21 March 2012

Tech Tuesday ... US City Directories for Columbus on Ancestry

You may or may not have known this but Ancestry.com just updated their US City Directories. I've looked at a few of the directories for Columbus, Ohio on Ancestry.com but I stopped. The reason was that I could not connect the images to the people on my tree in the same fashion as I could Census records, and the like.

Finally, Ancestry has indexed the Columbus City Directories from 1862 to 1960. That's HUGE! I have worked with only one family and it will take a long time to connect every record to just the Hoppe and the Brown families. I haven't even started connecting Geiszler families. Let's just say, I'll be busy.

Just a word of caution, it is in Beta form. I think I've discovered what this means. It looks like Ancestry.com used an OCR (optical character recognition) to index their records. In many cases, this has worked splendidly. In other cases, not so much. For instance, There are farm more Brown persons in the 1920s and 1930s directories. The directories use ditto marks rather than list Brown for the hundreds of persons with the name. That makes a lot of sense pre-computer era. Unfortunately, the OCR interprets the ditto marks as the letter M. Sometimes my Samuel Brown relative will be recorded as M Samuel (first name M) or Samuel M (last name M). I make adjustments in the index entry easily and attach the record for Samuel to my tree.

The other problem I see is when a person (or series of persons) are not indexed at all. Some names are skipped over, and it seems to always be August Hoppe for some reason. Some groups of names seem to occur on the Brown pages when an odd character is found and the OCR will cut of its interpretation for a series of names until it understands another entry further down the page. Perhaps there was something wrong with the paper for this cluster of names which made the OCR technology not work exactly. Again, it's Beta and I'd expect strange errors like this.

My only complaint, and it's a small one, is there is no way to report the second 'error.' I can report when an image is of poor quality or the like. However, there is no way to report that a name or group of names is not indexed. I haven't found a way to insert an index entry for the missing name either. So, if Ancestry.com would create an option on their 'report problems' for missing entries, then I could let them know and feel like I'm helping them move out of the Beta testing phase.

In any case, I'm having a blast with the ability to connect the US City Directories database entries for my family. I don't even mind that I have to do the hard work (meaning there are no shaking leaf hints). See you in about two months as I go through each person in the directories and all of the possible years they can be found. It's going to be a fun, long while!!!! ;)

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