Monday, October 21, 2013

Where's the genealogy record index auto correct button?

Banging my head on my computer desk, my cries of frustration send my cats hurtling to safety underneath my bed, peering back at me and waiting until my latest tirade is over. "Not another one!" I moan through gritted teeth, blinking furiously in hopes that what I'm seeing isn't real.

But there it is, staring back at me from my computer monitor: the dreaded mis-transcribed genealogy record. I have the transcribed death certificate record and the imaged death certificate document pulled up, side by side. The transcribed record says the lady's name is Goldie. The imaged document plainly shows the lady's name is Addie. And you don't want to know what I went through to get here. Or maybe you do. That's a whole different post for later.

OK, to err is human, right? And it happens frequently in genealogy. Transcribing handwritten documents isn't all fun and games. It's eyestrain, cursing strange abbreviations and sloppy handwriting, and long hours trying to figure out if that's an "A" or an "O". I do thank all of those who do it on a regular basis! Umpires and referees hear back from the fans when they make a bad call. Who do you scream at when it's a genealogy transcriber who goofed? I usually scream at my monitor, my cats hide, and my husband reminds me that "They can't hear you scream."

And who hid the genealogy record auto correct button? Probably in a drawer in Utah somewhere, gathering dust. (No offense to the hardworking researchers and transcribers from all over the world, including Utah.) But I need that button now and it's no where on my keyboard or on my screen.

So how do I get it fixed? How in this virtual world do I get Addie's name changed on the transcribed record and in the index for the website so the next person researching Addie can find it quickly?

With documentation, sticking to the facts, patience and sometimes persistence, that's how. And I usually am able to get corrections made to the transcribed record. I can't make corrections to the imaged document.

But before I submit my changes in a flurry of keystrokes, I need to make sure that I have my facts straight. After all, I don't want to add to the problem, do I? Adding more errors to errors isn't a good thing, right? I don't want to be known as the chicken little of genealogy.

Can I prove that the transcribed record needs to be changed? Going back in my notes, how did I arrive here with Addie? Is this really Addie's record, or have I totally goofed and it's really Goldie's? Where did I find this information? Did I use published documents or databases, or did I use someone else's notes? Checking my notes, I see that I traced this record down with Addie's husband's name and Addie's documented dates of birth and death. The city and state are correct, and are where Addie lived with her husband and children. She's buried in the same cemetery that is listed on the imaged death record. OK, this is Addie's record. And of course, the imaged document shows her first name is Addie. Now that I've double checked my research, it's time to get the record corrected, the transcribed record that is.

Not enough proof? Time for me to go back and find documentation to prove that the record needs to change, I either go back and carefully collect the proof or I make notes that I need to go back sometime and do this. Suspicions and gut instincts aren't enough to request corrections, no matter how convinced I am that I am right. Hunches are hunches, but facts are facts.

Usually, sites have one of three ways for me to submit corrections: comments section, error reporting page or form, or e-mail. I know that they are going to review my request and maybe even double check my documentation. I am clear and specific on the correction(s) I want made. I give the reason for the correction, and add notes from other documentation, such as "name appears as Addie on her marriage license dated 01 Jan 1890, Richmond, VA". On error reporting forms/pages or e-mails, I include the url of the transcribed record with the error and the url of the image. I keep my sarcastic comments to myself, and vent to my husband or my cats. I keep my communication with the website professional, even though I am not a professional genealogist.

I usually see the corrections made fairly quickly, usually within a week, although some sites aren't updated that frequently. One site I submitted corrections to is only updated once every three months, so I made a note to check the next time he sends the site update notice.

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