Why can’t I find them in the census?
When transcribing a document for online research should you transcribe the document as it is written or transcribe the document, making it suitable for online searching?
A transcription by definition is ‘copied’ word for word, error for error. But are there times when common sense should prevail? There are other forms of transcriptions, but that can be for a later date.
Many online documents are transcribed abroad, where names and places are transcribed by those who have no knowledge of the country that the documents relate to.
Imagine you are looking for your maternal grandmother. You know her married name, eventually find her maiden name but her parents and siblings are unknown. A search of the census does not give any information that is helpful. Could it be that the enumerator has tried to save his time and effort by being scrimpy with the details by using ‘Ditto’ or ‘Do’. And there seems to be a large number of people with ‘Ditto’ or ‘Do’ as their surname.
For example in the Great Grimsby census for 1911 Mr Myers of 10 Bull Ring, Grimsby completed his form telling he was a grocer. His wife Rose was completed using her full name, Rose Myers, while the children, two of them were entered as Hilda Do and Harold Do. Percy Cahill, a window cleaner living at 125 Walnut Street, Hr Broughton, completed his form by entering his name in full, then completing the form by adding his wife and children’s names followed by ‘Do’.
Another example from the 1911 census is for Joseph Preedy who lived at 10 Acacia Avenue, St John’s, Wembley. Mr Preedy, a Head Glazier, who had been married to Alice for 16 years completed her name in full, then proceeded to name his children, each one’s name followed by ‘Ditto’.
That’s all well and good but there are also a number of people with ‘Ditto’ or ‘Do’ as a first name…….
Thomas Barns of Gaul Road, March, Cambridge, seems to have been a bit unsure on how to complete his census form – there are quite a few crossings out and a good old ink blot! Thomas enters his name, his wife’s details then complete his children’s information. Now, did he intend to put his eldest child Dorothy first, or enter his son first? There is a ‘Do’ before Ernest’s name, which may be due to Thomas being unsure of how to complete the form, but Ernest is now on the index as Do Ernest Barnes.
Henry Charles Wills of Sackville Gardens, Hove, is an Engineer and Tea Planter living with his wife and two children plus two servants – Mary Ann Tidball and Agnes du Cruyard, Agnes is found on the index as Agnes do Cruyard.
One young man in the 1911 is destined never to be found as he is entered by his father on the census as Ditto ” “. But the transcriber has shown a bit of thoughtfulness when placing him in the index. Michael Mcdonough, a widower, living with his family on Railway Street, Liversedge, Yorkshire, had named his second son after himself and therefore entered Ditto ” ” on the line below his name. Michael junior is followed by his elder brother Thomas, then John and a sister, Annie, whose surnames are all completed in full.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary the meaning of ‘Ditto’ is ‘a symbol that means ‘the same’ and is used in a list to avoid writing again the word written immediately above it‘. The ‘Do’ is a shorter form of ‘Ditto’ and can save even more time when writing repetitive words.
It might be worth while looking for a ‘Ditto’ or a ‘Do’ in a first and/or last name if you have lost a relative in the census