We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about our pasts.
Yet sometimes records have anomalies.
Some are amusing or humorous.
Some are interesting or weird.
Some are peculiar or suspicious.
Some are infuriating, even downright laughable.
Yes, “Records say the Darnedest Things.”
Records Say the Darnedest Things: Oliver, Kankakee, Illinois
A reader, Jason Thompson, recently wrote and pointed out something unusual about the town of Oliver, Kankakee, Illinois in the FamilySearch collection, “Illinois State Census, 1865.” What’s unusual is, it doesn’t exist.
Search Engine Optimization
To check it out for myself, I thought I’d take a shortcut to the record collection by Googling the collection title. The Google search results show how much catching-up FamilySearch needs to do. Result #1 is an Ancestry.com collection, “Illinois State Census Collection, 1825-1865.” Result #8 is the first FamilySearch link, to a wiki article about the collection. (I’ve circled both in the screen shot, below.) The actual collection doesn’t show up at all.
FamilySearch implemented their collection list in a way that makes the list invisible to Google. Consequently, Google doesn’t know about their collections. Freshman error. They’ll get it fixed soon enough. First they have bigger fish to fry. And I have digressed away from one…
Images are available on both websites, so I clicked through to look at the first image on each. I clicked on FamilySearch and saw the image below, left. I clicked on Ancestry.com and saw the image on the right.
Okay, that was a cheap shot. The image is free on FamilySearch and what you see above, right, is the Ancestry.com “pay wall.”
The quality of the image on Ancestry depends a bit on what browser you use. With Internet Explorer, it looks like the image below, left. With other browsers, it looks like the image on the right.
I can see how Ganeer might be misread as Olevier, but Oliver would be a stretch, particularly for someone who has read my articles about the importance of context when indexing. No one with a list of Kankakee County localities (towns, villages, and unincorporated places) is going to come up with Oliver.
“I brought this [error] to the attention of FamilySearch,” said Jason Thompson, “and was referred to a web page stating that corrections simply can't be made to their records, no matter the circumstance.” Apparently, the support rep thought this was a run-of-the-mill indexing error.
Browse hierarchy errors are not created by indexers and are far more intrusive.
“This single error impacts 6 census images, 222 records, and 1,341 individuals,” said Thompson.
Thompson “reopened” his question to FamilySearch support. This escalates the issue up the support food chain. This time he was told
We report [these issues] for an engineering fix. When this collection comes up for review...all of the problems ever reported will be fixed and the collection republished. The fixes you are suggesting would require changes to the index, relinking to images and republishing the entire collection. It can't be done piecemeal.
There is a “Known Issues” section in each collection’s wiki article. I think it can be used to report these types of issues. See https://wiki.familysearch.org/en/Illinois_1865_State_Census_(FamilySearch_Historical_Records)#Known_Issues_with_This_Collection where I’ve done just that for the Oliver/Ganeer issue.
Oliver, Kankakee, Illinois? Yes, records say the darnedest things.