18 September 2014

If It's Tioga, It's New York State--Not!

The index entry at Ancestry.com for Henry William Trautvetter didn't make too much sense to me. The name, date of birth and residence matched my great-grandfather's brother of the same name. 

What didn't match was the place of birth, "Hancock, New York, USA."

Henry was born in Walker Township, Hancock County, Illinois, and I decided that the place of birth as shown on the index entry must have been some sort of transcription error.

Well it was--but not in the way I originally thought.

I had seen Henry's World War II draft registration card before and, to be perfectly honest, while I had read the entire thing, I had not really noticed the "error" circled in red on the image of the card shown below.

The person filling out the card indicated that Henry was born in Hancock in the state of Tioga. What the card completer likely meant was that Henry was born in Tioga, in Hancock County, Illinois. Tioga is located in Walker Township where Henry was born and was near the family's farm and where they attended church. It doesn't seem too much of a stretch for Henry to have said he was born in Tioga. When I read the card, I knew what the person meant and didn't think too much of it.

But a transcriber unfamiliar with the location and the family does not have that point of reference. For some reason the transcriber decided that the intention of the card was to refer to Tioga--the one in New York.

That's the problem with "standardizing" data entry and insisting that transcribers use "drop down" "pre-filled" menus for some items. This was a non-standard entry. In transcribing it, I'll transcribe it as it is written on the card (and comment about the likely error).

Sometimes one can't make every card "fit the form." And this card certainly does not indicate that Henry was born in New York State.

This is how careless researchers get incorrect places of birth in their database.