Posted by on 27 February 2012 in Record Collections

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I’m not a Facebook user so I thought I would post a comment here.

I was searching today in 1911 London > Wandsworth and found the same transcription problems which were pointed out in comments posted on this blog over two months ago, in December. That is, nothing has been rectified, at least in this section.

Examples of errors —
**lots of birthplaces not transcribed at all whereas original entry clearly states what the birthplace is
** portions of words are transcribed instead of the complete word, eg. Ham for Cheltenham, Wick for Warwickshire or Chiswick, Lesbury for Aylesbury, etc.
** birth country often transcribed as United Kingdom when it should be England

I’m not posting a question here because, as I said in December, I don’t expect that 1911 transcription errors will be corrected, mainly because the scores and scores of errors in earlier censuses — which have been on this site for many years — have not been (except by subscribers).

27 February 2012 at 10:34 pm

Andi, Have you sent the transcription errors to If not, try sending an email there with some of the errors that you have noticed.

28 February 2012 at 6:25 pm

I too looked at the new releases of Hampshire (which I was told this morning was only 76% completed) and Middlesex returns and it is even worse where people born in Portsmouth and living there in 1911 are not transcribed as being born in Portsmouth. This is also the situation for people born and living in Middlesex and people born in India are not transcribed either. How can there be so people who have no names or ages in the transcriptions, what is ludicrous is that a lock-up shed has been transcribed a female shed, so ancestry are now counting objects and not just people, including dead people!. Who decided a building should be transcribed?.

28 February 2012 at 6:41 pm

Replying to Trevor (msge #2 above) –

No, I have not contacted Ancestry at all to let them know about errors and I very much doubt that I will. My reasons are as follows –

1) My repeated past experience with Ancestry is that nothing will be done. I do get a reply, thanking me for alerting them to an error. But when I have revisited the erroneous data later (sometimes years later), I find that nothing has been corrected.

2) There are simply too many errors in all the censuses, including 1911, to spend time alerting Ancestry to each and every one.

3) Ancestry was alerted almost three months ago about the many transcription errors occurring in the 1911 census.
For example, see over 80 subscriber comments posted in reply to the Ancestry blog post in December which is titled “1911 Census – millions more searchable records”.
Many of the comments posted there clearly describe the extent and type of 1911 transcription errors. There are also a couple of replies from Ancestry that they were aware of the problems but this was described by them as “minor”.

4) Surely it is Ancestry’s responsibility to correct errors on their own website and not a job for subscribers alone (as seems to be the case now and has been for years).

For example, a few years ago, Ancestry informed me in one of their replies that corrections are not their responsibility — but mine as a subscriber. See comments I posted on 22 January in the blog post titled “130 Years of London Electoral Registers Released Today!”
Many of the 56 comments posted there were also about errors in transcription so I posted what I thought might be relevent info told to me by Ancestry several years earlier when I contacted them about people I had found who were missing altogether from the census transcriptions.

In that reply, Ancestry told me that –
“..we generally receive data from outside sources and post it as it was provided to us. In order to maintain authenticity in our records, we cannot make changes directly to material not created by Ancestry. To make these types of changes, you will need to contact the original creators of this data, have them correct this in their own records and then send this update to us for posting…”

In other words, Ancestry couldn’t/wouldn’t do anything about errors on their own site. Instead, it was up to me, as a subscriber, to take steps to correct errors.

I hope this answeers your question, Trevor. Sorry for the very long reply :)

28 February 2012 at 9:35 pm

I whole heartedly agree with Andi, Ancestry do not address the issues and as I said to them this morning that after the problems researchers had identified we hoped that the latest release would be better. I would certainly not recommend ancestry as there is no point in having more records if you can’t find the records. We may recall ancestry’s promise (2 months ago!) to keep researchers informed and they have admitted to me that they are looking at the “cost effective” way of amending the dreadful transcription (my words). This could all be avoided if they get people who know about the records and not just to make money.

28 February 2012 at 9:46 pm

First, I apologise for the smiley face icon appearing at the end of my previous message. I didn’t put it there — but isn’t it nice to know that Ancestry adds this to subscribers’ comments, even if it wasn’t requested?

I strongly feel that Ancestry needs to spend time correcting the countless transcription errors in all the millions of records they already have on their website, rather than continually adding new records which are very often just as bad — or worse — than incorrect ones which have already been on the site for years and years. Because, as David said in the previous comment, “there is no point in having more records if you can’t find the records”.

And, for example, I have found many many people in all the censuses, from 1841 onward, who I thought had no chance of being found by anyone looking for them because every single detail about them was mistranscribed. And, much too often, this is nonsensical gobbledegook (nonsense words or names) which is so clearly incorrect.

However, rather than spend time and money correcting mistranscriptions, Ancestry is spending what must be huge sums on TV ads here in Canada (where I live). These ads have appeared several times every day for months, on various channels –including American channels which we also see in Canada — and are, of course, to lure people into joining Ancestry and researching their family. All are told as heartwarming stories of success from supposedly “ordinary” people. There is, of course, no mention in them of possible difficulties — or even complete failure — as a result of mistranscriptions or mistakes.

Lastly, I will add that I didn’t always feel this disillusioned. Like most researchers, I started out starry-eyed and trusting in the accuracy of the transcriptions. Gradually, though, I came to realise that there were many errors which I dutifully sent in to alert Ancestry. Then I started noticing that none of the errors were ever corrected. But, I thought, that wasn’t so bad because there were only errors here and there.

However, it wasn’t until Ancestry changed their census search format several years ago so that the original page image was shown with the transcribed info immediately below it that it became glaringly obvious just how very many errors there were and how horrible the transcriptions actually were.

Ironically, this came about as a result of Ancestry providing an “improvement” to subscribers — a chance to directly and easily compare the original to the transcript. But all it did was show how incorrect the transcript so very often was.

29 February 2012 at 10:20 pm

Searching today in Hampshire, one of the counties most recently posted by Ancestry, only to find that there are very many birthplaces not transcribed at all. In other words, this is a problem which was first brought to Ancestry’s attention in December, yet is still occuring in counties just made available most recently.

There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to which birthplaces have been transcribed and which haven’t. Most of them are in the UK. It isn’t a question of not being able to read the original entry — it’s quite easy to see what the entry actually says.

4 March 2012 at 9:04 pm

It is worse that just the places of birth not being transcribed as there are many people without any names or ages specifically where they have stated their ages in years and months, i.e. 2 3/4 years old. It is a case of choosing any entry for Hampshire and find three or four errors (name, age, place of birth and occupations). There are a number of common non-transcriptions like people born in Southampton, Portsmouth and India (Bombay and Madras for example). There really is no excuse for this standard of transcription.

5 March 2012 at 9:54 am

David, I agree that mistranscriptions are much more widespread than just birthplaces. I’ve also found errors with ages, as you mentioned. Many infants under the age of 1 year are listed as age 0 (zero).

Also recently found over 600 pages of one section of Hertfordshire which is all transcribed as being in Middlesex.

7 March 2012 at 8:04 pm

One of the worst is a page with 64 errors!.

8 March 2012 at 9:20 pm

David, I agree that 64 errors on one page is pretty bad but, unfortunately, it’s not been unusual (in my experience) to find dozens of errors on many individual pages in the all censuses prior to 1911. And they’ve been there for years, uncorrected.

The 1911 does seem to be the worst of the lot, though. But I will be very very surprised if those errors are ever corrected. It’s obvious that this is just not a priority for Ancestry.

Perhaps I am being naive but I have always believed that a core concept of genealogy — and a primary responsibility for family historians — is the obligation to duplicate/reproduce original records as accurately as possible. The transcript should reflect what the original says. Otherwise, “research” based on those transcripts may be worthless.

10 March 2012 at 7:38 pm


I agree with what you say and I think the errors are so bad that it unlikely to let researchers having any confidence that they have found all of the records on their ancestors. If ancestry don’t want to do the work to an acceptable standard themselves, then pay family history societies to do it properly. The only good thing is that findmypast got the contract for the 1911 census!.

10 March 2012 at 10:11 pm