Census Transcription - Problem with Capital Letters

June, 2007

David Evans (davidevans47 @t of Plymouth writes: During my family history research of the 1901 census, my ancestor, Jane Ludlow, is listed as age 15, living at Cheddar, Somerset, and being born in **oxley Green, Herts. I cannot read the first 2 letters. Can you help?

There are often problems with transcribing capital letters in census returns, particularly if you only look at the entry for your relative. The pages My Ancestors in the 1901 census and An Assessment of Ancestry for Census Searching highlights the kinds of errors that can occur.

The problem can often be solved by looking at the other writing by the same person on the same or adjacent pages. The matter is complicated by the fact that Ancestry used a "quick and dirty" approach to transcribing on the ground that they would capture the market if they moved fast and got things 90% right. As a result there are many quite obvious transcription errors of leading capital letters in Ancestry indexes.

So let us look at the problem that faces you in tracking down Jane Ludlow's birthplace.

This is the problem entry.

On Ancestry it has been transcribed as "Aoxley Green".

Errors often arise in transcribing capital letters so the first stage in unravelling the problem is to identify other capital "A" written by the census enumerator.

The first thing to notice is that while there is some similarity none of the capital "A"s have been written by moving the pen in the same way.

The second thing is that the enumerator wrote his capital "A" in two completely different ways, so perhaps he wrote some other capitals in more than one way.

Are there any other possible capital letters which have a similarity to "Aoxley"?

Looking at the whole page it is clear that capital "C" is written in two different ways

The "C" of Coles and the "r" of Green gives the of Croxley Green

So the place name you are looking for is Croxley Green and while one might expect an amateur unfamiliar with interpreting handwriting to be confused there is no excuse for Ancestry getting it wrong.

There are three other ways of you might have solved the problem.

See also Problems with finding census returns

If you can add to the information given above tell me.


Page created June 2007