Friday, October 14, 2011

reading the online church records

I get the feeling that a few people are frustrated searching the online church records so I thought I would point out a few things.

1) You can search with wildcard character in the first name field, within limits.

e.g., Cat* will match on Catherine Cathe Cate etc.

2) The first name field also accepts large boolean expressions. For example to search for an ancestor named Kate I would enter in the field:

(Cathe or Cath or Cats or Catha or Cathn or Cathne or Cate or Cat or Catherine or Catharine or Catherina or Catharina or Kath or Katherine or Kate or Katy or Katty or Kitty or Cotturim or Catharinam)

This might turn up a few more possibilities for you.

3) At first I thought the union of two wildcards would not work, but I just now got it to work:

(Hum* or Um*) will search for first name Humphrey.

My list of boolean expressions is growing steadily so I will post it up on my website. You can copy and paste these expressions into first name fields.

4) Some of the indexing is atrocious and causes more problems. Think about how your ancestor's name might have been misindexed. For example, I found some confusion between Humphry/Morty. I then thought Humphry could have been misindexed as Murphy and thus found more men named Humphry.  Last night I found a Humphrey indexed as "Helen."  I am not joking.  Remember, these records were indexed by people who did not necessarily know the families in the locality you are searching.

Other pairs that cause confusion: L- versus S-  e.g., Louney versus Souney, Lantry versus Santry.  L---y could be Leary or Loony.   P- and B- can be confused.

It almost goes without saying that if your name is Regan or Reagan you must check Ryan and vice versa.

5) Surnames are not as automatically cross-referenced as I would like. I cannot get boolean expressions to match for surnames but wildcards seem to work.  Col* will turn up Collins, Coleman, etc.

6) Some townland names are hardly recognizable any more or grossly misspelled/misunderstood. I hope you are equipped with a good gazetteer or atlas or map.  Once you crack a few mistranscribed townlands, the records will get easier to read. and are good for looking up locations.

7) I repeat, look at the images. Get your eyes acclimated to the syntax of the church records. Look at lots of records.

My husband joked that there were a lot of women named "Hillary" in Ireland when what we were looking at was a phrase starting with  "& Mary " .

Here's another example:
[child's Christian name] of [father's name] & [mother's name]
The "of" gets mistaken as a final "h" on the child's name - then the child's name may be transcribed incorrectly as Jeremiah or Johannah or something that ends with h.

Similarly, the abbreviation Pr (presence of) has been misread as the initial R.

8) Some questions have been raised about missing records.  For gaps in records, drill down to the individual RC parish information at the Irish times website.  

9) Some parishes have records that start relatively late and some information remains forever lost.  There are multiple Skibbereen parish entities. From my earlier post - according to Skibbereen Heritage, Skibbereen & Rath were one parish until 1851. What is listed as Creagh & Sullon are the baptism records of this combined parish and then Skibbereen after 1851. Baptism and marriage records of Rath post 1851 are under Rath & Islands. Skibbereen & Rath start listing marriages in 1837.

10) If you think a record ought to be there and it isn't, make sure you review your assumptions about where your ancestors were at a given point in time and you have some other proof or basis for assuming they were in a specific location.

11) Priests transposed names into the wrong fields, and indexers may have picked up names off what is immediately preceding a record.  There are all sorts of ways errors can be made.

12) The date in the index can be off.  Check the entire page for the record, not just under the date the record is indexed by.

I have gotten a few date transpose errors from what I have obtained from other means.

13) Watch out for records that have been erroneously overwritten by a well-meaning transcriber from times past.  An overwritten record in my Grandmom's family has been a major cause of confusion in my family for literally decades; there is something screwy about the way it is indexed at Skibbereen Heritage; and it has even caused confusion for other researchers outside the family.  Daniel was overwritten with Denis.  As a result, some in my family weren't sure what the first name of Grandmom's grandfather was.


I'm still working on finding everything online that Skibbereen Heritage has found for me and I haven't come close to finding everything yet.

Happy hunting.

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