Old Transcriptions

West Point Cemetery, West Point, Hancock County, Illinois, taken 28 May 2017 by Michael John Neill

The newest and latest is not always the best. It also may not be the most accurate. A set of tombstone transcriptions done in the 1930s may be more reliable in some cases than those done more recently. More stones may have been extant and inscriptions may have been more legible. Even a set of transcriptions done in the 1980s may be preferable to ones done more recently.

And if the first transcriber was more attentive to detail that helps as well. A more modern transcription may have been done using pictures of tombstones that were enhanced digitally. It’s hard to make a snap decision and immediately say which transcription is best or most accurate.

The same is true for handwritten records as well. A transcription done in the early 1900s may have been done when the handwriting was less faded and easier to read. That transcriber may have been more familiar with local families and their names.

The key is not to ignore older transcriptions of records simply because they are older and may look less polished than modern renderings. There may be things visible 100 years ago that are not visible today.


3 thoughts on “Old Transcriptions

  1. Virginia Brizendine

    The cemetery transcriptions done by local chapters of the DAR around the 1930s are a great example of this…..even if you only get to view the 5th carbon copy printed on onion skin paper. One of the reasons that the National DAR library in Washington DC is a wonderful resource.

    1. michaeljohnneill Post author

      Good point. Some of these are in statewide libraries as well (maybe the 4th carbon 😉 ). I’ve used them at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois.


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