One has to wonder who some of the people that collected census information were. That is the case with many records online and off. As I come nearer to writing about my maternal grandparents lives in Canada, I am once again looking at the various records available for them. Two of the census records for my grandfather are ridiculously incorrect, not to mention the handwriting alone. I mean, how hard is it to add an s onto the end of a name? Were they hard of hearing? Also, the transcribers; one wonders how much effort they actually put into reading a document. When does ” —-ger” turn into “son”? Thankfully ancestry.ca lets you correct the index supplied with the image ( or rather, add alternative information). It may be a little more difficult with other websites.
But what if you are looking at the actual document? These things can throw you off the trail. My grandfather’s death certificate is a blithering mess! They have his name as Richard Walter instead of Walker. His birth date is wrong. There is no known birthplace in Ireland for both the parents. Thank you very much Uncle George! It’s hard to believe that he would mistake his brother’s second name. So you have a combination of clerical error and the unknown. But Uncle George went back to his home in Ireland he knew where it was. One has to make allowances for trying times. That is why you need more than one source of information.
So, my grandfather who was a LODGER at a farm became the SON of the farmer and who knew where he came from because it was all blotted out when the writer tried to overwrite his mistake. His birthplace was transcribed as England not Ireland. That was the 1911 Canadian census. In the 1916 Prairie census, George is spelled Gorege, Anglican is spelled Anghica! Those are straight forward mistakes to correct and the fact that they are transcribed on ancestry is a bonus. But if they are wrongly transcribed that is a problem. I have other records which help but many other people might not.
That being said, the census records are wonderful because they tell you so many things which I will not go into here. There is an almost psychological effect created. For example, why did my grandfather say he came over in 1905 on the 1916 and 1921 census when it was 1907 (He says on the passenger list he had not been across before). His older brother George, whom he was very close to, came in 1905. One wonders if he thought it would be better to say they came over in the same year for some reason. My grandmother says she is the same age as him. She was in fact 3 years older. She says she came over in 1914 one time and 1915 the next. And that’s great because the closest passenger list I have for her is in 1911!
You get to see who their neighbors were. I read the names on the lines above and below and I hear the varying emotions in my mother’s voice as she talked about them, laughter, sarcasm, sadness and wistfulness as she looked back at her girlhood. You could take the girl out of the country but not the country out of the girl.
I think that one of the best ways to get on the path of your family is to get the actual birth, marriage and death certificates. That gives you something solid to start on. For the main part, family stories are just that, stories. They alter as they are passed on though there is always a thread of truth in them What they told the law is another thing. Time to “fess up” as they say!