Don’t Key Crazy Things!

By Gillian Sicotte

Occasionally, values get keyed into fields that are descriptive in nature, rather than strictly what is shown on the image. While it is wonderful that individuals are taking the time to make educated judgments, these judgments should not be keyed into project fields. So what should and shouldn’t be keyed into a field? Follow the guidelines below for keying success!


The wiki page for any project you are working on will have detailed instructions for each specific field being keyed. Some of these fields will include the instruction, “Key as Seen.” This means that the values for this field should match what is on the image, including any punctuation.

The World Archives Keying Standards give further information into the “Key as Seen” instruction. It reads, “No additional characters should be introduced in keying, which do not appear on the image.” This means that even though you may want to show the reviewer (or Ancestry) why you keyed the value you did, only what actually appears on the image should be keyed.

For example: If I was keying the surname on line 11 (see below), and I didn’t know what the fifth character was, I would either take an educated guess, or using the “Illegible ” rule, key double ?? marks into the space where the character should go. If the word is entirely illegible, you should mark the field as illegible using ctrl-I or its corresponding button in the keying tool.
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  • Correct: “Peachmaster”
  • Incorrect: “I think that this could be ‘Peachmaster’ because the fifth letter looks like other ‘h’ characters found on the image.”
  • Also Incorrect: “I don’t know, good luck figuring this out!”


One major help in determining whether or not the value you are keying into a field is valid are dictionaries. Dictionaries provide values that are expected to be seen in a specific field, based on the parameters of the project. However, dictionaries do not cover every value. Words may still be correct, and will not be shown in the dictionary. If a value is not in the dictionary, the field will turn red. This does not mean that the value you typed is incorrect, it is just saying that it is not an expected value in this field. Go back and double check that what you typed matches the images, and then click the green check button or press “F7” on the keyboard to validate the field.
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The following pages can offer further explanation and examples:

Previous Articles

Australia, Sheriff’s Papers (Part 1) UPDATE

New and improved Alabama

New USHMM project

Happy 5th Anniversary World Memory Project!

Contributor Project Testing

Kansas is back!

How we get the Keying Wiki

Colonial Families in the U.S.

More UK Projects

Welcome to Ancestry World Archives Project News

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