Thursday, March 26, 2009

LMA at Ancestry - updates from my evening's journey

As with most databases, the indexing has the usual flaws. If anyone is looking for the burial of a James CRUTCH in 1855, he's currently going by "Ignes". I wouldn't have thought it was that hard to see James Crutch on one line, John Smith (ha!) on the next, and not confuse the various loops and flourishes - the top of the J in John can't simultaneously be the bottom of a g in the above line, particularly if you end up with something like "Ignes" as a result!

[as a complete aside, googling Ignes led me here - if anyone would like to show their gratitude for the Wing One Place Study by sending me an Midi Sophia I would not object]

The majority of my London ancestors have surnames like, say, HUGHES or WHITE or HALL. And London is not a small place, as you know.......the only upside is that these surnames are more likely to have been transcribed correctly! The births and deaths in this release are those recorded in the workhouses for each union included (and the years covered varies - use the browse feature in each collection to work out exactly what's in there) and searching for very common surnames like these won't (yet) produce an overwhelming number of results.

Note that the births and deaths databases don't include all the poor law unions that I flagged in my earlier post - I had picked these up from the generic "poor law unions" database but it didn't follow that every union mentioned there was included in the other two databases - for example Padddington doesn't appear in these two databases but it is in the generic "poor law union" database. And on that topic....

The various individual sets of records in the "poor law union" database are NOT indexed by name. While it's fascinating to browse, this decision seems a little odd - unless Ancestry are busily working away on the index behind the scenes and thought we might like to see the digitised images in the meantime. The quality of the digitised images seems pretty good through - all the original pages I viewed were nice and clear with good contrast.

I'm being very long-winded tonight, but another opinion that I was reminded of again while looking at these databases - "London, England, Deaths and Burials, 1834-1938" sounds descriptive but in fact is massively misleading. It's a very selective subset of that generic description that is actually contained in that database, and I shouldn't have to browse all the way down to the database then expand the description of the database, and then browse further into the records of the database itself to figure that out, and verify the exact scope and nature of what's really in there. And if, a year from now, I'm puttering around on Ancestry trying to find the database from the LMA that had workhouse deaths, I'm not going to necessarily spot this in a long list of databases and and know that it's probably the right one. There appears to be no way to identify the "partnering" archives organisation, or search by the partnering organisation to identify "their" databases. As the partnering approach is becoming more common these days, that seems pretty unhelpful.

So, a challenge - are there any genealogical sites out there that have done an excellent job of their "card catalogue" so that the time spent to identify relevant databases/collections is minimised? Ancestry has improved recently with its new filtering options in their card catalogue, but the information in the results screen once the filtering kicks in seems more about showing off how many records they have rather than helping me identify if those records are actually of use. I've already paid for a subscription, I don't need the very generic marketing pitch - the more specific you are, the easier it is for me to find relevant information and see the value of remaining a subscriber.


Anonymous said...

I do agree with your comments on identifying the correct source, of all the sites I have seen Ancestry seems the best. I usually end up going to the website of the archive that has the original data and searching their catalogue, but it is a step we shouldn't need to do. In my dream world I see the record images appear on screen, with all the source information neatly displayed at the foot of the page, so it can be copied and pasted into your software of choice!

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