The ‘Health Check’
Transcribing census records is not difficult but it is vital that the information is transcribed in the standard FreeCEN format. This is why we carry out a ‘health check’ at an early stage so that we can check that the transcriber has understood the instructions and is entering the right information, in the right format, in the right place!
What we ask transcribers to do is to transcribe about 6 pages and then send their spreadsheet to me, Bill, at firstname.lastname@example.org so that I can take a look at the file format to spot any misunderstandings. I’ve been doing this for more than 2 years now and I can confirm that, so far, no one has ever got the format 100% correct!!
I will send you a detailed response explaining what is wrong and how it should be corrected and I have built up a pick-list of ‘standard transcription errors’ to save me typing the same text over and over again. Some of the common errors are as follows:
The folio numbers are incorrect or missing. You’ll find the folio number in the top right hand corner of every other page. This folio number applies to the page on which you see it and the next one. They look ‘different’ as they were stamped by hand during the binding process.
Schedule number and Address
This should be completed for the first (and only the first) entry for each schedule – even if the enumerator has spread the address over 2 lines.
If a household spans two pages and the enumerator has repeated the schedule number and/or the address at the top of the second page then do not enter this in the spreadsheet. The reason is that the schedule number and address must only be entered against the first member of the household and if you repeat it then it splits the household.
Relationship to Head
This is a six character coded field and there is a list of the standard abbreviations in the documentation. If you can’t find the list then let me know and I’ll email you a copy. Thus an entry of, say, ‘Mother in law’ gets transcribed as ‘Mtrlaw’. Watch out for Brother, Servant, Boarder, Visitor etc as they are all 7 characters and get transcribed as ‘brothr’, ‘servnt’, ‘boardr’, ‘visitr’.
Watch out for occupation entries that are too long as these will cause me to have to edit each one myself! There is a column width guide in row 3 but this is only useful if you have set the font for your spreadsheet to be ‘Courier’ or some other fixed width font. A common occupation problem is one such as ‘Farmer of xxx acres employing x men and y boys’. This can be abbreviated to ‘farmer xxx acr empl Xm+Yb’. If it still will not fit then you can use the notes field as a continuation.
When you get a reply from me after the health check please don’t think that I am telling you off! My only desire is to help you transcribe the records in the right format so that I have as little work to do as possible when you have finished transcribing and send me the file to prepare for the checking stage!