Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Occasional notes No 2 - Occupations

The occupation column often contains a lot of useful information - useful for our customers that is. The transcribers have 31 characters(including spaces) available. However, many of you are using a templated spreadsheet that allows only 27 characters. I keep meaning to change this. It is, however, a useful discipline thing.

If there is more than 31 characters worth of detail, then you have two choices. You can abbreviate and fit the lot into the occupational field, or you can split the information and put part in the notes field. Or you can do both.

Abbreviations should be designed to make sense to the customer and to look neat. There is no need to abbreviate more than you have to. I get lots of "Farmer 200ac E 7m 3b" . It is obvious what is meant, but "Farmer 200a Emp 7 men 3 boys" looks better and still fits. If you have someone who has several occupations, then shuffle the employment data into the notes field. If you do that - enter it to fit the pattern you can see in the online returns already completed. So in this case, enter Employes 7 men 3 boys, not E 7m 3B.

If you have someone who is described as Grocer & Draper employing 3 lady assistants and a United Free Church local preacher, move the preacher stuff to the notes field - it is obviously not his primary occupation. You must strive to capture all the data. If a doctor gives his qualifications, as he was supposed to do, then enter them. It might help a researcher later on.

I cannot emphasize enough this business of capturing all the data. I have just done a piece which was full of entries like "Almswoman formerly laundress". It is not correct to enter Almswoman (laundress). She was, but she isn't now.

Things that are crossed out must be entered in the form "Pauper (crossed out)". If there isn't room, then put this information in the notes field. Sometimes things are crossed out because they were wrong, but in many instances, the information was correct but the enumerator was tidying up by crossing out things he should not have put in. We don't know why it was crossed out - but the researcher has all the data we have.

Things are rather more complicated for volunteers checking the 1881. Due to the reformatting, occupations are in uppercase and frequently, large chunks are shunted into the notes field. Checkers cannot edit the notes field, but they can edit the occupations field and/or leave a note for the validator.

Do NOT correct the enumerator's words. This morning I had a "Potografher". Don't transcribe this as "photographer"; enter it "as is". Leave a note if you wish. There are web sites containing lists of old occupations; but my first port of call is Google.

The final word is to try and get the entry as near as possible to the enumerator's words, given the limitations of the Free Census software. And make it look good for our web pages!

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