Transcription Guidelines and Frequently Asked Questions

Please note this is a work in progress and may be updated from time to time.

For convenience, the information has been organized into the following sections: For Beginners, Data Input, Submitting Corrections, Linking, Researching and System Related Questions.

Please note that as soon as possible, a French translation for the following information will be developed.

Table of Contents

For Beginners

What is the intent of transcribing only selected census information?

The intention of the index is to provide researchers with a gateway in order to make looking up the online microfilm record easily achievable. It is not intended to be a substitute for viewing the original record provided through LAC.

Other information is captured on the accompanying schedules for view by the individual researcher.

For the 1851 New Brunswick census, all fields on the form are being transcribed as part of the index.

Is Transcribing a Complicated Process?

The Automated Genealogy transcription process has been designed to be extremely user friendly. Many features have been included to save transcribers valuable time and avoid uneccesary duplication of repetitive data entry.

How do I register as a volunteer to help transcribe the Index?

The registration link “register” is near the top of each census home page. Once registered, volunteers should read the following transcription guidelines.

Please note that the registration for transcribing or proofing the census is independent from the registration to the Automated Genealogy message board; these are two independent registrations.

How do I select a page to transcribe?

Currently, only the 1851 New Brunswick and the 1852 Canadian census have pages requiring transcription; the 1901, 1906 and 1911 census records are now completely transcribed.

From the 1851 New Brunswick census Home Page, please note which Districts still remain to be completed from the status page (shown in light blue). Click on the sub-district you are interested in transcribing and select any page showing '0' in the Lines column.

From the 1852 Home page, select the desired province, then select the district you are interested in transcribing. Click on 'Pages' and select any page showing "0" in the Lines column.

As a courtesy, where one transcriber has already started transcribing an area, it would be usually be more helpful to find another district to assist in transcribing. Many of the transcribers may have already worked on the same district in the 1901 and 1911 census projects and have a special research interest in an area and knowledge of the families in the district.

Please note that many sub-districts in 1852 contain a page from the agricultural schedules, most commonly on the final page of the subdistrict, please do not transcribe these pages, even if they have been registered for transcription.

Sign in and then click on the “transcribe” link for the selected page. This will display the census page image of the selected page and the data input form in a split screen format. The census page image will be displayed in the upper part in Adobe PDF format which requires the Adobe's freeware Acrobat reader.

Data Input

How do I enter data?

The transcription must reflect as accurately as possible the original content of the census records. No interpretation of the original content should be made in the transcription process and no extra information added in the transcription fields.

The enumerator has added extra information in one of the columns, how do I record it?

Enumerators, or the clerks that tallied the data, sometimes added marks or numbers to columns. In the 1852 Census for example, one will often find Xs or other marks in the 'residence' column that indicate various things including marital status. This data does not relate to the purpose of the column, which is to record the residence if out of district limits, and should not be recorded in the residence column. Remember that the original image is only a click away so any extra information on the form is readily available there. The rule is to only transcribe data under a column if that data relates to that column.

How do I enter the address information in the 1911 census?

If you are signed in, you can enter the address information for each household.

Go to 'View Page' and you will find 'Add Address'near the bottom of the page.

Only enter the address once for each household!

Do I capitalise all letters in the surname?

No. Transcribe information only as it appears in the original census form including capitalisation as used by the enumerator. Surnames should not be entered completely in upper case letters; it makes it very difficult and time consuming for this to be corrected later on.

What do I do with unreadable entries?

If you cannot make out what is written in a census field, a single question mark “?” can be used to indicate an unreadable value. If a value is partially legible then the part that is legible should be entered and the part that is not should be represented with a question mark. If you feel you can make a reasonable guess at the characters then it is often better to enter your guess instead of a question mark.

Here are some examples, where the asterisk '*' has been used to represent an unreadable character in the original census:

Original ……………… Transcription

***** …………………… ? …………………… (An entirely illegible entry is transcribed as a single question mark)

Patt** …………………… Patt?……………… (Single or a series of illegible letters is transcribed as one question mark)

P*tt*n ………………… P?tt?n ( Try to fill in any letters that are legible with question marks for the remaing illegible letters)

Where the letters vaguely resemble a possible name, eg. 'Patten', transcribe the name followed by a question mark in parentheses, ie., Patten(?)

How do I transcribe a name that contains abbreviated given names and initials?

Sometimes the enumerator abbreviated given names, e.g. Geo. for George. Such abbreviations should be transcribed as they appear in the original. Some enumerators put periods after initials, others did not, and some were inconsistent. The preferred transcription is to record exactly what was written in the original.

How do I transcribe a name that contains a title?

In cases where the enumerator has included a title, it should be transcribed at the end of the givens name field with a comma separating the given name from the title. For example, 'Wood Senator Josiah' should be transcribed surname 'Wood' and givens 'Josiah, Senator'.

Similarly, 'John Smith Jr.' would be transcribed, surname 'Smith' and given names 'John, Jr.'

How do I transcribe names with Mc or Mac?

Transcribe as written by the enumerator. For the sake of consistency do not leave a space between the Mc or Mac and remainder of surname.

Please note however, that where the enumerator has used only M instead of Mc or Mac, there is no apostrophe and it can be absolutely ascertained that it is not a middle initial, the name should be transcribed as 'M Name'.

How are groups with no surname handled?

There are several cases where a group of people did not use surnames including first nation peoples and religious orders. In these cases we have elected to use an identifying keyword for the missing surname and use the single name as a given name. Some example artificial surnames are: Sister (for nuns), Inuit, Blackfoot (Tribe’s name). This scheme has the added benefit that it makes it significantly easier to search the index.

Are there any hints for transcribing hard to read names?

You might try this thread

How do I transcribe a field with a drop down menu?

For 1852 drop down menus have been provided for Occupations, Place of Birth and Religion. You may click on the arrow next to the field and then scroll and click on the desired value or you may enter the first letter of the desired entry, eg 'E' in the place of birth field and England will be selected.

A new feature for 1852 transcribers allows the addition of values to the drop down list for Occupation, Birth and Religion. you can add the new value to the beginning or the end of the drop down list. Please not that it is applicable to the page you are working on only. You will have to add values on each page if needed.

If it is a value that seems to be highly recurrent, please suggest that it be added to the main menu by posting to this forum.

Please note that the drop down menu must be in the same language as the page being transcribed in order to allow the display of the transcription in the language selected by the user and to eliminate translation errors.

To change the language of the drop down menu, click on the desired language on the command line: "Original page enumerated in: English French" located below the transcription or proofing input form.

What should I do with all the ditto marks in the 1852 Census?

There were no hard and fast rules for how enumerators used ditto marks in completing the form.

In many cases the ditto mark ", was used to indicate that there was no value to be entered in the field, not to indicate that the information in the field on the previous line should be repeated. This field should be then be left blank.

Transcribers must use some judgement, based on the style used by the enumerator as to whether to transcribe the previous value or leave the field empty.

Do I transcribe the "X" or "W" in the 'Residence if out of Limits' of 1852 census?

In the 1852 census, you will find that marital status shown on the accompanying schedule was informally duplicated on the page you are transcribing in the 'Residence if out of Limits' column just left of 'Age'. This duplication was done by the statistician to ease their tasks. Do Not record this information.

What about where the enumerator has used the word 'ditto'?

This does indicate that the value from the previous line for that field should be used. Please do not enter 'ditto'.

What do I do with crossed out lines?

If a line is filled in and then crossed out, enter the values for the line and use the note link next to the line in the table below the input form to add a line note indicating the line was crossed out. If there was a note on the original form such as "dead" include that in the line note comment.

Do I transcribe the "F" in the place of birth of the 1852 census?

The place of birth should be transcribed as written including the "F" when it is not part of the drop down menu. (i.e. "Bas Canada F" is not the same as "Bas Canada".)

What do I do with blank lines?

If a line is left blank all values for that line (except the line number!) should be left blank; please do not add a line note added stating that the line is blank. It is preferable for blank lines to be represented as empty fields rather than apparently missing. All blanked lines in a page must be transcribed so each page has a minimum of 50 lines. This is used as an indication that the transcription of a page is complete.

To add the extra blank lines, ensure that all the fields are empty except for the line number and repeatedly press the "Enter" key as many times as necessary.

I missed a line doing a page, how do I correct this mistake?

Providing that you skipped a line entirely you can just add the missing line, they do not have to be added in order.

If you entered subsequent lines with the wrong line number then the line numbers need to be edited.

How is a line note used?

Line Notes are used to add a comment when a line is struck out, contains comments or other information that is not easily captured in the standard fields such as notes in the margin of the page.

Line notes should not be used to capture the data in the fields of the census that is not transcribed or to submit corrections to transcription errors.

Line Notes are attached to a line number, not to the individual listed on that line. Please remember that if you change a line number, the note will remain attached to the line number originally affected by the note.

How do I edit or delete a line?

Go to the data input page and click on “Display Page” below the data input form. The transcribed lines from the page will be displayed with the “Edit” and “delete” commands at the end of each line.

What do I do with a duplicate page?

Report duplicate pages to the administrator at Questions and comments directed at the site admin. Be sure to completely identify both pages which you believe to be a duplicate of one another and which page should be deleted (census year, province/territory, district, sub-district number, and page number).

Are there any suggestions to help me read a poor quality image?

First, try enlarging the image using the view command on the Acrobat toolbar. Sometimes viewing the image at a higher magnification, or as a negative, helps. These techniques are available by downloading the image in MrSid format and then open it in an external graphics viewer such as IfranView: This will allow you to magnify and see in negative plus use limited image improvement tools. If all else fails, and you have the time and energy, try copying a small problem piece of the image into a high quality graphics program where you can use major image improvement tools.

What do I do with errors in the original Census Form?

Where the enumerator has made a spelling error in a name or one of the other values seems to be in error, the transcription must reflect the information entered by the enumerator. For an error in the surname, the proper spelling can be provided for the first family member listed through the use of a surname note, which will ensure these individuals are included in the search result. For an error in the given name, gender, or age, an off-line birth record could be added, including its bibliographical reference.

How Do I Claim a Page?

You must be signed on to be able to record your claim on a census page. Click the "Claim Page" link below the input form. Your stored credit allows you to be the only person able to transcribe and edit that page as well as being identified as the transcriber.

Please note that by claiming a page you are also committing to return to make corrections as required. If you enjoy transcribing, but do not wish the long-term responsibility for correcting the work, then you may wish to leave the page unclaimed.

Please do not claim a page where you do not intend to transcribe all the names and data. Where pages are not completed by the original transcriber within a reasonable amount of time, any claim will be removed and other volunteers will eventually complete the transcription.

Where you intend to complete a page, it is usually a good idea to claim it as you start to work on them. This will prevent others from thinking they have been abandoned.

Submitting Corrections

What if I find an error in the original census?

If the error is in the original census document:

- a surname note provides an alternate surname spelling and allows the members of this family to be identified in the result of a search done on this alternate spelling. When entering a surname note, indicate if it applies to the entire family or only to this individual. Also, please include the bibliographical reference to the source that corroborates the surname provided, and if applicable, add an associated note.

You will find much more information on this at Surname Notes

-for a discrepancy in the given name, gender, and/or date of birth - an online or off-line birth record link is the preferred way to annotate the correct information.

What do I do if I find an error in the transcription?

If you find an error in the index, the first thing to do is to absolutely determine whether the error is in the original data or in the transcription. Our policy is to transcribe the data as recorded in the original, even if the original is in error. We use different mechanisms to deal with errors in the original than for correcting the transcription. For a transcription error a correction can be submitted, for an error in the original we add notes and links to sources that give other information.

If the error is in the transcription, you can submit your suggested corrections as follows for each of the different census projects:

How do I submit a correction for the 1852 Census?

If you are a registered volunteer you can submit an error from the "split view" page. Click on the "Correct" link next to the line with the error. This link will only appear if you signed on.

If you are not a registered volunteer you can post to the 1852 Forum. Please describe the error including its location (province, district name, enumeration district number, page number, and line number) in your posting to this forum. A volunteer will view the original and either enter enter a suggested correction note or a line note, as appropriate.

What if I find find an error in the 1901 Census?

Please make sure the error is not in the original census. One of the most common errors is the misspelling of a name by the original enumerator. The index reflects the historical document and cannot be modified to suit our beliefs of what "should be" there, so these errors must be left as they are.

In come cases the transcriber made an error interpreting the enumerator's handwriting or a simple typo and we encourage you to report this type of error so it can be corrected. To report an error on a page look for some red text near the top of the page with a link in the middle:

-> If you find a transcription error on this page please use the proof page to verify the error is in the transcription and not the original, and then report it.

Click on the link and follow the instructions. There is a link to detailed help at the top of the proof page if you should need it.

How do I submit a correction for the 1911 Census?

You will find the information you require at 1911 Specific Documentation

Should I submit a surname correction for every family member?

No. When the transcriber accepts a surname correction, they are presented with a list of transcribed household members with the surname for which a correction was submitted. With this list, the transcriber is presented with the option to either "Change surname for all the listed records" or "Change surname for only the highlighted record", therefore surname corrections need only to be submitted for the head of household.

Only if another correction is also required to another line is it recommended to include the surname correction so that when the corrections are applied, the regular administrative 'sweep' will delete all the implemented corrections.

In other words when submitting a correction, it is better to include the corrections to all the fields that needs to be corrected.

How do I become a Proofer for 1901?

Just click on 'proof' on the page you want to review. Compare each and every line with the image data and click on any item that does not reflect what was originally transcribed. When you have reviewed all 50 lines on the page, click on 'I have completed proofreading of this entire page' at the top of the data entry portion of the page.

Note that for 1911, it is possible to have two proofers per page.

How do I become a Proofer for 1911?

For 1911, you need to be registered and signed on to proof pages. Once you have done this, the 'proof' function will appear on the sub-district page summary.

Just click on 'proof' on the page you want to review. Compare each and every line with the image data and click on 'correct' at the end of the line if you find data that does not reflect what was originally transcribed. You can make changes to all fields as required and submit only once for each line. When you have reviewed all 50 lines on the page, click on 'claim proofreader credit for this page page' at the bottom of the data entry portion of the page.


What is linking?

Linking creates joined entries for a person who is identified at least twice in one or more databases. An example would be a person who is in both the 1901 and 1911 Canada Censuses, or a person who is in a Canada Census and another Canadian Government database such as “Home Children (1869-1930)” or “Soldiers of the First World War (1914-1918)”.

At the far right of each line when using the 'View' page function, you will find the Link Centre icon which will allow you to link individuals in this census to an increasing list of records. Select the record you wish to link to and then use the 'search' function for that database to search for the match.

For much more information on linking or to report any problems, please go here

How do I create Links for marriage records?

The following is a step-by-step procedure to link two or more individuals to a non census marriage record.

In order not to create two marriage records, one for the bride and one for the groom, the procedure to link both the bride and groom to one marriage record is as follows:

  1. Create the off-site marriage record and add it to the link centre
  2. Add the groom to the Link Centre
  3. Select the groom record and the marriage record
  4. Link selected records
  5. Add the bride to the Link Centre
  6. Select the bride record and the marriage record
  7. Link selected records.

If you have an existing marriage record linked to only one of the bride or groom:

  1. Sign on to the record centre
  2. Bring up the Associated Records where it is already linked
  3. Click on the little icon next to the title in the marriage record to add the record to the link centre
  4. Add the record it isn't linked to
  5. Select the marriage record and the other record
  6. Link selected records

Alternately go to the site home page and use the offsite marriages link to find the record and use the icon to add it to the link centre, and then link it as before.


How do I make the best use of the transcribed Index for 1901?

You can find instructions for researching names here

How do I locate a Place Name in the 1901 census?

Information on how to locate place names can be found at Locating A Place in the Census

System Related Questions

Is access free and will it remain free when the index is complete?

Yes, access to the data as currently provided on the site is free and will continue to be free. If the site becomes too expensive to maintain the data will be given to someone who can continue to provide it for free.

The model for the transcription project relies on everyone deriving a benefit. Everyone benefits from free access to the index and that is what motivates volunteers to provide free labour. Automated Genealogy benefits from publicity and good will, and by having more data to perform automated searches on. It will never be in our best interest to try to revoke access as that would make us a pariah in the genealogical community. We think the census indexing projects are an exciting illustration of how internet technology can allow people to cooperate and collaborate on a scale that just wasn't possible in the past.

Who owns the data the volunteers create?

The transcribed data is owned by AutomatedGenealogy and is Copyrighted 2005. The data usage right authorisation was given at no cost for non-commercial use.

I get an error message. What have I done wrong?

Nothing, most likely.

The main reason for an error message is a time-out. This results from trying to access a Web site when it is either too busy to respond in a timely manner or is off-line. The Web site can either be, Library and Archives Canada, or any other site associated with the link that you clicked. Click your browser back button and try again. If after a few tries, you still aren't successful, then the site is most likely temporarily down. Retry in an hour or so.

Scheduled down times of the site are usually posted on the What's New at forum on the Bulletin Board.

What do I do if the census image does not appear on the screen?

The most common reason for a census image not being displayed is that the Library and Archive Canada site is temporarily off-line: in this case, verify if the required census image can be displayed directly from their site: loaded directly from the 1852 Census. If the image does not appear, it confirms that the Library and Archive Canada site is temporarily down, therefore retry at a later time.

In some cases, when people have upgraded their computers, it may be necessary to reload Adobe Acrobat in order to have the images load properly.

What do I do if I only get a partial view of the page for 1901?

Try the large image split screen link?

If you add &columns=3 onto the end of the split screen URL you will normally get the complete page.

The following is an example of what will be displayed:

Showing only the top frame of the split view:

I have a question that is not in the FAQ, what do I do?

You can post your question on the Automated Genealogy message board and the administrator and volunteers will do their best to provide an answer.

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