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               May, 2010

      Charles Hansen, Editor

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  Changing Bad Data
  — by Charles Hansen

       Ie have all come upon bad data in indexes, databases, family trees and archives, so how can we correct the information? Some of the earliest indexes we have in the library were done by the DAR starting in the 1930s, they used onion skin paper and carbon paper to make an original and five or six copies on a typewriter. An error on typing meant retyping that page and making changes or correcting errors now is not possible, although you do see some penciled in corrections in those books.

       Iost people know that any printed index is outdated as soon as it is printed, but the next update will have the corrections, but when will the next update come out? Did this update get to your library? Did they make the corrections or just copy the last version. When the first CDs that contain genealogical indexes appeared they were just copies of the paper indexes, and since the error rate of the paper indexes was pretty high the CD indexes were also full of errors, but because of the ease of making copies, you could buy ten CDs for the price of one book.

       Ioon the CDs were replacing the book indexes. CDs were also being used to collect family trees, and many people submitted their family trees to the CD makers and that was a way to connect with others that were researching the same ancestors. These family tree CDs had a major problem and that problem is what happens when there is an error? How do you correct it? How do you add more information? It was not possible, so many people resubmitted the tree for a later CD. Did you buy the new CD? If not you missed the latest information.

       Ihe LDS had asked people to submit their GEDCOMs to the Ancestral File, and RootsWeb has their Ancestral Trees. The LDS would allow you to send in an updated GEDCOM, and RootsWeb would let the original submitter to remove the old database and add a corrected or updated new file, but if you check RootsWeb today you will see many conflicting databases with similar data, some with sources but most without any sources. The LDS finally closed the Ancestral File and is working on a new database that contains all the information from Ancestral File, and many other databases and they have been asking the LDS people to make corrections and to eliminate duplicate entries. What I have read so far is that eliminating duplicates may take years yet, and so far it is not open to non LDS people.

       Iow days we are seeing many online indexes and actual data being put online. The Washington State Digital Archives has all the marriages from Washington State online now, along with many other databases. I guess I am still a paper person, I would still like to see the paper index, it is easier for me to see the error that caused my ancestor to be incorrectly indexed. Recently I was asked to look up a marriage certificate for John Siltela and his wife Amanda Pavola. They were married here in Spokane December 18, 1899 and both of them were from Rossland, British Columbia Canada. I searched for Amanda first and found the Certificate of Marriage, but while that is a nice certificate it does not contain much genealogical information, so then I searched for John Siltela and only one hit; the one I already had, so then I tried John Liltela and sure enough that brought up the Marriage Return for John and Amanda. While the Marriage Certificate was usually filled out by the minister, the marriage return is done to get the license and it listed their birthplace (Finland) and the names of their parents.

       Ihe Marriage Return has several corrections, Amanda's last name looks like Pabola, and then written over as Pavola. Her fathers surname looks like the same change, but this Marriage Return was indexed Amanda Pabola, and since John was listed as Liltela not Siltela in the index. While an S and an L look similar in some handwriting, you can see the same S in both Siltela and Spokane so it is plain that it is an S not an L. I contacted the archives and pointed out both the Certificate of Marriage and Marriage Return are for the same marriage and they corrected the index in a few days. Now they will not change the original records, the person that contacted me said that Siltela is not spelled correctly, but that is the way the actual records show the surname, so that is how the index will be. They will also rescan an image if part of it was cut off in the original scanning. Lets hope all the online indexes and databases can be corrected that easily.

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