Playing the record

It’s always fascinating to investigate for yourself a new record source and I’ve been privileged enough to spend time looking at hundreds of the passenger lists from BT27. This has also crystallised for me the different experience you have with the original documents (or, in this case, high quality images of them), which you do not get with pure data.

If you search a database and find an index entry and even a full transcription of the original, yes you obtain the key facts, but these are bare facts.

When you view the image of the original document, you have the opportunity to verify details for yourself and often to glean additional details not captured in the transcription. Both of these are of course important. However, even where the details prove correct and you find that there is no additional information on the image, there is something in the experience of seeing the actual image which is more than the sum of that information. It’s not easy to describe, but one way is to think of the lyric books (opera buffs: replace “lyric” with “libretto”) which come with a CD or LP: you can read the lyrics on the page, but this is one-dimensional compared to the full, rounded emotional experience of playing the CD and listening to the songs.

Of course, viewing an image online is itself surpassed by the experience of holding an actual document in the hand (maybe compare listening to the CD with being at a live concert!), but usually this is not a reality for most people. However, we are trying to make sure that the high quality colour images which will be appearing on ancestorsonboard reproduce as complete an experience as is possible online. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

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