It is a wonderful resource for family historians seeking people who lived - all or part of their lives - in New South Wales (Australia). I am truly grateful for free access to this online database offered by the New South Wales Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages. So my "battle" is not with the providers of the resource but rather with finding the person or persons I'm seeking.
I usually search by name. I'm pretty sure most people would do the same. Recently I was looking for a Herbert family and you'd think that would be fairly straight forward. Nope. Not all of them were in the database as "Herbert", some of them were "Herberts" and still others were "Hubert". Perhaps there were other variations I still haven't found. The search engine doesn't provide a soundex facility but it does provide string matching (*) and character matching (?). It is up to the user to be creative and look for all the possible variations. It helps to know how both the original records and the indexes were created.
|Image courtesy CC0|
The church may have written (no typewriters in the early days) regular lists (called transcripts) of baptisms, burials and marriages to send to the administrative offices of their church. In some cases it is these transcripts that have survived rather than the original church records. And the trouble with transcripts is human error. If the original writing was messy oar the document faded or damaged the transcriber needed to make a guess. So when William Herbert's marriage record was copied, the long squiggly tail on the last "t" might have looked like an "s", and he became William Herberts.
Civil registration forms were not widely used until about 1918, so many registrations were notified verbally. The problems emerging here are the same as those encountered with the church records. Basically, mis-hearing, bad writing and transcription errors.
NSW Registry staff kept indexes to assist in locating records. There may be errors in these indexes created by humans.
When looking for that elusive ancestor, I find it helps to put yourself in the shoes of the person who created the record you are seeking. This can be applied to virtually all online searches - think who created the record and how they did it.
A detailed explanation of the NSW Registry records can be found here.