Testing the Transcript

It's a good idea to be sceptical about record transcripts - always check out the original for clues.

A card catalogue, an index for helping researchers locate records
Card Catalogue

One of the best ways to progress your research is to think about all the potential sources available. One important approach is to always check the original record (if possible and where it exists). A record transcript is like a high-level overview, one that allows you to 'see from above'. In very specific cases they are wonderfully useful, particularly if the original is difficult to read, too fragile for an archive or library to digitise, or the only remaining copy of a document.

However, if you can see the original with your own eyes, you can take in some of the often side-lined details, the information that doesn't find its way into the transcribed record.

For example, a recent request outlined a family's long search for their great grandfather, a search stalled for many years until they found a Scottish marriage record. Success! While it included the names of their ancestor's parents, it recorded a Scottish address at the time of marriage and no pointer as to a home place in Ireland. However, a closer look at the original document also recorded a prior marriage. No record of this first marriage could be found in Scotland, but a search of Irish marriages turned up a possible link to Co. Antrim. A further search of church baptisms located the family there, the great-grandfather and his siblings.

If possible always check the original for clues!

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