Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Workday Wednesday: The Occupation of Mandell Newmark

Denise Spurlock of Denise's Life in the Past Lane began the meme: Workday Wednesday.  She writes:
Sometimes it seems like all my ancestors were farmers, but the records tell me differently. Some of the occupations I've found: shoemaker, milliner, wheelwright, mine worker, preacher, and sawmill owner. My dad was a sheet metal worker; I have several photos of him at work. I will be using the "Workday Wednesday" theme for sharing photos, stories, and records related to my ancestors' work lives. If you like, join me in posting on your own blog, or as a comment here, how your ancestors spent "Workday Wednesday!"
I've decided to participate in this meme, as the occupations of my ancestors are of interest to me.  This week I am looking at the high school occupation of my paternal great uncle, Mandell Newmark (1923-1945).  He was killed in action during WW2.

Back in April of 2007, I found on a transcription of his enlistment record. This is what it looked like.

The civil occupation confused the heck out of my family.  We knew his occupation before the war, as a high school student, was a sales clerk at a department store. No one remembered him playing the oboe, or working as an Automobile parts clerk.

I found a listing of Civil Occupation Codes used on the enlistment records, and realized that "Bandsman, Oboe or Parts Clerk, Automobile" was code 175 and "Engineering Aide (Designated Field) or Sales Clerk" was code 170.  I figured that whoever transcribed the record misread a handwritten 170 as a 175.  That's the problem with transcribed records - you don't see what the transcriber saw, so you can't judge its accuracy.

Curiously - At some point in the past 4 years, Ancestry's record was changed. This is how it reads now.

Not only did someone figure out the code had been misread - they somehow knew Mandell was a salesperson, and not an Engineering Aide.  Without seeing the actual document, I don't know how.

I'm glad the record has been updated. However, I would have liked to have been notified that the record had changed.  I did attach the record to my great uncle's entry in my online family tree, so Ancestry had a way to know that I was interested in the record.

Of course, technically, the current transcription is no more reliable than the first.  I happen to have reason to believe it is currently correct -- in the Civil Occupation field, as well as several others.  However, seeing a transcribed record is never the same as seeing an image of the original.

Update: I have just discovered a list of Occupation Codes on the National Archives site which varies significantly from the list linked to above.   It doesn't have the weird combinations of occupations being assigned to the same code.  I'm unsure of the difference between the two lists.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

Thanks for this post and links to related posts. An education and a kick in the pants rolled into one. NOTE TO SELF: if something doesn't sound right, check it out. It never occured to me that you might find those occupation codes online.