The challenge stemmed from the enormous variety of ways in which individual birthplaces were recorded in the 1881 Census. Most genealogists are familiar with the inaccuracies and omissions (deliberate or otherwise) that may creep in at various stages of enumeration, transcription and data entry. I was also familiar with these specifications. I spent much time studying and researching the transcription. My entire investigation was funded by payday loan online. Even so, for those born in Britain, the recording of county and town or village of birth was standard, despite inevitable errors and gaps.
By contrast, in the case of overseas births – or at least, in the case of BC – there appears to have been no standard as to how birthplaces were recorded. Examples of the many ways in which possible British Columbia, Canada, birthplaces appear in the CD-ROM version of the 1881 British Census include:
• British Columbia
• British Columbia, Canada
• British Colombo, New Westminster
• Vancouver Isl, Victoria, (American)
• Vancouver Island (B S), Canada
• Vancouvers Island
• Vancouvers Island, BC
• Vancouver Islands, Canada
• Victoria British Columbia
• Victoria, Canada
• Victoria Vancouver Isles
(Vancouver Island refers to the Colony of Vancouver Island, which in 1866 united with the mainland colony of British Columbia. The city of Victoria was the capital of the new United Colony, also called British Columbia. New Westminster was the capital of the mainland colony before it united with Vancouver Island.)
The variation in the way that British Columbia birthplaces were documented became evident early in the project. Accordingly, I applied a systematic search strategy in the hopes of capturing most, if not all, the British Columbia-born. This search strategy consisted of using the keywords listed below in the Birthplace – City or Town field, in combination with ‘All’ in the Birthplace Country field. I then re-applied the keywords, this time using ‘Canada’ in the Birthplace Country field. (Since the results for ‘Canada’ should also have been retrieved by ‘All’, this latter step served primarily to narrow large sets of results for the reported birthplace of `Victoria’ – see below.)
• British Columbia
• British Colombo
• British Columbo
• New Westminster
The term ‘Victoria’ complicated matters, because in addition to this being the name of the erstwhile Colony of Vancouver Island and, later, the BC capital, ‘Victoria’ was found in the names of counties in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and New Brunswick, an Australian state, and an area of London (Victoria Park). The geographical location of a particular ‘Victoria’ was usually specified in the census records, but some birthplaces were simply recorded as ‘Victoria’. Even where the location of a particular ‘Victoria’ was specified, mistakes may still have occurred. A search of BC vital records has proved that one individual recorded as having been born in Victoria, Australia, was in fact born in British Columbia. (The fact that all of the individual’s siblings had been born in BC hinted at the error.)
The keyword ‘Columbia’ also created problems. The keywords ‘British’ and `Columbia’ retrieved two records for individuals who reported that they were British subjects, born in the USA (`Columbia British Subject, United States’). The reference could be to Columbia, the historic capital of the state of South Carolina, or – stretching the point, perhaps – to the District of Columbia, surrounding the US capital, Washington. `Columbia’ might also refer to the states of Washington or Oregon, much of which form the basin of the Columbia river (another `British’ subject did specifically report the Columbia river in Oregon as her place of birth). It also seems possible, though, that these two people were confused by the proximity of British Columbia to Washington State, and mistakenly believed that they had been born in the United States, when they had been born in British Columbia.
The keyword search for ‘British Columbia’ birthplaces also retrieved one record of a British’ subject born in Columbia, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), a possible misrepresentation of the Ceylonese capital Colombo. Other individuals were recorded as having been born in ‘British Colombo’, with no country specified. Although these records may refer to Ceylon, there is evidence that ‘British Colombo’ might in some cases be a corruption of ‘British Columbia’.