the village name, which may be different from what you've found from parish records.


Jonesey Report 26 Oct 2009 08:30

There are many reasons why our ancestors do not appear in the census records where we expect them to be.

Census enumerators may have misheard what they were being told. They may have spelled names differently (Remember that there is no such thing as standardised spelling of names) or because they were human just like us they may have simply made a mistake.

The next step in the recording process is transcribing the record itself. Trying to decipher someone else’s handwriting is not always easy and often results in the record being incorrectly transcribed. Once again the people doing the transcribing are human so mistakes are made. Mistranscriptions can be very frustrating.

Here is a tip which may help you to find who you are searching for.

Type the persons forename into the census search form but leave the surname box completely empty. You can do this in reverse if you wish, entering a surname but leaving the forename box empty. Remember that people often used a different 1st name from the one they were born/baptised with. E.G. Dick = Richard, Harry = Henry, Nellie = Eleanor, Betsy = Elizabeth ect. Be aware also of common enumerators abbreviations such as Thos = Thomas, Hy = Henry, Wm = William ect

Type the persons birth year +/- 2 or +/- 5 years. Some people were not sure how old they were or they may have deliberately lied about their age to make themselves appear younger or older than their spouse. Children’s ages in census returns are generally more likely to be accurate than those of adults.

Type in their birth county/birthplace. Sometimes it pays to leave the birthplace blank because that too may have been misheard or mistranscribed. Some people genuinely did not know their exact place of birth.

Press "Search". This will bring up a list of all the people with that name of approximate age born in that county/place. Scroll through the list (It may be a long list) and hopefully you will find your missing ancestor shown as Borne instead of Bourne or Wilks instead of Wilkes or similar. It doesn't always work but it might.

Look for patterns in words rather than names just beginning with the 1st letter of the correct name. E.G. Baldrick has 8 letters and ends 'ick' as does Coldrick. Anyone looking for someone called Tucker may well be shocked to discover how some of their ancestors were mistranscribed.

Good luck with your research.