Tuesday's Tip: A Tale of Two Indexers

(Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette) In the last week or so I renewed my search for an Aleksander Szerejko. I don't know for certain, but I believe Alexander may be my great-grandfather Leonard Szerejko's brother. I'm trying to tie Aleksander, Leonard, and a Victoria Szerejko together as siblings. For info on Victoria see my previous post What's in a Name? (An Ongoing Series) : Radziewicz. I discovered the Ancestry immigration collection was available for free over the Labor Day weekend, so I decided to take advantage of the offer rather than wait for my next trip to the library.

I did a bit of searching and eventually came up with a record for an Alexander Szorescko from Warchau. My grandfather and my great-grandfather were from Warsaw, so it makes sense that the Aleksander I'm searching might be from Warsaw. Warschau is the German translation of Warsaw--the ship set sail from the German port of Hamburg. Again, it makes sense that the person writing the information from a German port might write the name of the city in German.

The other night I jumped over to Steve Morse's One Step site to search the Ellis Island site from there. I found the following: Alexander Storeako from Warshon. Same person and the same record, but a different interpretation of the handwriting.

I looked more closely at the record. What do I see when I look at the record? I see Alexander Szoreako from Warshau. Three different people interpreted the same record in three different ways. I'm still not convinced Alexander Szorecsko or Alexander Storeako or Alexander Szoreako is my Aleksander Szerejko, but it gives me something to go on at this point.

Tip for the Day: If you can't find the record you are looking for using one database, try another database that searches the same set of records or record groups. Maybe you'll find it there.


Anonymous said...

This is so true. I run a surname site for my last name (Lamberson) and its variants (e.g., Lambertson, Lomison, Lamason, Lamberton), and I can't tell you how many ways I've seen the name spelled. Sunderson, Lamberrin and Tombinson come to mind, however.

Even working with so many variants of an unusual name, after working with one spelling in a particular locality for awhile, I myself forget to check the variants and have to reteach myself this valuable lesson.

Anonymous said...


Good post! Great minds think alike - maybe because those of us with Slavic names suffer a little more from mis-translations. I had a similar article a while back on my blog called An Index is Only as Good as Its Spelling. It pays to look around!


Cynthia Shenette said...

Greg - It's interesting to hear you say that regarding what sounds to be, at least to me, a fairly straightforward name. Apparently every name presents its own unique challenge. I suspect people have figured out how to misspell John Smith on more than one occasion. I always check for variants and note the various spellings in my files. You're right, geography plays an important part as well. I'm glad you found my tip useful. Thank you for your comment!

Cynthia Shenette said...

Donna - Thank you for your comment and your compliment! I agree, I think Slavic names do suffer a bit more from misspelling. In my case I've seen German spellings, Americanized spellings, phonetic spellings, and plain old-fashioned misspellings. I also try to think of what something might sound like with a Polish accent, particularly for the census. Soundex is frustrating-too many results. I haven't read the post you mentioned, but I certainly will. We Poles have to stick to together to figure things out!

Karen the AncesTree Sprite said...

This is so true! In the US census records, I searched the Ancestry.com indexed database for my DeHart gr-grandparents and their children. I knew exactly where they had been located (they were farmers who owned the same farm for generations). I had found them in the census before and the census after the one I needed, but they were totally missing from the census I was searching. So I had to go through and look at the original census images for yje area, page by page...Lo and behold - there they were! Clear as day, the DeHart family!

I didn't find them searching the ancestry.com index because the indexer had transcribed the family name as Pedrakr, instead of DeHart. The transcription was so far off base that the results didn't even appear in a Soundex search. Try as I might, I couldn't see how the indexer had seen Pedrakr instead of DeHart in the census taker's handwriting, but they had and that's how the name was indexed.

Cynthia Shenette said...

Karen - It is frustrating when you see something that looks so clear to you. Sometimes I think the indexers are in too much of a hurry. Other times the recorder is the problem. I've seen more errors than I can count. One example, my great-grandmother is listed in the 1930 census. She died in 1924! What happened there?

Thanks for your comment!