Researching your family history

The advantages and disadvantages of indexes

Today I was double checking my entry in my Ancestry Public Member Tree for Edward Whimpey, and noticed that I still hadn’t added a source to the burial information I had for him.

Before the images of the Somerset parish registers became available on Ancestry, I had been using the indexes on the FreeReg website, and had found Edward’s burial entry.  This entry showed that Edward had been buried 20 Nov 1862 at Holy Trinity in Frome.

I therefore did a search on Ancestry for Edw* W*mp*, and couldn’t find his burial entry.  I decided to try to restrict my search to the Somerset, England, Church of England Burials, 1813-1914, and the entry still didn’t come up.  I therefore decided the only option was to browse the collection. Since I already had the date of burial and parish from the entry on FreeReg, this allowed me to navigate to his entry, and I found the reason why I hadn’t been able to find him when I searched.

The last two entries on the page had been combined into one entry on the index on Ancestry.  These are the last two entries on the page

last 2 entries.PNG

This was the entry on Ancestry

John Gibbons

The name was John Gibbons, but the burial date and age were for Edward Whimpey.  In checking the list of names by clicking the link (after the number 114), Edward’s name didn’t appear at all.

The advantage of indexes is that they can help you find the entries for your family more easily. However, the disadvantage of indexes is that there can be errors when the records have been transcribed to create the index.  This is why indexes should be used as a finding aid, and why, where possible, it is important to view the original documents.


3 thoughts on “The advantages and disadvantages of indexes

  1. Great post! This is an excellent example of the power (and pitfalls) of using indexes. Does Ancestry allow you to flag major errors like this, or are you restricted to suggesting corrections for minor mistranscriptions?


    1. There doesn’t seem to be an easy way to flag or submit corrections for major errors like this, although there is an area where you can enter comments. You can also submit alternate information, but that is mainly for transcription errors within a particular entry. I decided to add an alternate name for the entry, as well as a comment explaining that the two entries had been combined


  2. Just last night I came across the same issue you are flagging–two entries conflated into one entry. And I also found the reverse an hour later, one entry separated, for no reason at all, into two, with a tiny detail the only difference. Your advice is the best: “view the original documents.”


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