Saturday, January 08, 2011

Difficult Ancestry.com search despite unusual name

From: EllenH
DearMYRTLE,

Something interesting:
While going through the 1900 Census on Ancestry.com , I found an interesting name in Chesterfield County, Virginia: Surrender L. Snelling.  She was born April 1865. I wonder what her parents were thinking at that time.  "At last the war is over or darn the Yankees won?"   Source citation is: Year: 1900; Census Place:  Midlothian, Chesterfield,  Virginia; Roll:  T623_ 1705; Page: 2A; Enumeration District:  9.

DearELLENH,

GLAD you gave me the source citation. Here's what happened to Ol' Myrt when I went to Ancestry.com to find Surrender Snelling on the census page you referenced.

#1 TOP LEVEL SEARCH AT ANCESTRY.COM
Just used the main search box on the Ancestry.com home page, and considering Surrender an unusual name, I didn't specify anything else like locality or time period. Searched for:
First Name: Surrender
Last Name: Snelling
Result: Found no match in first 3 search results screen.

#2 SECOND ATTEMPT SEARCH
Edit previous search: Narrowed that above search to include only hits from the 1900's decade.
Result: Found no match in first 3 search results screen.

#3 THIRD ATTEMPT SEARCH
Edit previous search: Narrowed the same search with keywords "Chesterfield, Virginia".



Result: Found the entry for Surrender, second item on the list. Why does Harold Snelling come up first, when I clearly was searching for Surrender. Surrender should have been on the top of the list. It appears my omitting the ending "s" in Snelling pushed Harold above Surrender on the hit list.



FINALLY, AFTER THREE ATTEMPTS
Here's a crop from the scanned image of the census record Ellen cited.
Enumeration of Surrender L. Snellings in the 1900 federal census at Ancestry.com

There is something wrong with the Ancestry.com search engine if it couldn't locate an unusual name like Surrender Snelling. Omitting the middle initial "L" or the "s" at the end of the surname should not have played a such a major role in the search engine, since spelling variations such as these are common.

Ancestry.com provides a typed abstract listing the members of the Snellings household.
Charles E Snellings, [age] 40
Surrender L Snellings, 35
Maggie L Snellings, 10
Harry L Snellings, 8
Dora E Snellings, 6
Thomas J Snellings, 3
Clarance A Snellings, 7/12 [months]
Jerry Fortune, 46
William Y Fortune, 19

Ancestry.com provides the following information to be used when composing a source citation for this entry:
  • Source Citation: Year: 1900; Census Place: Midlothian, Chesterfield, Virginia; Roll: T623_1705; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 9.
  • Source Information: Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004. 
  • Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. T623, 1854 rolls.
MORAL OF THE STORY?
Keep looking, try alternate spellings, broaden or narrow your search and PERSEVERE.

Newbie researchers might figure there was nothing at Ancestry.com on Surrender (L.) Snelling(s), and give up a lot sooner than Ol' Myrt.


Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt      :)
DearMYRTLE,
Your friend in genealogy.