FAQ: Making Corrections to Data and Reporting Errors

One of the questions I hear often through e-mail or on the blog is “How do I correct my ancestor’s information on Ancestry?”  To enable users to correct erroneous information found on the site, Ancestry provides a Comments and Corrections feature. This could include transcription errors, the addition of birth or maiden names (e.g., if a known name change has occurred), nicknames (to increase search options that will locate this record), name variations (if these occur for records), and incorrect originals (i.e., the original record is incorrect).

To add a comment or correction:

  1. Click on the Comments and Corrections link from the individual’s record page
  2. Click the Add an Alternate Name link on the next page
  3. Enter information in the First Name and Last Name fields
  4. For the Reason, indicate any of those previously indicated
  5. Provide a brief but helpful explanation of the information you enter
  6. Click the Submit Correction button

Once it’s live, people searching for your ancestor will be able to find them using the alternate spelling you have provided. You can find answers to many more questions like this in the Ancestry Knowledge Base. In addition to the library of FAQs, there are also tabs where you can get Live Support via chat (Monday – Friday:  09:00 AM – 07:00 PM EST) or Email Ancestry Support.

16 thoughts on “FAQ: Making Corrections to Data and Reporting Errors

  1. This is all well and good. However, some people make “incorrect” corrections. For example: If I know that the name is Ambrose (because the man is my great grandfather), but the census taker wrote down Bruce because he didn’t know the name Ambrose, this is a reasonable addition to the data. However, if someone thinks that Smith looks like Swifh, just because it could be interpreted that way. That kind of double entry is confusing. I would like to see a way to make certain that what the census taker wrote as Balck should be Balch, not that Black. Is there a way to take into consideration the “data” from the person entering the “correction?”

  2. I would like to be able to see or contact someone making a correction on any of my ancestors. It may be a relative or at least someone who has knowledge of my ancestor. To be able to make contact would enable us to share any information we have on that particular ancestor. To see a correction made on one’s ancestor means that someone else also has knowledge or information on that person.

  3. I have to agree with Barbara…very frustrating when I see my family names being corrected incorrectly. I guess people think they are helping, but it is definately making things confusing for a researcher. When I make a correction to my family names I always type in how I know this person…it should be a requirement so you can see if the other person is a relative or just someone making a correction. Do people know that after you click on the census record to view the person’s info that you can click on correction/more info icon by person’s name and it will tell you who made the correction? All corrections should be made that way. I would assume that people don’t want to take the time or don’t want their email addresses showing. The problem seems to lie in the corrections with the little yellow triangle next to them where no additional information is left. Maybe a little stronger message about not making corrections to family names that you don’t really know would help.

  4. I too would love to make corrections as well as receive corrections. Therefore, I prefer to be made aware before it is permanently done. If possible, the change should be entered with a color highlighting the change and/or underscored in quotes, so it will be obvious that someone made a change. The altering party should be required to provide their name, date and email #, etc. Only after I have seen the correction and confirm the change with the altering person doing the correction should it become permanent by both of us notifying Ancestry that the change has been agreed by clicking a “box” saying so.

  5. Many of my relatives’ names were indexed incorrectly. For example, in the 1920 US Census, the surname Niedzialkoski was indexed as Pudgealkoski. I submitted a correction. Now when I search for Niedzialkowski, the correct record is found, but the search results still show Pudgealkowski. I cringe whenever I see the surname so badly mangled.

    However, I noticed recently that someone has added another alternate spelling of my grandfather’s surname – this time it’s Pudzealkoski. I have no idea who entered this new misspelling or why it was added.

  6. I agree with all of you. I would also like to see Ancestry make it possible to correct things other than names. In many cases I have seen transcription errors for the gender and the age or birthdate. It’s very frustrating not to be able to correct errors on anything but the name.

  7. I too, have found various misspellings, some by the enumerator, some by the transcriber. For the former, there’s not much that can be done about it, but suggest the correction. For example, I found my grand-aunt listed as William Minter, when her name was actually Wilma Mintier. I corrected each member of the family, describing how I was related, and that it was an enumeration error.

    For the latter type of problem, while I have looked at many records, and have problems, myself, reading many of the census records, the indexes can be a trip-and-a-half. Obviously, only one person was responsible for transcription, and, to me, it seems they were VERY tired when hitting many of them. I have used the Viewer’s capabilities, and can see what the actual enumerator wrote, many times, correctly. I never could understand how the transcriber got the name they entered in the index, in these cases. However, I have also seen many cases where someone else goes through, and makes a correction that is absolutely, positively wrong (as mentioned above), and can’t understand how the ccc person accepted the change, unless they just “blindly” did. At least now it appears there’s the capability of TWO people correcting the data in the indexes (the one making the correction, and the one accepting it).

    I understand the frustrations of many of those how responded above. However, many times, I can also see HOW the transcribers or “correctors” got what they did.

    Should their name and email address be associated with the correction? Sure… Same way the messages are flagged, using an image of the email address. Only “members” should be able to make changes, and only members should be able to see the information of those who made those changes. The description of WHY they made the correction should also be included.

    Ancestry is wonderful with databases. I would think that it shouldn’t be that hard to include this information.

    BTW: I appreciate all the time and work Ancestry and others have put into transcribing all of this information for the world. I also appreciate (or try to 😉 ) those who see what they believe to be an error, and try to correct it. Frustrating? Yes, but most of the time, I can see where they got what they got. Look at it that way, and it will be easier to handle. Remember, WE KNOW the names as they SHOULD be. They are only looking at the records, and trying to decipher what they APPEAR to be.

  8. I agree that I would like to have a way of contacting someone who has made a correction to one of my relatives. Ancestry could just forward our emails on to whoever made an entry..like they do in other areas (one world tree). It could show just the user name and not the email address.
    I too enter how I know or am related to the person I am correcting.
    I’m not sure Ro-jean’s suggestion is feasible…seems like a lot of work on Ancestry’s part to “negotiate” a change. But is there any way to take off an alternate spelling when we know it’s incorrect like in Steve Danko’s case?
    I would like to see more information especially when there is more than one “alternate”. This way we could see what is correct and what is just a suggestion.
    Judy Rosen

  9. I agree wholeheartedly with all the comments made! I think if more proofing attention were delegated to the inputted information, the need for corrections would be greatly diminished!

    I love ancestry.com and I hesitate criticizing since the pros DEFINITELY outweigh the cons; I’ve garnered much valuable and otherwise unattainable information. However, I do believe the proofreading–if any–is woefully inadequate. In many cases, the original document from which it was transcribed isn’t even required to immediately identify an error. For instance, in the FAMILY DATA COLLECTION – MARRIAGES … http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?ti=0&indiv=try&db=genepoolm&h=1012333

    Note that the same name is listed for both of the parties of the marriage; “NAME” and “SPOUSE.” This is a COMMON type of error that I have seen in many ancestry.com databases.

    I apologize if this wasn’t the correct place to “voice” this opinion. And again, I know I have definitely benefited from this website. Best wishes to all and thanks for allowing this opportunity to “speak!”

  10. I found that the corrections are general in good faith, but the person who does not check out the whole indenty of the person is the one who causes the problems. Maybe it is just to get done with that name (I have worked on it so long) that the correction is to satify their tree and to get done. Sometimes the error is that the transcriptor needs more practice is handwriting anylsis. I have a case where the “transposer” incorparated the notations in the magins into the census record and “he” did not read the notations correctly either. I have a brother whose handwriting has been the same for seventy years and a brother whose writing changes with each letter. I know that it is time comsuming, but should not the corrections be “looked at”? And there is nothing to say that the correction can not be recorrected. I seen one yesterday where ‘Ino’ changed into ‘Mrs’ By looking at the prevouis and next record it was easy to see it was wrong.

  11. I would rather have someone not change my entries until they correspond with me first. I have mangled rather badly some of my entries by getting my trees mixed up, but am leaving that alone until I get all my info correct for re-entry. In the meantime, someone came along and STOLE my grandpa who I remember quite well (I am 79) and it was correct. So now I have to steal him back! Don’t have a lot of time left to finish the history of mine and my husband’s families (2 for him and 2 for me). I had not realized that other people would be able to change my entries until I lost my grandpa!

  12. The person making the correction should have PROOF for the change. When I make corrections, I always indicate my relationship to the name that I am changing. The correction should be noted with the PROOF!

  13. Web search option: Please explain to me why the web search returns entries outside of the birth and death date of the indivdual in the search. If I find a record for one of my family members, I always continue the search to document PROOF of the date on the One World Family file. Since the search begins with birth date, place and usually death date and place, why does the web search give me records outside of the period of time? It is so IRRITATING!

  14. I’m late to these comments, I just encountered another problem.
    How to correct Ancestry’s correction that I made but my correction was read incorrectly. One needs to post a note/comment in the correction box. This does not correct the original correction, but @ least there is a note regarding the errors. Now people only need to know to read all the comments/notes.

  15. I frequently use the California Death Index (1940-1997) as many of my immediate ancestors lived in California. Recently, I was reverifying the death record of my great grandfather and, even though I searched for the record in several ways, I was unable to locate it in Ancestry’s version of the California Death Index. (I had originally found the record there three or four years ago.)
    I decided to ‘google’ the California Death Index and the first reference took me to the Rootsweb search page for the index. Using that search page, I had no trouble finding the record. I have had other similar problems in the past but Ancestry customer service is not able to help. It seems to me that Ancestry should have a standard reporting system for such errors. What they do about them is, of course, their own affair but there really should be a standard way to report and follow up such problems.

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