Frequently Asked Questions: Searching the ELSG website for place, property or family names – additional guidance
Q. If place, property or family names appear in original documents, do they always appear in your document summaries on the website?
A. In a nutshell, if the website page title shows the record source as 'catalogue' the entry is an unedited copy of the Public Record Office or other archive catalogue listing - ELSG members have not read the underlying material and we can't be sure whether particular place, property or family names are in the original document or not.
If the page title shows 'original document' as the source, our members will have seen the original and prepared the summary. In these cases you can be pretty sure that the main place, property and family names WILL be given if they occur in the underlying material. However, this may not include peripheral references.
For a more detailed understanding of searching the ELSG website for names, and some searching tips, we must start with the fact that there are broadly four types of basic records/ summaries that you may find on the website, with different degrees of rigour and detail.
The first type of website summary record is simply a copy of the Record Office's own catalogue entries, which we have entered to provide a basic online index of available records. These quote 'source' in the website page header as " Catalogue" . They are the least detailed and of significantly variable quality; the absence of a property or family name is NOT a reliable indicator of whether or not one is mentioned in the underlying document. Typically we will not have studied the originals ourselves, and only inspection of the document itself at the Record Office will tell for sure.
The second kind of summary will have been made by Study Group members from original documents; these normally quote 'source' as " original document" , will be rather more detailed and WILL normally include the most prominent or relevant property names and family names so that the website search engine can find them. However, a summary is necessarily not exhaustive - other place and family names of lesser direct relevance to the main subject matter of the document [for example names of witnesses to wills] may sometimes occur but NOT be included.
The third type of record is full or partial transcription, again usually by Study Group members, and the title will normally include the word “transcript” or “transcription”. These also quote 'source' as " original document" and WILL necessarily include full details of property and family names wherever they occur. It is important to note that transcripts will normally retain the original spellings, which may vary widely between [and sometimes within] documents referring to the same locations or families [see searching for spelling variations, below], so careful interpretation may be required.
The fourth type of website record includes photographs of the original documents. 'Source' will again be shown as " original document" and the title will normally include the words 'Image', ‘photograph’ or 'Digital Archive'. The accompanying summary description WILL normally include the most prominent or relevant property names and family names so that the website search engine can find them, but other place and family names of lesser direct relevance to the main subject matter of the document may well occur but NOT be included in the summary. The images themselves cannot be searched directly, but a good deal more information can usually be gleaned from reading through them.
Some documents may appear on the website in more than one of the above forms - e.g. there may be both a catalogue summary and a photograph or a transcription. This is always worth checking, and the easiest way to see if there are different levels of detail on the same document is to enter the Record Office reference into the search engine – this will show all entries on the website relating to that reference on the results page, and may sometimes also include cross-references to other related documents.
Another useful tip is to use the search engine to look for known or likely variations in spelling of place, property or family names. Different spellings frequently occur over the years either as a result of transcription/ copying errors or, more frequently, from clerks using idiosyncratic phonetic spellings as they wrote down verbal accounts in documents such as wills and deeds. Where particular alternative spellings occur frequently we have designed the website search engine to highlight them on relevant search results pages and offer the option to extend the search automatically to include listed known variations whenever one of them is used as a search term. In instances where less common spellings have been used the Ewyas Lacy Study Group researchers may have added the modern name in parentheses to their summary, description or transcript to assist searching where they are reasonably certain of the correlation from their own local knowledge. However these cross-references are not always possible because the evidence in documents for such modern day correlations is often ambiguous or inconclusive.