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From:
Subject: Re: [Q-R] PRDH Problem
Date: Mon, 12 Apr 2004 18:36:44 EDT


In a message dated 4/12/2004 2:55:19 PM Eastern Standard Time,
writes:
I have more difficulty with this affirmation. It is not acceptable to state
one mistake and write "is FREQUENTLY incomplete and down-right incorrect in
the post-1750 period". Imperfections in the data in the parish registers,
the multiplication of homonyms with time and the necessity to handle hundred
of thousands of informations necesseraly cause mistakes to happen. Everybody
benefits from the work of their predecessors. Tanguay was the first to do
systematic Quebec genealogy 1621-1750s and made a lot of mistakes. Godbout
came after him and made less. Jetté came after them and made even less for
the 1621-1730 period (but committed a few). We came after Jetté...But nobody
had done 1760-1799 completely and systematically before us, hence...
Look at the numbers : there are some 75 000 marriages before 1800, which
means some 150 000 filiations have to be established. If 150 mistakes are
found in the PRDH information on filiations, you have a 99.9% exact data
base as to that part of the information. Find 1500, and you have 99%. I can
vouch you will never finf 1500 bad filiations in our data, so I can't accept
our information would be equated with "FREQUENTLY incomplete and down-right
incorrect".
I would like to comment on Professor Desjardins' remarks, from the
perspective of an amateur of genealogy (in both the English and French senses of the
word, and of a priest who has enjoyed more than 30 years of parish ministry.

The most common reason for the absence of birth dates on baptismal records,
and of death dates on burial records, as Prof. Desjardins mentions, is that, in
the early years, the priest who recorded the events did not mention date of
birth or of death, but only the date of record, that is, the date of baptism or
burial. One of Kevan Barton's comments is well taken, in this context. If
the record provided in the Vital Events repertory of PRDH includes only a
baptism date, but no birth date, it is more accurate to inscribe "about + year" as
the birth date, and the date of baptism in its proper place, if you are
interested in that level of precision. [I must add, although it is not a PRDH
problem, that cousins less than fluent in reading French should be very careful
about baptisms and burials which are recorded with such notations as "né la
veille, née avant-hier", or "décédé hier, décédée l'avant-veille". These
expressions mean "born the previous day, born the day before yesterday", or "died
yesterday, died two days previously". Be careful not to record a baptism a few
days before the birth, or a burial a few days before the death!]

The situation does get much more complicated after 1750, for the reasons
outlined by Prof. Desjardins: the multiplication of spelling variations and "dit"
names, and the vast increase in the number of records, because of the vast
increase in population. There is another factor which becomes increasingly
evident as the dawn of the 19th century approaches: the inability of most
ordinarly folk to read, or even to sign their names, and (it must be said), the
decline in the literacy of the clergy and the notaries.

A final difficulty, which appears in every generation, and in every register,
is the tendency of registrars to inscribe the wrong date (often, but not
always, at the beginning of a new calendar years), or the grandmother's maiden
name, rather than the mother's, or the given name of the mother's (or the
bride's) sister, instead of her own name. This very day, two cousins were chided,
gently, for typographical errors in the dates of recent postings.

If Prof. Desjardin's statistics are correct, the error rate in the PRDH is
between 0.1 and 1.0% . Frankly, don't know if I could say as much about my own
error rate in inscribing records in parish registers.

Fr Owen Taggart


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