11 February 2014

Churches That Do Not Exist; They Can't Spell Lutheran; and Why Search Terms Occasionally Are Part of a Citation

It's great to put digital copies of records online. It's not always so great when the digital version of the records is difficult to use. 

The ELCA records on Archives.com are a case in point. It is impossible to navigate the records by location and it is impossible to manually browse the entire set of records for a specific congregation. And there are the errors in church name and location. 

A search for John Ufkes in the ELCA records on Archives.com brought only two results. Fortunately both of these individuals were known to me. They were grandfather and grandson with the older man also being my great-great-grandfather. 

We will look at some issues with the grandson's entry first. 

The Titonka Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery is in Kossuth County, Iowa--not Des Moines County. It also is somewhat amazing that in a database of Lutheran church records the word "Lutheran" is spelled "Luthevor." The "Church" should be the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Kossuth, not the "American Lutheran Church." The American Lutheran Church is the name of the denomination with which the congregation was affiliated at the time these records were microfilmed.

Search result in Archives.com for John H. Ufkes in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America records obtained on 11 February 2014.
 A look at the entry indicates why the date of birth is listed as 11 Apr 4. I realize that the transcriptions were done in an attempt to be "true" to the original. It still seems to me that the word "Lutheran" in the name of the cemetery could have been read in context.

The other search result for John Ufkes has a similar problem.
Search result in Archives.com for John Hinr. Ufkes in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America records obtained on 11 February 2014.

The church from which this record is taken is the Immanuel Lutheran Church near Basco, Hancock County, Illinois. It also is not named the American Lutheran Church and it is not located in Carthage. 

Upon looking at the entry below, one can see how the name was indexed in the way it was. That's really not the issue with these records. 

The way these records are incorrectly identified will have researchers indicating that people died in places they never lived and attended churches that may never even have existed.

While the images can at least be partially navigated manually (by moving back and forth through the images), there still are not any sort of "title card" images (such as appear on Family History Library microfilm) to assist the user in determining just what record is being used. The user has to take it on faith that the record has been referenced as being from the correct church.

Citing the image is not easy either.

In the case of the 1924 death of John Hinr. Ufkes, I cannot really use only page 332 of the funeral entries from the Immanuel Lutheran Church. One reason is that there's no image of the title page, cover, introductory material, etc. There's just the images from the book. In the case of the funeral entries, it is not even possible to page through all the funerals for this one church.

A citation has to clearly let the user know how the creator of the citation got to the record. In this case, I did not browse to find all the records of a specific church and then locate the funeral entries for 1924. I searched for a name and used that name to link to the actual church record. My citation to this record needs to indicate that:

  • Archives.com indicates these records are from what I believe to be the Immanuel Lutheran Church near Basco, Hancock County, Illinois--even though the website indicates that the church records are from the American Lutheran Church in Carthage, Illinois. I probably should indicate why I think these are the Immanuel records.
  • I searched for a John Ufkes who died in 1924 as my way to navigate to the records as that is the only way to get to the images for John that are shown in this post. 
Why include all that?

Because there is the chance I could be wrong and future researchers need to be aware of how I obtained the images that I believed to be the John of interest. How I navigated to the record is necessary as well. Simply indicating that the records of a specific church are on Archives.com is not enough given how their records have been digitized. There is no way to browse these images by state, county, congregation, record type, etc. That impacts what I include in my citation.

I'm disappointed with how Archives.com put these records online. 


As mentioned before, we believe in citing information in the spirit of Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained. However my editoral policy on this blog is not to include citations as a part of each blog post. We do however include enough information in each post to obtain the original item or to craft a citation (if you think I haven't, please email me and I'll rectify it). We realize others include citations as a part of each blog post, but there are only so many hours in the day. My newsletter, Casefile Clues, does contain complete citations to any items referenced in that work