Sunday, January 15, 2012

A genealogical pet peeve for 2012: Poor penmanship in any language is still poor penmanship

Genealogists have lots of pet peeves especially when they are trying to research a line that has caused lots of late nights (and some sleepless ones). But one pet peeve that I have and know I'm not alone in having is the poor penmanship of those that record the records that we search for.

I have seen some BAD penmanship in US records, especially census records where even if the name is spelled differently from the way you know it to be, that's irrelevant because whoever wrote it down hacked it so much that its unrecognizable. But to find any of my Scandinavian ancestors in Norway, Denmark or Sweden, takes learning hieroglyphics in order to decipher them. Going page by page literally does no good because not only are there a lot of similar names, especially in Norwegian records, but you'd have to be very lucky to actually find a set of records that you can READ.

I have thought in the past when going through US census records, that the census takers must've been related to doctors simply because of the poor penmanship. Now you would think because census records have become SO important in a genealogist's research that they could've at least given some thought to how they were recording information. And I know, the census takers certainly had NO idea that the records were going to be used by future generations to find their grandparents and great-grandparents, but even so.

Just today I had to ask for someone on a Norwegian facebook page to find an ancestor in the Norwegian parish records because even if I found the right page in the right parish and the correct date I wouldn't be able to read anything on that page. It turns out that I was right about the first request I had as well as the second, because it took more than one person just to decipher a 'maiden' name (I say maiden even though the female of the pair keeps her father's name her entire life and never changes it unless its changed in another record). Even with the ability to zoom in as close as possible the records are extremely difficult to read or interpret.

But that isn't the only thing that's difficult to interpret. When you think you have a location for a birth, especially in Scandinavian records, a baptism for example, finding the right set of records can be a bit confusing. If that entire line lived in one 'county' it doesn't mean that all the records will be in a specific location, like the parish church. They could be in a church that is close enough to SEVERAL places within that county until, like with my own ancestors, a church is built within that parish. For example, a 5th great-grandmother of mine Kari Andersdatter was baptized in Viker kirke parish in Nes, Adal, Buskerud, Norway. However the records for her baptism are kept in Norderhov and were until 1857. In 1860 a church was built there and after 1857 the records can be found in Adal or Adal/Viker.

I wish the records were transcribed into English or at the very least transcribed in a way that Google Translate could be used on them instead of us researchers having to strain our eyes (as if we don't do that enough staring at computer screens) trying to decipher 200 year old records in another language. Then again, I suppose just finding the records is a plus because it enables us to move further back in time.

No comments: