Saturday, December 31, 2011

The moving target - census

[For background to The Moving Target series of posts, see the story so far]

First up, the census records. So far I have transcribed and made available online the census for Wing for 1841, 1871, 1891, plus the enumerators summary books for 1911. That leaves 1851, 1861, 1881, 1901 and the full 1911 census.

There's a clear distinction here between what has value for me personally (in terms of ease of accessibility to the information) and what has value to other researchers who use the Wing One Place Study website. Transcribing all of these other years is still a goal. But I'm not sure it's a particularly important goal anymore.

My personal standpoint was that where a non-profit organisation, such as a family history society, was already transcribing a census year then that year isn't a priority for me. I believe that family history societies are valuable (particularly once they figure out how they will evolve in the internet age) and I'm not keen on inadvertently cutting off their sources of revenue. The Buckinghamshire Family History Society has the 1851 census available, and the Buckinghamshire Genealogical Society currently has 1861 and 1881 (and 1891 which I've already done for Wing). The 1881 census is freely available via FamilySearch. That leaves the two most recent years, 1901 and 1911, which are available commercially only. These also have the highest population numbers and the most pieces of information to be captured so they would be a very substantial job.

Hands up who likes seeing their ancestors' handwriting? Me too. So I would think any transcription of the 1911 census is somewhat redundant when any sane genealogist would have a clear preference for actually looking at the household schedule completed by their ancestor. I can't provide those, due to copyright, I can only provide transcriptions - useful for me, but you guys are going to need to fling some money at the big commercial providers to get what you want.

Something that might be worth me investing a bit of time in is updating my 1911 enumerators summary spreadsheet to add any other surnames that appear in each household. That would make that spreadsheet a more useful finding aid for me (if I'm going through looking for a surname I tend to want to grab all instances of it, rather than just one individual or a particular family group), but I'm not sure if this would be something that is useful for the website. It would only take around half a day to flick through and do this.

This leaves the 1901 census as the next census I should transcribe. That year there were 1740 individuals in Wing, with both enumeration districts completed by gentlemen with fairly readable handwriting (hurray!). If I average out 3 minutes per person for the transcribing and checking process (including the head-scratching and investigation phase for unknown place-names and the like), it should take around 87 hours. Assuming I can find 4 hours a week for this project (I work full-time and should focus more on limiting the amount of leisure time I stare at a computer), that's 22 weeks to complete, or around 5 months. I'm finding it difficult to get excited about now that I've done the numbers. I'm sure there's other things that I would find more fulfilling than this particular project right now.

I've already ended up a a different place than expected by taking this fresh look at things - previously I'd been waiting until 1 Jan 2012 when that previously-redacted infirmity column on the 1911 census becomes available so that I could get started on the 1911 census. Now I can park that project - and simply check out the infirmities of my own families instead!


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