14 March 2012

Seeing it All Versus Querying a Database

These two cards from the patent index at the Maryland State Archives website is a perfect example of why I sometimes prefer to see all the entries in an index instead of query a database. Don't get me wrong, the ability to query databases is a great boon to genealogists, but there are times where I frankly waste too much time getting clever with search terms, tracking my searches. This card index is in PDF format and I can scan each name myself and decide if it is for the person of interest.

The second card has the name spelled "right:" James Rampley. I'm betting that that's the intent of the card right above it, but the name undoubtedly looked like Ramphy and the indexer, unfamiliar with local names, and operating under the directive of "type it as it looks," entered Ramphy on the card.

Sure, that's a variant spelling of which I should be aware, but sometimes variant spellings are so off the wall that looking at the actual entries like this is helpful. Spellings of this type are even more of an issue with older records where the handwriting if often difficult.

The Maryland State Archives had the right idea--scan the cards and upload them as PDF files. There is also a digital index to these records, which I've used as well. But having a second index is never a bad thing especially when it is in a different format.

That was one thing I liked about using the print version of the Germans to America series. I could actually eyeball all the names in the index. Book or card indexes don't have to actually be reproduced on paper--that's not how I accessed this one. But they are a nice additional option to have.

These patent cards can be linked to at: