Beware the Bad Transcript

Bad Transcript
screen shot from Ancestry

Marriages in Aughagower Parish, County Mayo
Marriages in Aughagower Parish, County Mayo
“25 [Febry 1827] Patt McDonnel to Bridget Basquil prst. James McGuire & Wilm Basquil”

I am deeply grateful to the folks who transcribe old records for us. They provide an invaluable service, sometimes paid but often not. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining about the transcription. I’m not. I’m just issuing yet another warning that we need to be careful not to take them at face value.

First, this particular transcript on Ancestry is of an entry in a volume of marriages from multiple parishes in the diocese of Tuam. Each parish is dutifully recorded in the original, but that information seems to have been lost in the transcript, which misidentifies this marriage as happening in the parish Abbeyknockmoy, in County Galway. Not impossible, because there were some Basquills who migrated that way, but this was not one of those cases. The marriage–and another on the same page for an Anna Basquil who, I am sure, will turn out to be Bridget’s sister–occurred in Aughagour [Aughagower] parish in County Mayo.

I mention this mostly because I see people get really precious about transcripts on sites like Ancestry. They copy and paste them into their genealogy program, as if they have intrinsic value. They do not. The transcript is simply a finding aid. By all means, transcribe the original document yourself, but you are opening yourself up to perpetuating someone else’s mistakes if you copy and use the transcribed info from a genealogy website.

Second, the name. If you’re hunting Basquills, you will find that the Q is often mis-transcribed as a G. Judicious use of wildcards can help tease out some of the more common transcription errors, but it pays to be creative and flexible with your search strategies. And never, ever, ever get attached to the idea that there is one true way to spell a name.

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