Transcription Tips and Guidelines


Remember where the image controls are
The control buttons for zooming in and out and panning are located just above the image. Unfortunately, when the scrollbars are used to scroll down the image the controls are scrolled out of sight. Remember that when you get to the bottom of the image, and want to view additional lines, that you need to scroll back to the top to use the controls. NOTE! the Archives have changed the placement of the image controls to be centered above the image; on low resolution screens you may have to scroll to the right to bring them into view.
Use the tab key!
The tab key can be used to move from input field to input field. The first time you press tab it moves to the first input field, scrolling the window if necessary. This makes it easy to get to the form on a web page without having to use the scrollbar. It also is a much quicker way to move from field to field than having to use the mouse. When the page is first brought up, or if you have clicked in the top part of the window, you need to click in the lower part of the window before using the tab key.
Type the first letter of the value you want in a drop-down selection box
If you use the tab key to select an input field with a drop-down selection box you can select the value you want by simply typing the first letter of the value. If there are multiple values starting with the same letter, press that letter multiple times, the value will cycle through the possible values. For example, in the relation to head of household field, pressing 's' once will select "Son", pressing 's' a second time will select "Sister", and pressing it a third time will select "Servant". If you continue to press a letter it will cycle through the values over and over. Using the tab key and typing the first letter of your choice will generally be much faster than using the mouse to move between fields and select values in drop-down boxes.
A magnifying glass or virtual magnifying glass is sometimes quicker than zooming in on the image
If you just want to take a closer look at a word or name you may find it is quicker to use a magnifying glass or a program like Virtual Magnifying Glass than to reload the image at a higher magnification. On Windows XP there is a built-in magnifier intended for people with visual impairments that can be useful: start / Programs / Accessories / Accessibility / Magnifier
Entering a non-date value in the date of birth column
If the enumerator wrote something like "didn't know" in the month and date of birth column you can enter it by selecting "Other" in the month selection box and then entering the text in the day input box. If the enumerator entered a valid month but then something invalid for the day, e.g. May ? still select "Other" for the month and enter both the month and whatever else in the date column.
Deleting a duplicate line
If you have a duplicate line on a full page edit that line and set the line number to 99. Records with line set to 99 will be automatically deleted periodically. If you have a duplicate line on a page that is not yet complete you can also edit the line and change all the values to data from an as yet untranscribed line. To edit a line use the transcription page and click on the edit link next to the line in the table under the input form. Note: once a page is claimed the edit link will only appear when you are signed on/authenticated as the user that claimed the page.

1911: in the 1911 census you can delete an unwanted line by clicking on the Show Data link below the input form and then clicking on delete next to the line you want to delete.

Notes and corrections
You may edit or add notes to each line previously transcribed. As soon as a line transcription has been submitted, it is available for consultation, editing and/or annotation. Scroll down to the bottom of your screen to access the lines previously transcribed. Have a quick look to make sure there are no duplicate or missing lines. If you find errors in your transcription, you may correct them by clicking on the "Edit" button found at the end of each line. Do the necessary corrections and press Enter or click  the "Submit" button, when you have completed editing each line.
There are two types of Notes available: surname notes and line notes. It is important to remember that they serve different purposes and should be used accordingly.
Surname Notes are used to offer an alternative surname to the one listed on the census where the enumerator has made a spelling mistake in a name. It should always be attached to the line of the head of the family. A Surname Note affects a whole family, not only the individual listed on the line to which it is attached. Furthermore, whenever an alternative surname is suggested in a Surname Note, it will also be included in the National Surname Index with a link to the related family. Please remember that Surname Note cannot be edited or deleted. So they should be done with care!
Line Notes, on the other hand, are used to add a comment when a line is struck out, contains comments or other information not easily captured in the standard fields. Line Notes are attached to a line number, not to the individual listed on that line. Please remember that if you change a line number, the note will remain attached to the line number originally affected by the note. For example, line number 20 has a note attached, correcting the field known as "relation to the head of the family" for a certain individual. When reviewing your work, you realize that line 20 should actually be line 21; using the "Edit" button, you correct the field "line no." from #20 to #21 and click "Submit".  The individual previously listed on line 20 is now appearing on line 21, as it should be, but the line note remained with line #20. Therefore, your Note is now attached to the wrong individual. You have no other option but to delete the Note attached to line 20, and to do a new one, this time, on line 21. You may use the  copy/paste commands to save yourself some time. Always remember to delete Notes which are no longer needed, specially when correcting a line # to 99, as the Note will remained attached to the original line number. To view the complete list of all the line notes added to one page, first access the transcription page, after you are logged in, and scroll down to the bottom part of your screen, right under the transcription board. The delete option can be found under each line note.

1911: to delete a line note you have added in the 1911 index go to the transcription screen, click on Show data, click on the note link for the line the note appears on, and click the delete link next to the note in the list of existing notes for that line.

Surname Note:
Scroll to the bottom part of your screen, to the transcriptions board. Click on "Note" to the right of the line of your choice. The next screen will show the complete line with the information as entered. Under it, you will see "Add surname note". The field next to it contains the family name as it has been entered. You have the option to edit the name to offer an alternative: overwrite it with the alternative surname. If necessary, use the next field to add the appropriate comment to support your alternative, and click on "Submit alternative surname".
Line Note:
In the field "Add line note", include additional comments or other information not easily captured in the standard field. If a line is crossed out or a note appears in the margin in the original you can use a line note to include this information.
If you have records such as birth, baptism, or marriage records that indicate that information given in the census is incorrect, or giving additional useful information, you can add a line note citing that record and giving the alternate information. By using line notes the index stays true to the original census record while the user is alerted to the additional information. The ability to add information should only be used where you can cite a record, the index will become cluttered and confusing if a lot of unsupported information is added. Line notes are limited to about 200 characters so plan carefully in order to enter as much as possible in the space available. If you have important information to share, if necessary, you may add an additional line note to the same line.

Note: line notes should never be used to correct a transcription error! Correction notes should be used for that purpose.


Repeated values
Where the value of a field on the original census form indicates a repeat of the previous value either with a quotes/ditto mark or, in the case of the household number by being left blank, the value should be repeated in the transcription rather than using a ditto mark or leaving the field empty. This makes each record complete in itself which is useful for searching and sorting purposes.
The capitalization used in the original census form should be preserved in the name fields. Surnames should not be entered completely in upper case letters. Where output is desired with the surname in upper case it is trivial for the computer to produce all upper case from a mixed case value but not the other way around.
Errors in the original census
Where the enumerator has made a spelling error in a name or one of the other values seems to be or is in error, the transcription should be faithful to the value entered by the enumerator. Conflicts in the date of birth versus the age are particularly common and should be transcribed as they are written in the original census. For fields with selection boxes (e.g. month) the appropriate value in the box should be selected even if the enumerator has used a different abbreviation or misspelled the word.
Unreadable entries
In some cases the transcriber will not be able to make out what is written in a field. In these cases a question mark (?) can be used to indicate an unreadable value. If a value is partially legible then the part that is legible should be entered and the part that is not should be represented with a question mark. If the transcribers feel they can make a reasonable guess at the characters then they should enter their guess rather than using question marks. For example, if * represents an unreadable character in the original then:
Original Transcription
***** ?
Patt** Patt?
P***en P?en
*atten ?atten
[Something vaguely
resembling Patten]
Crossed out lines
If a line is filled in and then crossed out enter the values for the line and use the note link next to the line in the table below the input form to add a line note indicating the line was crossed out. If there was a note on the original form such as "dead" include that in the line note comment.
Blank lines
If a line is left blank all values for that line (except the line number!) should be set to blank. It is preferable for blank lines to be represented as blank rather than apparently missing. On the last page of a polling district there will usually be some blank lines, to fill these in use the link at the bottom of the transcription page which will bring up an alternate transcription form with all the default values set to blank, making it easier to add blank lines, you only need to fill in the line number for each line. If you want to fill in the rest of the page with blank lines there is a link at the top of this alternate transcription form that will fill in blanks from the last transcribed line to the end of the page. If there are blank lines in the middle of the page you will need to fill them in line by line.
Surname and givens order reversed
Some enumerators entered names with the given names first instead of surnames first. Sometimes entire pages were recorded this way, other times a single household. If a whole page is recorded this way or it is otherwise clear which is the surname and which is the given name then they should be entered in the input boxes labeled surname and givens regardless of the order in which they are written in the original. If the correct order for a single household is ambiguous then the names should still be entered according to the order they were written and a surname note should be added. For example, if an entry is written "John Henry" in an area where Henry is a common surname and John is not, then it should be transcribed with surname John and givens Henry but a surname note added with the surname Henry. Adding the surname note flags the entry so that users are alerted to the need to consult the image and judge for themselves, and adds an extra entry to the surname list making it possible to find the person if it turns out that what was written as the givens is actually the surname.
Abbreviated given names and initials
Sometimes the enumerator abbreviated given names, e.g. Geo. for George. Such abbreviations should be transcribed as they appear in the original. Some enumerators put periods after initials, others did not, and some were inconsistant. The preferred transcription is to record exactly what was written in the original but this is not critical and one should not enter corrections where the only difference between the original and the transcription is a period after an initial.
Two digit birth years
Where the enumerator has written birth years as two digit numbers instead of the full four digits the birth year should be expanded to four digits. Like month names that are abbreviated in various ways, the value of the birth year is not being changed when it is written in full and no interpretation is necessary.
Duplicate, missing, and corrected household numbers
The household numbers have no intrinsic meaning, they were just assigned in the order of enumeration. Since the order of enumeration is already reflected in the page and line ordering they carry even less significance (in the past the family number could be useful where the transcription was presented ordered alphabetically by surname of the head of household which is not an issue with our index). The importance of the household number in our index is in grouping people into households, so what the number is is less important than that all the members of a given household have the same, and preferably unique number. Having said that, where the numbers are clear and legible they should be entered as is. Where a number is repeated the onus is then on the user of the index to recognize the anomaly and draw their own conclusions. If two households have the same household number add 1000 to the household number for the second household in order to ensure it is unique. A line note should then be added to explain that this has been done. In the common case where the numbers have been written over it is preferable to choose the numbers that correctly group the households. Often the original numbers have been corrected but the correction is fainter or less clear than the original, it is still preferable to record the fainter but correct numbers or simply use sequential numbers where the overwriting makes the numbers in the original illegible. Note that the combination of page and line number create an unambiguous reference to a person and will normally provide a better means of refering to a record than using a household number both because of how commonly the household number is unclear and because the household number has no real meaning. Use of household numbers for references are mainly an artifact of printed transcriptions that have been reordered and online indices that do not provide listings of whole pages in the original order. In particular, note that refering to a page and line number does not tie your reference to a given index in any way, the page and line numbers correspond to the original documents.
Groups with no surname
There are several cases where a group of people did not use surnames including first nations peoples and religious orders. In these cases we have elected to use an identifying keyword for the missing surname and use the single name as a given name. Some example artificial surnames are: Sister (for nuns), Inuit, Blackfoot. This scheme has the added benefit that it makes it significantly easier to search the index.
Inclusion of titles
In cases where the enumerator has included a title it should be transcribed at the end of the givens field. For example, "Wood, Senator Josiah" should be transcribed surname "Wood" and givens "Josiah, Senator".