Analysis:Transcription Accuracy, Cumberland County PA Tax Lists

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This is one of a series of studies of the accuracy of published transcriptions of genealogical data.
It was developed as part of the The Tapestry Project. See Index for a list of related articles.


Genealogists frequently make use of the abundant transcriptions of various documents as they seek information about their ancestors. Transcriptions of census lists, rosters, cemetery records, tax lists, and the like, provide useful information, all of which is grist for the genealogical mills. These transcriptions are commonly available on the web, and may either draw on the original documents themselves, or, more commonly, on transcriptions based on the work of previously published authors.

In working on genealogies for families in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania I've found transcriptions of tax assessment records are available for many counties and townships in the pre-revolutionary period. The work of William Egle (Egle's Notes qnd Queries) and that of I. Rupp ( are commonly cited as the source for transcriptions for these tax assessments currently presented on the web.

Recently I came to examine transcriptions of the 1751 tax assessment for East Derry Township in Dauphin County, and was surprized to find that there are no less than three separate transcriptions available on the web. One is from I Rupp's History and Topography of Dauphine County, published about XYXY and available on Google Books. Another is found in Egle's Notes and Queries published around 1900, and republished in 1970 by the Genealogical Publishing Company. This work is also available on the web, though the only version I've been able to find is one through subscription service. Yet a third version is a transcription by Nancy Piper on I presume both Egle and Rupp made use of the original tax records; Piper, however, transcribed the list provided by Egle in his Notes and Queries.

The existence of these three transcriptions of the same material creates an interesting opportunity to compare the accuracies of transcriptions in general. Theoretically, each of these transcriptions is based, directly or indirectly, on the original 18th century records. As such, you'd expect them to match. Unfortunately, they differ from each other substantially.

The following table summarizes tax lists for East Derry Township, Cumberland County PA, for the year 1751, as they separately appear in the work of Egle, Rupp, and Piper

Brief Analysis

From the data presented below it is clear that Egle and Rupp different in various respect in their transcriptions of the original tax assessment for East Derry in 1751.

Omissions The most serious differences are those of omission. Between the two authors, 103 individuals are identified in their transcriptions. Of these 103 persons, 25 appear only in one list or the other. Egle omits 8 names found in Rupp, while Rupp omits 17 names found in Egle. it seems likely that each author simply overlooked some of the names on the original transcription. [1] Given the high percentage of differences between the two lists (25% of the combined names are missing on one list or the other), it seems likely tat there were additional names overlooked by both authors.

There are other discrepancies between the two lists that can be pointed to.

Modernized Spelling Rupp appears to have modernized, standardized spellings of given names and surnames, while Egle appears to have retained the original spellings of the transcription. As an example, Rupp identifies a "John Campbell", while Egle identifies what appears to be the same person as "John Cample". Most likely the name really is the modern "John Campbell", but it may have been better to stick to the spelling as written.

Handwriting Interpretation Interpreting the handwriting in old and faded records is sometimes difficult, and one does the best one can. Odd spellings sometimes result when the transcriber has a particularly difficult time in making out the original. An example of this is Egle identifies a "John Pinogel" whereas Rupp gives him as "John Rinagel". There's no way to tell which version is right without looking at the original and seeing what the best match would be.

Name Order Tax lists are sometimes given in alphabetical format, sometimes in an "as encountered" format. The former format is useful for finding a specific individual, but the latter sometimes gives clues as to who lived near whom. In some cases the original list was alphabeticzed by the tax collector, and that's all that has been preserved. Sometimes the tax collector makes no such effort and the list preserves names in the order encountered. Sometimes a transcriber will choose to reorder the list in alphabetical order, to improve ease of use, but thereby loosing what may be useful information.

In the case of the three transcriptions dealt with here, two (Piper and Ruppe) appear to retain the original "as encountered" format. [2] The 1970 Genealogy Publishing version of Egle's list utilizes a semi-alphabetical ordering. The Piper Transcription and the Genealogical Publishing transcription of 1970 are both transcriptions of Egle's original work, but differ from each other in numerous details, not the least of which is "alphabetical" versus "as encountered data" order. This suggests the the two transcriptions, though ostensibly based on the same work, made use of different versions of Egle's Notes and Queries, and that perhaps one version was modified by a later hand. Possibly those modifcations represent changes made by Egle himself between different publications of his work.


Piper's Transcription of EgleRupp's TranscriptionEgle's Transcription
Thomas Aken Thomas Aiken Thomas Allen
Robt. Boyd Robert Boyd Robert Boyd
Wm. Boyd William Boyd William Boyd
Jas. Cample James Campbell James Cample
John Cample John Campbel John Cample
Charles Clark Charles Clark Charles Clark
David Clinn David Clinn
John Cochran John Cochran John Cochran
John Colp John Colp
Charles Conway
Charles Connoy Charles Connoy
Dison Cooper Wilson Cooper Dison Cooper
John Cosh
Christian Coughan Christian Coughan
Neal Daughtery Neal Daugherty Neal Daugherty
Leneard Dinie Leonard Denie Leaneard Dinie
James Duncan James Duncan James Duncan
John Duncan John Duncan
George Esby George Eby George Esby
Folti Fallopo Fottie Fallopo
David Foster David Foster David Foster
Jas. Foster James Foster James Foster
John Foster John Foster John Foster
Robt. Foster Robert Foster, Robert Foster
Thos. Freeman Thomas Freeman
Joseph Galbreath, James Galbreath, James Galbreath
John Gingerich
John Goarley John Goarly
John Godfrey
Fogal Haine Fogal Haine
Hugh Hall Hugh Hall Hugh Hall
Hugh Hays Hugh Hayes Hugh Hays
John Hays John Hays John Hays
Patrick Hays Patrick Hayes Patrick Hays
William Hays William Hays William Hays
Anthoney Hemple Anthony Hempel Anthoney Hemple
John Hover John Hover
Michael Hover Michael Hover Michael Hover
Willm. Huston William Huston Willm. Huston
David Johson David Jonson David Jonson
Patrick Kelley Patrick Kelly Patrick Kelley
John Kerr John Kerr John Keer
Hanes Ketrin Hans Ketrin Harris Ketrim
John Kingre John Kingre
David Kleim
Thos. Logan Thomas Logan, Thomas Logan
Jacob Longneker Jacob Longnecker Jacob Longnecker
John Maben John Maben John Maben
Thomas Make Thomas Make
Thomas Mackey
John McCallestar John McCallester John McCallister
Neal McCallester Neal McCallester Neal McCallister
Widow McClan Mr. McClan Widow McClan
John McCleland John McClelland John McCleland
Robt. McClire Robert McClure Robert McClire
John McColech John McColloch John McColoch
John McColouh John McColloch John McColouch
David McCord David McCord David McCord
John McCord John McCord
Duncan McDonnall Duncan McDonnell Duncan McDonnall
John McQwin John McQueen _____ McQuin
George Miller George Miller George Miller
Hugh Miller Hugh Miller Hugh Miller
Jas. Miller James Miller James Miller
William Miller William Miller Willam Miller
David Mitichel David Mitchel David Mitchell
John Moar John Moor John Moar
Andrew More Andrew Moore Andrew More
Robert Mordah Robert Mordeck Robert Mordah
John Mordoch John Mordoch
Hance Aderm Nai Hans Adam Nei Adam Nai Hamer
John Over John Orr John Over
Hannas Palmar Honnes Palmer Hannas Palmar
Hendry Peters Henry Peters Hendry Peters
Henry Peters
John Pinogel John Rinagel John Pinogel
Moses Potts Moses Potts Moses Potts
David Rea David Rea
Wilm Rea William Rea Willm. Rea
John Ree John Rea John Ree
Jacob Rife Jacob Reif, Jacob Rife
William Robinson William Robeson William Robinson
Vandall Row Vandall Row
Andrew Rowan Andrew Rowan Andrew Rowan
Thos. Ritherford Thomas Rutherford Thomas Rutherford
Jacob Sailer Jacob Sailer Jacob Sailer
David Shank David Shenk David Shank
Aulbright Siglee Aullbright Siglee
William Sayers Wm. Sayers
Crisle Snider Christian Schneider Criste Snider
Widow Sloan Mr. Sloan Widow Sloan
John Strean John Strean John Strean
Wm. Syers Wm. Syers
David Tyler David Tyler David Tylor
Archibald Walker Archibald Walker Archibald Walker
H. Walker Hendry Walker
Jas. Walker James Walker James Walker
Jon. Walker John Walker John Walker
Joseph White Joseph White Joseph White
James Willison James Wilson James Willison
Thos. Willison Thomas Wilson Thomas Willison
William Willison William Wilson William Willison
Jas. Willson James Wilson James Willison
Conrad Wisan Conrad Wisan
John Wisan