Talk:World Archives Project: Massachusetts, Vital Records, 1700-1850

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Feel free to add to or edit information in this discussion tab as necessary. Please take time to become familiar with the World Archives Keying Standards and be sure to read all instructions on the main project page. (Please note that in case of a discrepancy, project level instructions always trump general keying standards.)

Extra Keying Helps


Common Keying Errors Found by Reviewers


Please remember that we do not key records where there is only a name/names and no date, nor do we key records that only have a date and no name/names

Please remember that records of intentions of marriage should be treated the same as actual marriage records.

Please remember that we are not inferring anything on this project. If parents are listed as John and Mary, do not put in surnames of child as parents surnames.

The city listed in the header is the city the birth was registered in and not the birthplace of the child. Birthplace is typically shown following the word "b" or "in".

Records that do not have a given name should still be keyed with the surname and date listed.

Please remember to key the gender when there are indicators. On the other hand, please do not infer gender when there are no indicators.

Surname should be copied down to following records, until changed.

Keyers are taking the info in the brackets which may differ from the original info before the brackets. Based on the examples in the next section, the bracket information should only be used, if it is additional to the earlier information, such as middle name / initials, maiden name, or additional date information.

Birthplace should not be assumed unless stated. When a person is stated as 'of' a location, that means that is their residence on the date of the event, not necessarily their birthplace.

Questions and Answers

If you have a keying question that is not answered on the project page or in any of the information above, click “EDIT” and ask it here. (If you click on Rich Editor you won't have to worry about formatting your entry.) Then click “WATCH” at the top right on this page and you will be notified via email when an update has been made.

Q: While indexing Wayland Deaths, I have run across this entry Cory, Ruhamah, wid. Isaac, Mar. 2, 1819. [dropsy, Mar. 1, a. 75, C.R.I.] Am I to assume she died on Mar 1 and was buried on Mar 2? Or is his possibly a corrected entry in the []?

A: Please do not assume. As there are no keywords indicating otherwise, March 2, 1819, should be keyed as the death date. Burial date should be left blank. Thank you! -- mccallapeterson (talk)

Q: I have ran across several entries that have the following "int. Jan 16, 1828. [m. Feb 20, P.R.16]" Should I make 2 entries? 1 for the int date and one for the marriage date? Thank you

A: For this case, make one record, using the marriage day and month and the intention year. Thanks!

Q. I pulled a set of abbreviations pages which only have grave site information. There is no information specific to any individual and there are no dates. Do I label these as "Cover page, Section header, etc."?

A: Instructions state to only key records that have name and date, so abbreviations like this would be Cover Pages, etc

Q. When Father's name is listed in one of the following manners "John 2nd", "Capt John", or "John Jr" should that be keyed into the father given name field? or just John? - This question did not get answered. Usually the 'suffix' of 2nd and Jr is entered with Given name when there is no suffix field, so should that be done with this set also? Prefix is usually not entered with given name, correct?

A: General keying standards state that a suffix may be entered with surname of individual when a suffix field is not present (Never with given name). If the surname of the father is shown then it would be correct to enter suffix with it; however, do not infer a surname to input the suffix and do not input a suffix by itself into surname field.--816spider (talk) 00:37, 13 February 2017 (MST)
A: Please note that the above ONLY applies to the following suffixes: “Junior” “Jr” “Senior” “Sr”. No other suffix should be keyed in the surname field. --Katerimmer (talk) 07:19, 13 February 2017 (MST)

Q: I am finding entries that are in this format: Green, Hannah, d. Charles S., Dec. 16, 1841. Brown, Charles, ch. Sally, July 23, 1811. Since we are not supposed to infer gender, how are we to index this? In my opinion Charles would be the father in one, and Sally would be the mother in the other.

A: Wiki instructions state: "The father may be found following the abbreviations "s." for son, "d." for daughter, "ch." for child, or "inf." for infant." The mother may be found written after the father's name following the abbreviations "s." for son, "d." for daughter, "ch." for child, or "inf." for infant." I would key both names in the father's given name field and not infer gender.

I have the following entry for Massachusetts Vital Birth Records: Baker, Sarah, ch. Job and Rachel, Dec. 29, 1798. [Sarah W., C.R.] I am wondering who Sarah W. is and do I index her?

A: [Sarah W., C.R.] is just another form of the name of the primary person. There should not be an extra name indexed. mccallapeterson (talk)

For the Massachusetts Vital Birth Records, is the name of the town at the top of the page entered as the birthplace? If so, what does the "in Stockbridge" in the following record mean? "Burghardt, Catharine, d. Lonson N. and Catharine, Apr. 13, 1849, in Stockbridge."

A: The town at the top of the page is the town the birth was registered in. We do not key that as the birthplace. In your example given, Stockbridge is the birthplace. Sometimes it will just have a "b" in front of the town name or the word "in". --816spider (talk) 17:13, 3 February 2017 (MST)

For the Massachusetts Vital Marriage Records, do we record marriage intentions? I am also finding on marriage records surnames being listed as the women's maiden name.

A: Yes, intentions of marriage should be treated the same as marriage records. Key the surname/maiden surname as seen on the image. Thank you! mccallapeterson (talk)

Would Sam[ue]ll be keyed as Samuell? I did not see this addressed in the Keying Standards.

A: Correct, key as "Samuell". mccallapeterson (talk)

Got the abbreviation Eld. Figure it stands for Elder? This is a prefix correct?

A: Correct, key as seen into the prefix field. mccallapeterson (talk)

How do I index this: Anthony (surname for this section) Hannah, d. Daniel, merchant, and Mariah, Aug. ---, 1843. [Hannah Maria, d. Daniel B. and Maria L. (Winslow), Aug. 22, P.R.19.] Do I index two separate records or combine the info into one record - as they appear to be for the same people.

A: Given Name: Hannah Maria Surname: Anthony Gender: F Father Given: Daniel B Mother Given: Maria L Mother Maiden Name: Winslow Event Month: Aug Event Year: 1843 --816spider (talk) 00:32, 31 January 2017 (MST)

What does dup. mean? Example: Grainger (see Granger), David [dup. Granger], s. Noah and Rebeca [dup. Rebecah], Nov. 4, 1796. Almost looks like it is denoting an alternative spelling?

A: Dup means duplicate. There is a duplicate record in file for the same individual with different spelling. On this one you are indexing Grainger, David; with parents Noah and Rebeca. --816spider (talk) 00:26, 31 January 2017 (MST)

I have an image that states Westport Births at the top and most of the listings are births. Several of the listings actually look like deaths in this format: (this is in a section with Allen as the surname of the first person then all other persons in that section only list given names) William G., h. Nancy S., ----, 1816, G.R.3. Do I index it as a death, even though it is in a section of births, or do I skip it? Or do I add a separate section since we need to select a form type?

A: No, this is still a birth. It is saying William G Allen, husband of Nancy S was born in 1816. It looks odd because it doesn't have his parents names, just his wife's name. --816spider (talk) 18:10, 30 January 2017 (MST)

Do we still index a record with a name and only a year? Also, if we come across a record we don't index, do we blank that entry or just skip it and continue to the next line?

A: Please still index a record with any part of the date available. Please skip the records that won't be indexed; there is no need to blank that entry for this project. Thanks! Gigivs (talk) 10:47, 30 January 2017 (MST)

I have entries that lack a month and instead say something like 3 mo. For example, "Hannah, d. Isaac and Phebe, 15th, 4 mo. 1791, c.r." Are they referring to April in that example?

A: When I was keying, I 'assumed' it meant 15th day of Apr 1791'. Hopefully, that's correct.
A: That is correct! --816spider (talk) 17:13, 3 February 2017 (MST)

I am keying birth records that have an unusual abbreviation that is not listed in the instructions. Example: Roberts, D. S., enrl. May 1, 1863, a. 24. I am thinking this is enrolled. If correct, they enrolled in something on May 1, 1863 at the age of 24. I would not key this since we do not calculate birth dates and this is not a valid date. Correct?

A: You are correct! If there is not a birth, baptism, marriage, death, or burial date, the record can be ignored.

Q. I am keying birth records and I am not sure what to do with this record: "Betsey, [b. or d.] Nov. 9, 1791". There is a name and a date but the date could be a birth or a death according to this record. Do I skip it?

A: Do not skip it. You would still key the record with the event date as 9 Nov 1791.--816spider (talk) 22:49, 12 February 2017 (MST)

Q. I have a record that says this: Taft, Abigail Right, d. Sullivan and Abigail ("'Mrs Abigail'...should read 'Mrs Sarah'" written in pencil in later hand) July 25, 1805. So would you key Abigail or Sarah as the mother's name?

A: You would key Abigail.--816spider (talk) 22:49, 12 February 2017 (MST)

Q. Should we key adoptions as births? Sometimes, the records have the adoption date, but not the birthdate.

A: Does it specifically state date adopted or does it say adopted parents, then have a date? If it says date adopted, no we would not key it as a birth date. If it says adopted child of with the parents names, then has a date, this is the birth date and would be keyed.--816spider (talk) 22:49, 12 February 2017 (MST)

Q. Alternate surname should not be entered in Surname field, correct? Ex. Bisbee, Ansel (Bisbey). Bisbey is alternate name for Bisbee, but there is no alternate surname field. Surname should be entered as Bisbee not Bisbee (Bisbey) or Bisbee or Bisbey, correct?

A: Correct. Enter surname as Bisbee. If there is no alias surname field, alternate surnames should not be entered. Gigivs (talk) 09:36, 15 February 2017 (MST)

Q. I am uncertain about the birth date of the following record. Graham, William H, June 18, 1815, ch. William H and Rebecca J Oct 15, 1843. I assume the latter date is the birth date but the date by the child is the 1815 date.

A: Without seeing the record you are looking at I will go off the examples I have seen. The event date that is highlighted is after the parents names - toward the end of the record. I would stay with this pattern and enter the 1843 date as the Event Date.
A: This one has been sorted out on the message boards - it is actually two separate entries, one for William H Graham born 1815 and the other for a child of William H and Rebecca J, born 1843. --Katerimmer (talk) 05:10, 26 February 2017 (MST)

Q: If given name of child is blank, but parents' names and birth date are present, should this record be skipped? Or should we use 'daughter / son / child' as in other projects? Or mark given game as blank?

A: If there is a surname, the record should still be keyed. The surname that appears at the top of the image in bold should be copied down to all records until a new surname appears. So, as long as there is a date and either a given name or surname, the record should be keyed. Thank you! mccallapeterson (talk)

Q: What do we enter when dates are marked as (rec. dd/mm/yyyy)?

A: If that is the only date available, please key as seen. mccallapeterson (talk)

Q: What do we enter when dates are listed as between one date and another? Sometimes there is a correction in brackets, which I would assume is entered?, but often date reads between, e.g. July 1851 and June 1857. Please advise.

A: If a correction is not available, please key the earliest date listed. mccallapeterson (talk)

Q: If it states in deaths @in 24th year@ should that be entered as 23 or 24, I have been entering 23. Please advise.

A: You are right, it means age 23. --Katerimmer (talk) 03:26, 21 March 2017 (MDT)

Q: A death entry records a spouse's name as "Dns" with the "ns" as superscript (which I did not know how to reproduce here). Should I key as "Dns" or does the use of superscript indicate something else should be keyed? (Image set 5892598_82, page 2 for Mary Norton)

A: It should be entered as seen on the record, Dns. It is an abbreviation but we don't expand these...you will often see Jno and Wm and they should always be keyed as written on the record. Annafechter (talk) 09:55, 30 March 2017 (MDT)

Q: Under the subheading of "Unidentified," there are several marriage records where the given name and surname of the primary person are blank; however, the spouse name is identified as well as the year of marriage. Should I skip these records since the primary person's surname is missing?

A: It would be reasonable to key this as a record since there is at least one full name. mccallapeterson (talk)

Q: In reviewing the Massachusetts, Vital Records, 1700-1850 I found that some people inserted a blank in every field that did not have data in the image, while others left it empty. Which is preferred? I accepted both methods.

A: Not marking the field blank is generally preferred so it is easier to see the data was that indexed but it is acceptable either way. It will not impact a keyer's accuracy if you remove the blanks. Annafechter (talk) 13:51, 10 April 2017 (MDT)

Q: In the following birth record example should there be two entries seems he had two wives; and Lydia Crocker should the Crocker be entered as a middle name or surname? Isaac. Capt., h, Lydia Crocker, h. Deborah ( wid. Andrew Cofin. d. Wickliffe Chadwick). s. Hercules and Lydia. 2d, I mo 1770,

A: There should be only one entry and index the first spouse that is listed. For this example you would key Lydia Crocker and I would index Crocker as her maiden name. Annafechter (talk) 13:51, 10 April 2017 (MDT)
     Q:  The keying standards say to key the most recent spouse when multiple spouses are given. To clarify the answer to the previous question, the first listed spouse should be considered the most recent for this project?  I've been assuming it is the last spouse listed.  Also, I would have keyed "Crocker" as a middle name (since parent/spouse surnames are not often given and maiden names usually show in parentheses).  The instructions say not to infer, so how can it be clearly determined whether it is a surname or maiden name?

Suggestions/Additions

If you have a suggestion or would like to make an addition to the project page, click “EDIT” and post your suggestion here. (If you click on Rich Editor you won't have to worry about formatting your entry.) Then click “WATCH” at the top right on this page and you will be notified via email when an update has been made.

I have a suggestion to improve the keying of the marriage records. Currently, we are keying 'int' as the event date for marriage records. However, 'int' is the date that the couple announced their intention to marry. That's not the same as their marriage date. In order to ensure that we capture the couples' history correctly, we should identify a record as intent to marry or the actual marriage. There are a few simple ways to address this. We could add a field that allows two values, intent to marry or marriage. Or we could add a field called "intent to marry" with the allowed value of "Y". The first option is preferable, however.

- Thanks for your suggestions! While these instructions were being created, this topic came up. It was discussed as a team and decided that we would still capture this date as a marriage date, even though it was clearly an intention of marriage. As per our keying standards, dates of marriage engagements or intentions are not typically keyed. So in order to capture these records, the date needed to be classified as a marriage date. Otherwise the names and other vital information found within the records would not be indexed. Also, it is most common that the intention of marriage is within the same year of the actual marriage during the time frame of these records, so it was decided that this date could reasonably be keyed as the marriage date.