Sunday, April 08, 2007

Correcting mistakes

A recent attempt by an inventor to cross the Serpentine in an inflatable balloon prompted a letter to the Daily Telegraph by a Jenny Jones, of Hampshire. It appears that her 3xgt uncle, a Sidney Parry who was a soldier in the Life Guards, once attempted to swim the Serpentine dressed in his full uniform. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it to the other side. He is pictured on the British Empire site.

Of course, nothing is ever straightforward – the site indicates the event was in 1833 but the date given by Jenny is 1834. And, since that was prior to civil registration, there’s no easy way to confirm which is correct. To do so will probably entail finding his burial, (although perhaps a memorial or newspaper report may provide the answer).

I seem to have come across quite a few errors of one sort or another recently. I decided to taking a break from writing emails and do some census transcription instead. Almost immediately I found two entries mistranscribed as Crouch when they should be Parrys. Then a housekeeper as Higgins, the Head of Household’s name, instead of Parry. And then a married daughter of a Parry, whose surname was dittoed to her husband’s surname of Jones, and yet she was transcribed as Parry. So I gained some and lost others!

I also discovered that, where I had previously submitted a correction to Ancestry (again, a case of a married daughter who had been given her maiden name of Goode, instead of her married name, Parry) Ancestry have highlighted her mother and sister and added a note that they also have the alternate name of Parry. Now that’s just silly!

I imagine they use software which “thinks” that if one member of a family has had their name corrected, then all those related to them should as well, rather than having a person actually checking the submission. But the moral of the story for researchers is to beware of the little yellow triangles which highlight an alternate name, because they could be very dubious “alternatives” (and there does not seem to be a way of checking how the triangle came about – whereas actual corrections indicate the submitter – so, unless you can make sense of the other corrections in the household, you could easily get caught out on the names).

Talking of errors, hopefully I have prevented one, by suggesting to a researcher that his family probably did not come from North Wales, given that all the evidence places them in Bristol. It’s a family I call the “Colston Parrys”, since they often use the name Colston as a forename, which makes them fairly easy to spot. Only “fairly” easy - there are a few censuses that I am unable to find them in and there are also a few entries I can’t account for, so it will be interesting to see how they eventually all fit together. Pity most of the marriages are outside of the range for the current Bristol Marriage Challenge.

But I have managed to check and submit entries for the four other challenges soon to begin, so that will be a help towards identifying all the GRO marriage entries. Again though, errors can be an issue – at least two of the entries I have received details for, from earlier challenges, have then turned out to relate to Perry families when matched up against census information (despite everything in the GRO system recording the name as Parry).

I have occasionally commented to Guild members with “old” English names about how their names appear to have a lot more spelling variations than Parry does (which also then leads to more possibilities of mistranscription for them). And I’ve assumed that the difference is due to the longer time that their names have had to mutate, since Welsh surnames settled later than English ones did. But sometimes I get that nagging feeling that, perhaps, when I finally start matching up all the Parrys, I shall find just as many of them “missing”, because they are listed under some unexpected spelling variations.

And perhaps, in the end, the distinction between Parry and Perry will not be as clear as expected based on the theories concerning their origins.


Andrew Millard said...

There is no account of this in the Times for 1833 or 1834, but perhaps he was the Lieutenant Sidney Parry presented to the King at a General Levee on 17 April 1833 on his promotion.

Barbara said...

Thanks, Andrew. Sidney is not a common Parry name so it's quite likely to be the same man. That narrows down the possible date range for his death, as well as giving me a lead on more career detail. Much appreciated.