Error Types

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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.


Recordation Errors

A recordation error is an error in the original source document. Such errors occur when the recordist mistakenly enters incorrect information. Examples of this include:

  • misunderstandings of a persons name, or the spelling of that name. (The persons gave their name as "Smith", but the recordist heard "Smoot" and transcribed it accordingly.
  • Data errors. The recordist meant to write "179 pounds" but accidently wrote "17 pounds"
  • Misalignment errors". Data meant to be placed on line twelve, adjacent to "John Smith", is placed on line 11 adjacent to "Jebediah Pike"

Transcription Errors

A transcription error is made when an original work is transcribed by a latter hand, as when a copy of a marriage register is prepared for publication. There can be several types of transcription errors, all resulting in a the presentation of information different from the original document.

  • Copyist errors. When data is transcribed incorrectly by the copyist.
  • Printers errors. When the data was transcribed correctly, but the printer presents the information incorrectly.

Judgement Errors

It is not always obvious what an original document says. In such cases judgement is used to arrive at the "best" interpretation. The "best Interpretation" is not always accurate.

Such errors arise from several root causes:

  • Handwriting issues: The original text read "John Huston", but the letter "u" looked like the letter "o" and the name came out "John Hosten"
  • Preservation issues: Blots and blemishes in the original manuscript can obscure what was originally recorded. "John Huston" might be so obscured that only "John H_ston" has been preserved. The copyist might interpolate that entry to read "John Houston" based on their knowledge of the records of the time and place, not realizing that "Huston" is a common spelling variant of "Houston". (In point of fact, in 18th century Pennsylvania, "Huston" is more common than "Houston".)