This document describes the standards we adhere to when transcribing
sources for family history research.
It also contains our statement of Copyright.
It should be noted that the ancient records
which most genealogists research are at best physically degraded and at worst totally illegible.
This is the nature of ancient documents. There are various reasons why this is so:-
- the very age of the documents
- the manner of creation of the documents, and
- the physical nature of the materials used to create them
Honest transcribers spend many long and arduous hours poring over these documents in order to
provide you, the reader, with an account - as accurate as humanly possible - of exactly what
those documents contain.
With the best will in the world, at any stage in the process from the original data
capture, to the final display on your screen, there are
liable to be mistakes. These can fall into three main categories:
- Mistakes in the original source - errors of data capture
- Misapprehensions/ omissions by the transcriber
- Typographical errors by the transcriber
So far as (a) is concerned, there is little that can be done unless
two or more documents, other than the one in doubt,
can be found delineating the same data in an unequivocal manner. It is for you, the user of the
transcription to seek those out. We will not research them for you. If, however you provide us
with sufficient evidence (for example a photograph, or photocopy) that the original source is
indeed incorrect, then we may add a brief note to that effect. We will NOT change the
With (b) the only way to minimise (not eliminate) such occurrences is to have a
second transcriber to verify partially legible sources or dubious entries. However, given the
number of documents out there, and the number of people able to donate their time to such
projects, this is rarely possible. Generally speaking we do not have time
for "double-keying" - there are usually far more exciting things
to be getting on with than going over old ground! However if any such errors can be drawn
to our attention, and appropriate evidence produced, they will be corrected.
Lastly - (c) - we will be more than happy to correct such mistakes as we
ourselves make. If you have seen the original source yourself, and can demonstrate to us that
our transcription is incorrect, we will change it. But we will not change it if it is an accurate
representation of the original recording, even if that has been shown to be incorrect.
Thus a website author may be willing to note your "corrections" as ERRATA, but
they are not obligated to modify the source. The source or extraction must stand inviolate. Nor can
you reasonably ask the parish council or other agency to correct their original records or a
monument inscription in order to suit your wishes.
Finally, please note spelling and word usage have changed over the centuries; quibbles
over spelling are - almost without exception - a waste of time. Surnames were often recorded
phonetically prior to the introduction of more universal schooling in the mid-1800s, and a
more general use of dictionaries. Even now, in the 21st century, mistakes occur; and as we
all know, correcting them - in the phone book, for example - is often not worth the effort!
At the other extreme, even the names of early saints, and of towns and villages have morphed
over time to fit the prevailing usage. St. Wolfrim in one village may be St.
Walfram in the next. If it's good enough for the saints, why not us;
so generally speaking, a difference in spelling should NOT be reported as an error.
For the purposes of discussion of this document, "ancient document" is defined as any
hand-written document, before approximately 1900CE.
Data capture in times gone by was not what it is today. People were not as well educated,
census takers were probably not as rigorous and office help were almost certainly not as reliable
as they are nowadays.
As an aside, it is interesting to note that the OED standard for including the definition of a
new word is three unambiguous, agreeing and unconnected sources.
Any such changes would abrogate the validity of the transcribed document.