Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Indexes are not transcripts

Ancestry Insider’s blog had featured comments about the FamilySearch/Ancestry census indexes where he termed them “transcriptions”. This prompted Ol’ Myrt’s response as follows:

My dear friendly Ancestry Insider.

To call the FamilySearch/Ancestry census indexes "transcriptions" is perhaps not as accurate as calling them "abstracts". My understanding is that:

Transcriptions are word-for-word write-ups from an original document.

Abstracts are a few words from an original document.

My thinking also differs from you when considering that the basis for some of the Ancestry census abstracts are the old AIS census indexes which were fraught with errors because individuals typed into a computer after looking at the microfilm on a reader. Much can be lost as one turns one’s head.

I knew one such paid AIS employee -- the mother of 2 kids in diapers, with a husband working as a 1st year physician at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Given all the constraints of that woman’s lifestyle, I can only imagine it would be humanly impossible to be as accurate as a double, blind data entry abstract such as offered by FamilySearch Indexing.

Affordability of the workload is paramount in any business endeavor, and AIS certainly performed well given the technological constraints of the time period.

YES, I give you the point that individuals have been able to make corrective updates to Ancestry's census abstracts but realistically, that is probably a small percentage of names compared to the millions enumerated each census year.

If there was a method for extracting only THOSE census corrections, and combine it with the mighty darn good abstracts provided by FamilySearch Indexing (FSI) might really be a good match.

In fact, as an arbitrator with FSI, I am not looking forward to working through any such combination of Ancestry indexes & FSI first run abstracts.

In my view, Ancestry got the better end of the bargain, unless you consider that the scanned census images will again be freely available through the 4,500+ LDS Family History Centers throughout the world.

THANKS for all you do to keep the genealogy community THINKING!

Just sign me one of your fans!

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


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