Most genealogists probably know that we can get different results when searching for the same person in different indexes of the same records. I have put this issue to the test. I searched for my third great-grandfather Hans Nielsen in indexes of the 1834 census on four websites, and only two of the results lists were identical. This is a relatively long post but only because of the images, so please bear with me.
Danish Family Search
The Danish Family Search website offers searches of various records. I limited this search to the 1834 census; see the search parameters in the image below.
The search produced eight results, shown below. My third great-grandfather is the fifth result on the list. I find it rather strange that there is a result for someone named Hans Christian Nielsen because I requested exact matches on both the given name and the surname.
I will delve more into each search engine in later blog posts, but I want to add that it is an advantage that the people behind the Danish Family Search database have linked most entries to images of the records.
You all probably know the FamilySearch website. I limited the search to the 1834 census collection. I also requested exact matches on the name and the place of residence – those search parameters correspond to the ones I used when I searched the Danish Family Search database. The image below shows the search parameters I used at FamilySearch.
The FamilySearch database produced only four results, as shown below. My third great-grandfather is not there.
I will examine why this FamilySearch index seemingly does not contain my third great-grandfather. For now, I want to add that it annoys me that it does not say in the catalog whether the collection is complete.
Dansk Demografisk Database
Dansk Demografisk Database is offered by the Danish National Archives. I searched for the exact name Hans Nielsen in the 1834 census for Herlufsholm, as shown in the image below.
The search produced seven results, as shown below. My third great-grandfather is the second result.
The Dansk Demografisk Database website is only partially available in English which is a shame. However, it is my favorite search engine for Denmark censuses. I will explain why in a later blog post.
I wrote an introduction about the Link-Lives project this summer. It is still under development, but I decided to include it in this test anyway. I limited this search to records from the year 1834 and the place Herlufsholm, Øster Flakkebjerg, Sorø. It is impossible to restrict the search to a specific record type or set the search to exact. The image below shows the search parameters I used at Link-Lives.
The search produced eight results, as shown below. My third great-grandfather is the fourth result on the list, and the results are the same as the ones given by Danish Family Search.
If you visit the Link-Lives website, you might notice that you can choose English in the upper right-hand corner of the website. However, that leads to a version of the page where you can only see information about the project. The search page is not available in English, but I hope they plan to add that later.
Why Do Search Results Differ and Why Does it Matter?
The most common reasons for getting different results for a seemingly identical search are as follows:
- The search engines are technically different
- The entries in the databases are not the same – perhaps one index is incomplete
We must be aware of this issue because we rely significantly on indexes when we do genealogy. If we cannot trust that we get all possibly relevant results from a search, it could send our research off in the wrong direction. If I had not found my third great-grandfather in the index of the 1834 census of Herlufsholm, I might have begun examining the expunction lists to see where he had moved. But that would not have given me an answer because he was still in Herlufsholm. Later, I would probably have examined the 1834 census of Herlufsholm page by page and found him there, but what if he lived in a large town? I would not look through hundreds of pages if I had other options.
If you search for ancestors in an index and don't find what you are looking for, try the other websites. You might find your ancestors there.