People Search Help

There are several sections for help on Cemetery Searches:

The Meaning of the “Search Buttons”:

On the search page you will notice two large buttons:

By clicking on one of these two large buttons, you will cause our server to search our grave marker records for the names you entered in the “Given Name” and “Surname” entry boxes. Whichever button you click, the same search is performed. The results will be presented in a different form, however. By clicking on the “spreadsheet” icon, you will see a list of people found by the search engine, with the most likely matches presented first. By clicking on the “grave marker” icon you will see a list of grave markers which show a photo and “Our Transcription” for each marker. Each grave marker displayed will have at least one person that would have been shown on the “spreadsheet” presentation, though it may not be obvious which one it is. 

Using the Cemetery Selector:

The cemetery list selection box may be useful if you know the cemetery where an individual is buried. If you are using a full-size personal computer you click on a cemertery name in the selection box to select one or more cemeteries from the list. On a tablet or smartphone, you will not see the list of cemeteries until you touch the grey box labeled “——Include All Cemeteries——“.

The default selection is “–All– ” cemeteries. On a PC you can “shift-click” to select more than one cemetery. On a tablet or smartphone you just check as many boxes as you wish.

The time it takes to complete the search is not greatly affected by the number of cemeteries involved in the search.

Using the “spreadsheet” presentation:

The spreadsheet is a table (or spreadsheet) of the people found by the search. Its focus is people, not grave markers. The presentation is straightforward, but you should be aware of the function of the grave marker icon in the left-most column of the spreadsheet. If you click on that icon, you will leave the spreadsheet presentation and see a new page which shows a full page of information for the grave marker where that name was found. To get back to the spreadsheet, use your browser’s back button.

Using the list of grave markers:

When you press the grave marker icon or button on the People Search page, you are soon presented with a report of the grave markers that matched the names you entered (and usually many more). The information presented includes the cemetery containing the grave marker, a photo of the marker and “Our Transcription”.  If you click on the “Gravemarker #????” button you will be presented with a full page of information and all photos of the gravemarker.   There are many markers that have more than one photograph, and the only way to see them is to go to the full page for that marker.

Behind the scenes of the search engine:

The cemetery search engine is a computer program that runs “inside” the web site. It was custom-built for this site. It does not perform a site-wide search. In fact, it ignores all the pages that users can see and just works directly with the cemetery and grave marker information we have collected and organized. Furthermore, it does not directly analyze “Our Transcription” that you can see on a grave marker display page. Instead, we analyzed the information from the photograph of the gravemarker and organized it into a formal data structure of “given names”, “surnames”, dates of birth, etc.

Why do we NOT search directly on the transcription? The reason: A computer cannot figure out from the transcription what the actual meaning of the names are. For example, “Purdy” is often a last name, but we have a grave marker for “Purdy T Deveau”. A human would easily sort this into proper given name, initial, and surname, but a computer might not, because there is no consistency about which order these name appear on the grave markers. So, we went to the trouble of “translating” the tombstones so the computer would have an easier time doing the searching. In effect, for each gravestone, we made of record of what each word or number actually means.

Another problem is the presence and absence of French language diacritical marks. Many of the grave markers ignore the correct French spelling of words and names. But many markers were carved with care and the diacritical marks are clear. We failed to make a decision on the correct course of action, so we have been inconsistent in our transcriptions. However, the search engine ignores diacritical marks completely. It pays attention only to the core alphabet.

Why are the results not in alphabetical order?

The search engine tries to match the given names and surnames you entered, with the data stored in our data base.  Unlike other search engines you may have used, we do not require an exact match.  The match is “scored” for the quality of the match.  Exact matches earn a higher “score” than matches based on just the first letter of a name.  The results of the search are ordered by this “score”.  The best matches are shown first.  If there are any tie “scores”, the results are secondarily sorted by given name.

Why do I get such a long list of results?

The simple answer is: “Because we want you to have many matches to review.” The search results are ordered by “score”, so the best matches are shown first. It is a case of having the best of both worlds. You can see the good or excellent matches on the first page of the report. If you are not finding what you want (maybe a spelling variation?) you can browse through the remaining pages of lesser matches.

Exact matches produce high scores. If you enter a given name or a surname that does not exist in our records, the search engine will look for “similar” names: names that are found in our list of “alternate spellings” for names, or names that share the same first two characters, or names that share the same first character. The scoring system gives a lower score for each of these possibilities, with the single-character match receiving the lowest score. The search engine always scores the lower-quality matches along with the exact matches, because it cannot know ahead of time whether an exact match will be found. In a case where neither an exact match nor an “alternate spelling” match is found, the first two characters can be the highest score. Or for really unusual names, maybe the single character score will be important. In any case, these lesser matches always affect the score, even when there is a perfect match. It just may not be apparent until you are working with the end of the list of matches, where the match quality is very low.

For simple cases, where you provide one surname and one given name and there is an exact match, the search engine can produce more results than you might expect. The is because the search engine “knows” about common variations of names, and makes an effort to show you all the names and variations, as well as names that might have a slight match.

Here’s a screen capture of a spreadsheet report for the name “Jacques Amirault”:

Explanation of the results: There is no person named Jacques Amirault in any cemetery in Clare. The given name “Jacques” is linked to some other similar names, like “James” or “John”. That is why “James Amirault” is scored the highest: it has an alternate given name, but an exact match on surname. The next entries are scored fairly highly, because they have alternates matches on both given name and surname. The next matches for “Jacqueline Amirault” do have the exact surname, but receive a lower score due to the given name only having a two-character initial match on “JA”. The search engine does not search for partial matches other than on the first character or the first two characters.

Generally speaking, the less you enter, the more results are returned. Try entering “J” in the Given Name and just “C” in the Surname.