Even when the document is clearly wrong, we always transcribe it as true to the original as possible.
The short version of why is that any other sort of transcription is dishonest.
The longer reason is that sometimes what we think is wrong really is not and we don’t often know that until we complete more research.
Sometimes documents are wrong because they are wrong. Sometimes they are not wrong at all, but we simply wish they were wrong, either to eliminate confusion with other records or to maintain some image we have of our family.
My Grandparents 1940 census enumeration is simply wrong in one key fact: that they were living in the same place in 1940 as they were in 1935. They simply were not.
My transcription of their enumeration should reflect exactly what the enumeration says. My commentary of why it is wrong should be kept separate from the transcription.
There are several key pieces of data that prove my grandparents were not living in Prairie Township in 1935:
- Their 17 December 1935 marriage in Keithsburg, Mercer County, Illinois, indicates that my grandparents are living in St. Albans Township, Hancock County, and Keene Township, Adams County, Illinois.
- A marriage announcement in the Mendon, Illinois, newspaper indicated that after the couple were married they were returning to live with their parents until they could set up housekeeping on a rented farm near Stillwell, Hancock County, Illinois.
- The 1939-1940 era probate of my grandmother’s mother, Ida (Sargent) Trautvetter Miller indicates that the Neills were living near Plymouth at the time (which meshes with family tradition) and wanted to use Ida’s inheritance from her mother to purchase the a farm in Prairie Township.
- The deed (which I do not have a copy of) should indicate when the farm was purchased.
Of course, individuals can live on property before they purchase it, but it seems pretty clear that was not the situation in this case.
Sometimes just trying to disprove one little statement in a record really gets the research wheels turning.
But never ever never ever “correct” a document when you transcribe it.
Transcribe it as it is and, if you have a strong case that something in that document is wrong, create a proof and include the proof with the transcription.
Just make it clear where the transcription ends and the summary of proof from other records begins.