13 January 2013

Can You Find Professor Emeritus

Before reading this post, remind yourself that the option to performing full-text searches is to search the material yourself, page by page. That's not usually an option.

A search on  Ancestry.com for the name Professor Emeritus will result in several hits. Of course, there is no person actually named Professor Emeritus, but because of how some printed materials available on  Ancestry.com are automatically read, the name comes up in search results.

This entry from the U. S., City Directories, 1821-1989 (Beta) is a case in point. It indicates that there is a reference for Professor Emeritus in the 1848 Syracuse, New York directory. It even indicates that there may be additional references to Professor in other  Ancestry.com databases.

A look at the actual reference makes it a little more clear why an automatic transcription process would locate Professor Emeritus in this directory-the underlined entry is the one to which the database entry above is referring.

The Rev. John J. Brown may or may not appear in the index to this database at  Ancestry.com. Users of  Ancestry.com should keep in mind that some records are indexed automatically, particularly ones in print. If your ancestor's directory entry is atypical, he may not appear in the index while he does appear in the actual directory.

Professor Emeritus also appears in the "United States Obituary Collection" as well. The reason again is the automatic indexing process that is used to index these records. The locations mentioned in the obituary include some phrases that the process thought were locations, but apparently are not, such as "Mutual Economics" and "Over the Years."

The names of others mentioned in the obituary are somewhat closer, but any automatic process will have a few situations of this type.This obituary was actually for Jewell Rasumssen who is listed as an "other person mentioned in obituary."

A few general comments.

Index entries should not be any part of the user's transcription or use of this data. These entries are meant to be finding aids to, in these examples, city directories and obituaries. What the actual city directory and obituary say should be used in your genealogical material, not the index entry.

Any type of index created by an automated process is bound to have some errors of this type. The user should bear in mind that it is significantly cheaper to create indexes of this type than it is to have humans perform all the data entry. Indexes created by humans also contain errors.

We mention issues of this type not to bash Ancestry.com. We mention these errors so that users can be better informed and use  Ancestry.com more effectively in their searches. A knowledge of and an awarenessof pitfalls in indexes and finding aids allows users to create better search strategies in order to locate the information that  Ancestry.com has about their ancestors.

Thanks to reader CR for finding Professor Emeritus for me and passing him (or her) along.