This site is dedicated to the memory of my parents and to our ancestors. If you are related to those listed, I hope this gives you a better understanding of their lives. Feel free to comment on anything posted, especially if you have additional or different information. The posts on this page chronicle my
research journey and provide resources and links. Genealogy is divided by parental lineage into Lowe and Bader. You can access these by
category from the menu and side links. Please be aware that this is an on-going project. Information will be updated as it becomes available.

Journey # 5: Spelling

I’d found my grandfather’s family in the census and rather than try to go backward in his lineage, the following week I moved on to my grandmother's family. Her name was Isabel Pickles, and using the exact same process I'd used for my grandfather, I found her in 1911, acquiring the same kind of information. I was recharged and ready to forge on, expecting to have the family tree completed back to Ireland (my initial goal) in a matter of weeks. 

But I couldn't find my grandmother's family in the 1901 census for some reason, and when I tried to move back a generation, I reached a dead end. The names of my great-grandparents were too ordinary (believe it or not, Pickles was a common name in Yorkshire in the 1800s). I had no information about them to narrow the search. 

I contacted the genealogy society again. I purchased a membership and requested a one-on-one session with one of their UK experts. On the day of the session, I packed up documents, photos and research in new cardstock accordion folders. I met with a couple of volunteers, and we discussed my research goals and plans, reviewed my information and tried to come up with ways for breaking through the wall I'd hit. We decided finding my grandmother's family in 1901 was a priority. 

They tapped away on laptops on either side of me while I rattled off data. But they came up empty too. When nothing appeared using the names I had, they began searching by alternate spellings for all the people involved. I wondered how sound this was since I assumed that my relatives would know how to spell their own names. But they explained that while my family might (or apparently might not in some cases depending on who was home at the time of the survey), the transcribers might not. All the census surveys were hand-written. Often it was difficult to read the handwriting, so names could be spelled completely wrong in the database. 

My experts tried a range of spellings of surnames and given names, but the family that appeared clearly in the 1911 census was nowhere to be found in 1901. The day wasn't a waste though, during the session they provided a number of valuable tips that I would later use. One was that you can't always depend on the family being together in the census. Surveys were taken on one specific day, and if a family member was away from home, that person would not appear with the rest of the family. This could make it difficult to find or identify them as the correct family unit. 

Later that night, I got an email from one of the volunteers I'd worked with that day. Being more conscious of how spelling mistakes can occur, she had continued searching with alternate spellings. And in what seemed like a miracle to me, she'd found the family. There were four issues that had prevented me from finding them. The first was that, as she suspected, the name was spelled wrong. Pickles had been transcribed as Pickes without the 'L'. The second was that husband/father Samuel had obviously been away, as his wife Margaret was listed as head of the household. But the third and fourth were the clinchers. Isabel had been listed as Isabella. I thought her birth name was Isabel, but to make matters worse, her name had been transcribed into the database as Mabella — the handwritten 'I' and 'S' looking like an 'M' to the transcriber. But when I viewed the scanned original document, it was obvious to me that the name was Isabella. They'd been found and I was off and running again.


Post a Comment

To prevent spam, your comment must be approved before it appears. Thank-you for your patience.