Saturday, May 23, 2009

water damaged pages England and Wales 1851 census

Family Tree, Family History, Find Your Past, UK |

Coming in the next month: unfilmed 1851 records online exclusively at

A short time after the 1851 census records go live, will add transcriptions and reconstructed images for around 160,000 individuals from severely damaged pages. They have been made available for the first time online after a 14 year project to transcribe the original records by the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society (MLFHS).

The records for the Manchester, Chorlton, Salford, Oldham and Ashton-Under-Lyne registration districts were water damaged many years ago when the storage area they were kept in flooded. Some were so badly affected that no writing at all was visible and many were too fragile to be scanned.

In some cases water damage was so bad that no text at all could be read

Image courtesy of Ray Hulley, Co-ordinator of the 1851 unfilmed census project.

Thanks to the statistical information that had been generated before the books were damaged, the transcription team knew that data from 217,717 individuals was missing. The team managed to retrieve 82 per cent of this data. We’re sure that you will agree that this is an impressive achievement, which would not have been possible without the immense dedication of Ray Hulley, the project leader, and his team of volunteers from the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society.

In 1991 a small team of London-based volunteers from the MLFHS began the painstaking process of transcribing the records, which were held at the Public Record Office in Chancery Lane. As the documents were too fragile to withstand the glare of artificial light, the volunteers had to rely on natural daylight to read them.

Invisible text revealed

After The National Archives was established in Kew in 1997, the project was transferred and with the expertise and support of the conservation department there, the team made considerable advances in the recovery of the missing text. Using the latest ultraviolet equipment the team were able to see writing that had not been visible with natural daylight, and to re-examine documents that had already been transcribed to recover text that was invisible to the naked eye.

The transcribers followed a policy of ‘faithfulness to the original’ in accordance with best transcription practice, and words were only transcribed as far as they were legible – in many cases only parts of names or other details could be deciphered. In some cases street directories and rate books were used to confirm that names had been interpreted correctly, but the transcribers resisted the temptation to fill in information that they felt ‘should’ have been there


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