Friday, 9 June 2017

Transcription errers

This week we have a blog post from our volunteer, Jean, who researches Canadian soldiers.
Not Middle Earth or Westeros
Not Middle Earth or Westeros
Many of you will have transcribed handwritten documents, and know how it can sometimes be impossible to decipher the handwriting. In a document it is usually possible to work out the word from the context, but trying to decipher place names is another matter completely, unless, of course you are familiar with the area.

Spare a thought for those who transcribed the 619,000 plus attestation papers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force to prepare them for digitisation, which included of course, the records of the nearly 3,000 men from County Durham who had enlisted. They couldn’t just go to a gazetteer to check on a place name because they weren’t able to decipher it let alone spell it correctly.

It was whilst looking at my list of names and places of birth for our men who joined the CEF that made me consider these problems ... I hadn’t for a start realised that there were so many ways to write Hartlepool. There’s Martlepel , Hurtlepool, Hortiport, Hortlepool, Hartley Hill, Hartleypal, Nortlepool, Hattlepant, Martlopool and more.

In most cases you can tell straight away what the place name should be, but occasionally I have to go back to the original attestation paper to see if I have better luck than the original transcriber in deciphering the writing. Sometimes just a quick look gives the right place and I think how did they get that wrong, but that is so easy for people with local knowledge to say. Occasionally I need to go a bit further and check birth or census records, but in the end most are decipherable.
Examples from the Canadian records
Examples from the Canadian records
Some of my favourites are Leaham Herbert and Scaham Harbon for Seaham Harbour; Noughland Spring and Hootenay Spring for Houghton-le-Spring; Walton Port for Witton Park; that well known Scottish island Splluy Mora for Spennymoor; Westeonfith for West Cornforth, and how they made Daibrighton, Dedenfon and Durlinjlos out of Darlington I am not quite sure. But the two that stick out as unbelievable transcriptions are Wookson On Quebec (Stockton On Tees) and Jecce Ireland (Sunderland).

Try these ones and see if you can work out where our men were born: Loaf Hill; Camdon; Creek; Southsfield; Paocban; Hamituly; Buttley; Taw Haw; Lediefield; Onfield Place; Durshopel Codery; Sammerland and finally Southampton, and I don’t mean the port on the south coast!

Highlight the text below to reveal the answers:
Low Fell; Coundon; Crook; South Shields; Page Bank; Hamsterley; Birtley; Tow Law; Sedgefield; Annfield Plain; Burnhope Colliery; Sunderland; South Hetton.

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