Census Records - When to utilize images and transcriptions...

Dear Editor;

I try to ensure that I have unbroken census coverage for a family. That is; I try to obtain records for each possible census year, showing each parent from marriage to death and each child from birth to marriage. One of my reasons is to ensure that I identify all the children. Another is that the names, ages and locations help me ensure I have the correct family and identify approx. BMD dates (I also try look at wills and testaments to corroborate my findings.) 

Given the expense in obtaining image records from pay-for-view sites, I'd like to avoid using them when I can safely do so. Are there any typically justifiable circumstances for using freely available census transcriptions, such as those at FamilySearch? I've never really seen this discussed before.

Submitted byEEon Wed, 06/19/2019 - 18:18
History-Hunter, for certain you need not explain to EE why you want to get every available census record across a person's life! As for whether we can justify using free extracts from one or another provider, second-hand stuff is second-hand stuff, regardless of the site we get it from. Database extracts also isolate the household from the community in which the individuals lived. If we rely on them, we miss all the clues that come from studying ancestral neighbors, their places of origin, and the migration, occupational, economic, educational, and naming practices of the neighborhood. We're accepting someone else's reading of handwritten names, places, and occupations--and we well know how often those are misread. All that aside FamilySearch does offer census images as well as their extracts (which aren't actually transcriptions), at least in all cases that I've used them.

Submitted byHistory-Hunteron Wed, 06/19/2019 - 18:34

Dear Editor;

Sorry if it appeared that I was stating something you would take for granted. However; I was keeping in mind that others may not have that same understanding.

My intuition was that only the actual images would do, but I thought I'd best ask. I've been incorrect before...

Unfortunately; with Scottish research, purchasing all the individual images is very expensive. And... there are no other sources except ScotlandsPeople. So; I may have to put my Scottish line on hold for a while to give me time to "feed my piggy bank". That's not a bad thing. I certainly have enough to keep me busy on my other lines and doing my research correctly is non-negotiable.

Submitted byEEon Thu, 06/20/2019 - 07:11
I've done the same to you, H-H … stated what I knew you knew, for the benefit of our newer readers. You're also right that ordering images can get expensive. In my own work, I tend to focus on areas to which I have access to quality records and expand the other areas on a "when possible" basis. That approach pays off doubly. (1) I've long since learned that doing a lot of work on the basis of data from secondhand records is a sure way to waste a lot of time and effort. And (2) Lack of affordable access to better records is a situation that often remedies itself in today's research environment. (Even in notoriously "closed" Virginia, some county courthouses are allowing FS to put their record images online.)