Oh Census Transcriber – you only had one job…

As part of a paper that I’m writing on Deaf spaces in the early church, I’ve been tracing Samuel Smith’s life in the official record. And I’d hit rather a large problem. Despite his importance to the story of St Saviour’s, I’ve been really struggling to find him in the census data.

I have a clue why now…

Basically, the census tools that we use to search census actually search the transcriptions made of the censuses. They have to; they can’t search the original images. So, when you’re searching records, you rely on the transcriber of the records having done their job as well as possible.

That’s not always the case.

So here is Samuel Smith’s employment description from the 1881 census (which I finally found after a long search). Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 17.49.22

Ignore the top line… what does that say?

Well, I know that it says

Chaplain of the Royal Ass. in aid of Deaf & Dumb and minister of St saviour’s Church for the Deaf + Dumb Oxford St West.

Straightforward, right?

Nope – this is what the transcriber thought that it said.Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 17.57.43

No wonder I couldn’t find him.


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