March 2012 Edition, Paleo 101

ancestry | January 2011
Feature Article:
Paleo 101: Conquering the Challenge of Reading Old Handwriting
World Memory Project
Tips & Tricks
Collections Update
We’re Listening to You
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Paleo 101: Conquering the Challenge of Reading Old Handwriting BY ECHO KING
Whether you are just beginning or have done research for years, we can all appreciate the value of a good index. At the same time we are all aware of the advice to always go back to the original source document because the index may be incomplete or it may contain errors. How true it is! But what do you do when you are trying to create the index in the first place? You may not have fully appreciated what it takes to create a good index unless you have participated in the Ancestry World Archives project or another similar indexing project.
Not being able to read old handwriting can be a problem for even experienced researchers. Sometimes we assume that just because we can read and write we should be able to read anything, but reading old handwriting is skill that has to be learned like any other. The best way to master the skill is learn guidelines and then practice, practice, practice.
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World Memory Project Update
In January, we launched the first of five projects related to the Lodz ghetto (USHMM — Lodz, Poland, Vital Records of Jews in the Lodz Ghetto, 1939-1944), containing some 15,000 individual documents. Including letters, announcements, name lists, and photographs, this collection provides a glimpse into the daily life of more than 160,000 Jews who were forced to live in the ghetto from 1940 to 1944.
Leon Merrick, a survivor of the Lodz ghetto and longtime volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, recently spoke with us about his experience as a teenager in Lodz and why indexing these records is so important.
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Leon Merrick,
photos courtesy of US Holocaust Memorial Museum
We’re Listening to You
A question I encounter often is, "Why aren’t we keying all of the information on the record?"
Through the efforts of you, contributors to the World Archives Project, we are creating an index, or finding aid, for each collection. This means that we are keying information that is essential in helping researchers find the records, not a full transcription.
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Tips & Tricks
Every day new contributors join the World Archives Project and because they are new, there are nuances that they are not aware of. What do you do when the record is crossed out? How should aliases be keyed? How should dates be keyed?
We have keying standards that answer the general questions that are not covered in the project instructions and field helps. Project-specific instructions always take precedence.
Keying crossed out data
When you encounter information on the record that has been crossed out without being replaced, key the crossed-out information. If there is additional information added, key the replacement information.
When referring to crossed out names, if there is a replacement name enter the crossed out data as an alias.
How should alias names be entered?
For many projects we have alias name fields. In these cases look for names in parentheses, noted by AKA or nee (maiden names), or that are noted on the record as aliases. In the example below there is only an alias for the surname field so the given name does not need to be keyed again.
Finally, if there is more than one alias listed on the image and there is only one alias name field, you should only enter the first alias found on the record. The additional aliases should not be entered. If there is an alias name and there is not an alias name field on the form, the alias should not be entered. Additional lines should not be used for alias names.
How do I enter the date information?
The instructions for entering dates are generally the same for all English language projects. However, we recently made a change to the Keying Standards regarding how months should be keyed. For all new projects the months should be entered as the three letter abbreviation.
You can review past editions of
Tips and Tricks here.
Collections Update —
New Projects and Coming Soon
New Projects:
Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Tax Lists, 1819-1869
Delaware, Land Records, 1677-1947
Florida, Spanish American War Compiled Service Records, 1898
Glasgow, Scotland, Crew Lists
United States, Spanish American War Volunteers, 1899-1927
Coming Soon:
California Railroad Employment Records
Early Tennessee Tax Lists
Memorial Books, WWI
World Archives Project Milestones
Registered Contributors: 106,000+
Records Keyed: 78+ million
Completed Projects: 90+
View all of the projects that are searchable on the dashboard.
© 2012

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