For genealogists relying on records as found "on the net" - it's really no different than working with original records or extracts published as hard copy.
There will be errors, whether the original record is handwritten or typed.
An extract will reproduce those errors.
Names were mis-understood or mis-spelled. Some were converted to "sounds like". Some were deliberately changed, "Americanized".
The handwriting in some records is poor or the ink faded.
Respondent may not have spoken English - so did not understand the question; recorder wrote down his own interpretation or best guess as the answer. The ages of the children may have been estimated by the enumerator, based on size of those in the house.
Both the respondent and the record keeper may have been using English as second language, both are "interpreting"!
People lied about their age - even your ancestors! Part of the fun is to try to understand why (see below).
Birthplaces change - people responded on the basis of where their birthplace was at the time the question was asked. The boundaries were changing, both in Europe and in the western USA. Even in the eastern part of the US, county lines were changing.
Diacritical marks do NOT usually appear in the Nebraska records - with
the exception of some gravestones.
Even if they did - the browser being used by the viewer may not recognize the coding - so much for the marvels of the internet world!
Extracts convey what can be "seen" in the original.
Comparison is made between different lines of the original record to "get the feel" of the recorders handwriting. What an extractor provides is the best that can be determined. (We've been tempted to type - "Capitol that may be an "T", followed by an "a" or "o", followed by low humps which may be an "m" or a "w", followed by two low loops that seem to be "e's" except there is at least one dot above, followed by tall loop with a fragment to right which may mean this is a "t", followed by some letter with a tail that falls below the line, ...")
It's not legitimate to extract a record as "what it OUGHT to be"! (including our own relatives)
Adding a "comment" column to record extracts?
Turns out, this is not practical - particularly for the files posted in the Archives. It is too time consuming. Those files must be done in simple text & are uploaded by the Archives coordinators - alot of work for a single comment to be added.
You're having trouble with American records? Your foreign relatives will have even more difficulty - after all, our records vary by state! Census records are usually available only with a 10 year interval. People changed their names, moved away ...
SURNAMES mis-spelled "Cuba" for Czuba. "Torson" for Torczon. "Judy" for
Tschudy. "Miller" for Mueller (Müller).
That's just the first set of mis-spelled surnames that comes to mind for Merrick, Nance & Platte Counties.
GIVEN names that change
"Yan" appears for Jan and then is Americanized to John.
"Stanislaus" ends up being "Charlie" when he is older (We cannot offer any explanation for this substitution, but it is fairly common.)
"Johanna" may appear in the records as "Hannah", "Anna" or even "Josie"
"Bertha" is common nickname for Albertina.
Assorted names - Once interviewed three sisters and inquired about their Mother's maiden name. There was no difficulty with the maiden name - the problem was with given names. Their Mother had used different given names on each of their baptismal certificates! Out of six names appearing, there was only one repeat. It is likely that all these choices were "baptismal names" of the woman (Lutheran). The family record you inherited is ONLY one record - be prepared to accept some differences or you'll miss those records that aren't a perfect match. (Will the great-grandchildren of these sisters take up genealogy and have difficulty proving their relationship?)
ENUMERATOR shortcuts & errors - some wrote initials only, no full names. Others abbreviated birthplaces (Ia - can be Iowa or Indiana). Have seen Australia written out when birthplace should have been Austria! Have been told one enumerator entered twins on a single line: "J + R", apparently meant John and Robert, twins ...
AGE & BIRTHYEAR - There is one entire precinct (think it was in
Platte County Census), where these data columns in census records do NOT
agree. The enumerator apparently had difficulty subtracting and is usually
off by 10 years! Yes, as extractors - we know about it! This is
an example of extracting/publishing what actually appears in the original -
including the errors.
We have a female ancestor that ages an average of 7 years for every 10 census years!
We are aware of a marriage record where the bride's father had to increase her age to the minimum allowed under the law "to marry with parental permission" - daughter married his comrade from the Civil War, who subtracted several years from his age on this record. Once wed, the ages of both are in continual flux as if trying to adjust to reality.
SEX CHANGE - Yes, it does happen. Have more than one occurance. Example: "Purl" marked male on census sheet as infant - ten years later appears to be "Pearl" marked female. Must find him/her in another record just to be certain of gender!
OBITS - Know of at least two cases where a person that died in an institution did NOT have the usual formal obit in the "home" newspaper. My Grandfather died at Norfolk hospital in 1914. His home town was Columbus. There was NO formal obit, but a few sentences in a personals column more or less read - "... died .... following third stroke of apoplexy ... Was hospitalized following second stroke (date) .... Body has been returned for burial ...". Minimal information compared to many obits, but of value to me in providing chronology of illness. Took a little more time to find as sentences had no header. If you have specific death date, but no obit - try to find a death notice.
GRAVESTONES are often weathered to the point of being illegible. An
extract can easily be in error. Try to secure a copy of the cemetery record
and compare to the gravestone. What appears in the record book may also include
Please note: We have seen "corrected" gravestones with a new date CARVED on top of the old. Depending on the light - our perception of which is the "true date" varies!
BOUNDARIES are political dividers - countries were invaded and changed
governments; territories are divided into states; county lines changed; villages
appeared, moved, then vanished.
Those born in Europe give different answers as the years roll by - they are trying to indicate the current location of the place they came from, not necessarily where it was at the time of their birth.
The county boundaries of NE weren't marked by brick walls - people could live on a farm that crossed over the line, or refer to "home" as the nearest place with a general store that met their needs. My aunt said her family was "from Genoa" (Nance County) - from census records, the family actually lived on a farm located in Platte County. Their mailing address was usually Genoa.
Your ancestors didn't always get married at the county seat of the area where they lived. Early marriages occurred on a date and in place that was convenient. "The planting was finished, so we decided it was as good a day as any to get married and drove to ..... The road was better going that direction, had a bridge ... ". "We went there so we could eat out and stay one night at a hotel - that was our honeymoon!"
Take a good look at the map and pick an alternate location to seek the record that isn't where you expected it to be. Consider the available transportation for the time frame - would they have traveled by wagon? railroad? automobile? Recall reading about one marriage that occurred "far from home" because the young couple wanted the bride's only sister in attendence, and therefore went on "visit" - stayed with relatives about a week - at a house full of children. Some honeymoon!
"Home" can be the place where a person grew up rather than the birthplace.
You may learn the correct birthplace only by finding your ancestor in the first census after birth.
Bill Wever recently found a man as 2 year old, reported as born in Oklahoma in early NE census return - it seems that his descendents did not realize there was ANY connection to OK, Grandpa only talked about Nebraska - where he grew up, had friends!
My step-grandfather is reported as born Austria in the 1885 census (he is living with his grandparents). The remainder of his life his birthplace is reported as Nebraska. Only the immigration records of his parents will make his birth country certain.
Phrase your questions carefully when interviewing your relatives,
listen to the way the answer is given -
compare to the records - you may get a surprise!
If you require absolutes or expect your ancestors to be perfect - genealogy
is NOT your best choice for a hobby.
Records include errors, are missing, never existed. People tell lies - and stories stretch with time.
Genealogy is great entertainment - a puzzle that always has room for another piece. All the pieces are NOT on the net. Even if all the records were here - they wouldn't agree in every detail. The "fun" is in gathering the data and sorting it out. "Complete" doesn't apply. You simply reach the end of the records you know about ... and will have to explore to discover more!
It's up to the descendent to find the records, and determine the "real facts". There will be times when you cannot be certain of the "truth". One of the best things you can provide in publishing your family history is notes about differences in data found and adjustments made. EXPLAIN your choices! Your Great Grandson may review, update & republish your genealogy someday - and his explanations will be next to yours!
Corrections & Additions to
records on NEGenWeb Project -
1860 Nebraska Territorial Census
1890 NE State Gazetteer
1893 NE Veterans Census (by Lynn Waterman)
1900 Nebraska Federal Census
© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2009 for NEGenWeb Project by T&C Miller