Parish Register and Transcript Comparison with Implications for FamilySearch Index

In the last post, Now you see it, now you don’t – IGI and FamilySearch, I discussed the shortcomings of the FamilySearch index for marriages in Claverley.  The index is based on a published transcript, so just how accurate was the transcript?

The title page bears the name of the honorary secretary of the Shropshire Parish Register Society, W.G.D. Fletcher, but the introduction tells that this transcript was made by Lieutenant-Colonel G. S. Parry[1].  Also included are descriptions of the ten original registers, for example:[2]

Vol. X. Contains Marriages, 1813-1937, on printed paper forms, 3 to a page, printed in pursuance of the Act of 28 July 1812, by Geo. Eyre and Andrew Stahan.  Of these forms, 223 on the first 75 pages are filled in, the rest of the book remains blank.  There is a printed title page and one fly-leaf. It is bound in vellum.  Size, 15 ¾ x 10 inches.

The original registers are available on microfiche at Shropshire Archives.  The above description is accurate making it easy to identify this volume on fiche numbers 9 & 10[3].  Both the original register and transcript record:

  • For the groom and bride:
    • names
    • parish of residence
    • status e.g. bachelor, widow
  • Date
  • Parental consent
  • Banns or Licence
  • Name of the officiating clergyman
  • Names of witnesses (signatures)

The transcript is not an exact copy as it omits the standard form text, abbreviates some terms and names, and reformats the information.  Notes added by the author indicate that parish of residence is omitted when it is Claverley and name of the presiding clergyman is noted for blocks of records.  Other omissions are signatures of the bride and groom as they have already been named and indications of illiteracy (e.g. x her mark). The original register’s page numbers and record entry numbers are omitted, but the sequence of records is preserved.

So the transcript contains a great deal more than an index, but as it is not a complete copy.  It should really be described as an abstract.

Of the 223 records in Volume X[4], I found 25 discrepancies between the original register and abstract:

no field abstract register
13 year 1815 1814
23 witness Eleanor Glover
29 witness Susan. Harrison Susanna Harrison
31 witness Eleanor Glover
35 witness John Smith
37 witness William Ball
43 witness Ann Jones
45 witness Hannah Rushtow Hannah Ruston
61 witness Sarah Adams Sarah Evans
63 witness Sus. Smallman Susanna Smallman
64 bride name Matlida Pope Margaret Matilda Pope
76 witness E A Re__hall [?]
78 witness Ann Harley Sarah Ann Harley
84 groom name Thomas Bennet Thomas Kennet
89 groom name William Rowly William Rowley
104 witness Job Noke Joab Noke
119 witness John Doughtey John Doughty
130 groom name Thomas Parson Thomas Parsons
133 groom name Vicarage Culwick Vickaridge Culwick
135 witness Philip Crompton, Phoebe Sophia Rhodes
181 witness Mabel Branford
182 witness Wm Ball
184 witness Wm Ball
203 bride name Elizabeth Churchyetts Eliza Churchyetts
206 witness Jane Devey Jane Devy

11% of records in this sample contain an error.  How important is this?

The most common errors are the omission (10, 4.5%) and mis-transcription of witness names.  One record omitted witness names altogether (no 135), one unreadable witness (no 76) was omitted, and the rest of the omissions occurred when there were more than the 2 witnesses required by law.  Witnesses are often relatives of the bridal couple, so may provide important genealogical clues.   However, the omission of William Ball may have little genealogical significance.  He witnessed a high proportion (28, 12.6%) of the marriages between 1813 and 1837, a pattern that might indicate frequent availability to serve as a witness, perhaps as a lay official of the church such as a church warden.  Mis-transcription of witness names (8, 3.6%) was more common than that of bride (2, 0.9%) and groom names (4, 1.8%), suggesting that these were less carefully transcribed.  Witnesses tend not to be included in marriage indexes, so these errors are not repeated in the FamilySearch index.

Errors in the bride and groom names and date are repeated in the FamilySearch index, at least for those records included in the index.  A search for exact matches would fail to find a particular record.  However, a soundex search that matches names phonetically should cope with the spelling errors encountered in this sample.  Search algorithms could potentially cope with standardised abbreviations.  In this sample Susanna has been abbreviated in two different ways (nos 29 & 63).

The published transcript was produced in 1907, using the technology of the time.  It is certainly easier to index a printed work than handwritten records, so using the original registers would not necessarily been more accurate.  Sequential page and entry numbers were specified in the 1812 Act to guard against the loss of records.  Had at least the entry numbers been included in both transcript and index, identification of individual records and checking of the completeness of the data set would be much easier.  The 31% records missing from the FamilySearch index vastly outweigh the small proportion of errors in the transcript:

Year no marriages in FamilySearch index no Marriages in register difference % difference
1813

5

5

0

0.0

1814

5

7

2

28.6

1815

4

10

6

60.0

1816

2

3

1

33.3

1817

3

6

3

50.0

1818

3

5

2

40.0

1819

4

7

3

42.9

1820

7

10

3

30.0

1821

8

12

4

33.3

1822

10

15

5

33.3

1823

5

9

4

44.4

1824

6

6

0

0.0

1825

4

11

7

63.6

1826

5

7

2

28.6

1827

5

8

3

37.5

1828

9

12

3

25.0

1829

4

5

1

20.0

1830

6

7

1

14.3

1831

5

9

4

44.4

1832

6

9

3

33.3

1833

8

11

3

27.3

1834

15

17

2

11.8

1835

11

12

1

8.3

1836

9

16

7

43.8

1837

4

4

0

0.0

Grand Total

153

223

70

31.4


[1] Fletcher, W.G.D. 1907. Shropshire Parish Registers.  Diocese of Hereford. Vol X. privately printed for the Shropshire Parish Register Society.  p. ix.

[2]  ibid. p. vi.

[3] Church of England. Marriage Register. 1813-1837. P68/fiche8-9. Shropshire Archives, Shrewsbury

[4] Fletcher, W.G.D. 1907. Shropshire Parish Registers.  Diocese of Hereford. Vol X. privately printed for the Shropshire Parish Register Society.  pp. 409-423.

© Sue Adams 2013

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3 Comments on “Parish Register and Transcript Comparison with Implications for FamilySearch Index”

  1. Anne says:

    As you show in your examples, FamilySearch cannot be 100% relied upon (though I am very glad for the indexing work that has been done, it has helped me tremendously).

    I have been researching my family for five years now. In that time I have come to think of the FamilySearch website as a useful tool, but certainly not definitive. In my main lines if I find an entry on FamilySearch I am trying to view the original records, either as digital scans where available, or by ordering the microfilm to be viewed at the local FamilySearch centre. It is the only way to be really sure.

    Like

    • No index, online or otherwise tells the whole story, so it is always good practice to inspect the most original possible. Although I have used FamilySearch as an example, other online databases could potentially suffer similar problems.

      Like

  2. […] and children.  I have not found this family on the 1851 census, but the FamilySearch index and a transcript of Claverley’s marriage register confirms […]

    Like


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