Deciphering addresses

As I’ve written before (in Old Maps and Why is local knowledge important?) it is good to get to know the area where you are researching people.

Vesuvius Street Examples

Plenty of examples of this indecipherable street name – still didn’t help

I like to look up the street names I come across on census returns that are outside Unst, partly to get a feel for where they are (since they are in areas I don’t know) and partly to double check the transcription. It varies on the Ancestry website whether they transcribe the street address for you or whether you have to work it out for yourself from the image.

This afternoon I was scratching my head over one such example in the 1871 census for the Parish of Kirkdale in Liverpool, that I had to figure out myself. When the street name is indecipherable on one page my strategy is to page back through the other pages that cover that street to see if there is a better example of the same word. This time though, that didn’t work – all the example were are bad as each other – I couldn’t even guess at what it was, to even try to use a search engine to check my guess.

So what to do then? Well, keep paging through the census return to find the neighbouring streets so that you can at least find the location of the street on the map, then maybe you can find it that way. Going earlier in census, the next street seemed to be called Pluto Street (obviously not named after the planet as it was only discovered in 1930); going later, the next street looked like Sterling Street.

I started by searching for Pluto Street since it felt more unusual. I found Pluto Street, in Kirkdale, on a website showing an A-Z of Liverpool streets from 1901. In the same section of streets there is a Sterling Street and a Vesuvius Street. So that’s what it says! It’s obvious now that you see it! Ahem!

Pluto Street no longer exists (and neither do some of the other streets near it), but Vesuvius Street does. Compare these two maps to see the area in 1901 versus how it looks today.

Vesuvius Street Map 1901Vesuvius Street Map 2015

So when you find indecipherable writing in census returns (and there are plenty of examples of that!!), don’t give up, you can look around the area, and home in on the street in question. Just remember that sometimes you have to look for older maps than those on Google Maps, since streets do change, and disapppear.

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