As of the date of this post, according to the “Virginia, Slave Birth Index, 1853-1866,” nearly 1300 individuals in this Virginia database were born in California. They were not just born anywhere in California–they were born in King, California, which is located in San Bernardino County. This does seem a tad bit strange.

While searches of this database were not conducted in a location where I could view the actual images, some of the individual entries in the database suggest what really happened. The April 1853 entry for Alonso contains an event place of “King & Q.” in addition to the “King, San Bernardino, California, United States” location. The “King & Q.” location is likely what is in the actual record–a probable reference to King and Queen County, Virginia. The California reference is likely a standardized location to facilitate searching and probably only entered the database because someone searched for “King” and that’s what came up. Probably.

Standardized place names to facilitate searches only works when the location is standardized correctly. Having the correct state helps.

All of which serves as a reminder to use the standardized place names on an “index record entry” of this type with extreme care when incorporating them into a personal database–if they are used at all. Of course many who attach these records to online trees give no thought to correcting the location (hey…I found something…yeah!…on to the next record). Now Alonso (from the illustration) was born in California in 1853. Those locations get copied and shared.

The incorrect standardized location also makes database queries difficult. Why would I think that to locate entries in King and Queen County, Virginia, I need to search for King, San Bernardino, California?

It would seem to me that data entry for a database of births in the state of Virginia would have at least some mechanism to reduce the chance that a birth from out of state is entered.

The usual warnings apply:

  • read the actual record
  • don’t trust the transcription
  • don’t engage in click and point genealogy

Online indexes are great, but not when Virginia births are taking place in California.

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3 Responses

  1. Family Search should have known better!! Just shows what happens when the transcriptions aren’t checked by some authority.

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