HomeNorthwest Scrip ApplicationAmbiguities and Irregularities in Northwest Scrip Application Data

Ambiguities and Irregularities in Northwest Scrip Application Data

Both during the creation of Northwest Scrip Applications and the subsequent digitization of this data, there are several sources for the introduction of errors. Ambiguities and irregularities can be introduced into the data from a number of different avenues, including the applicants, the commissioners or clerks, translators, and present-day researchers. For example, if the applicant did not understand the question, did not have the information being requested, or was reluctant to provide certain information, the data extracted from his or her application may not be complete or consistent. Other examples of potential for ambiguous or irregular data include the following: commissioners and/or clerks could have misspelled a name, recorded a wrong date, or omitted certain information they did not deem relevant; translators may have mistranslated information or generalized specific information; and present-day researchers may misread the writing on the original document, mistype information into a database, or enter estimated dates. The time-consuming process of databasing archival documents includes a rigorous system of verification and correction to minimize researcher errors; however, researchers are limited by the quality and condition of the original archival document. 

A common irregularity concerns the inconsistent spelling of surnames and place names. French, English and a variety of Aboriginal languages were used at the time these records were generated. Literacy was not as widespread at that time as it is today, and consequently consistent spelling of surnames and/or place names cannot be expected. It would seem that Commissioners and/or clerks often recorded names as they heard them or knew them.

Another problem occurs when general geographical references are used. Many Métis people said they lived in “North West Territories” or “The Plains.” Others said they lived in “Whitefish Lake” or other place names that are found in several locations. Therefore, some geographical information that has been extracted from the affidavits is ambiguous and, if not checked against other data, could be misleading.

Finally, dates within the data can be ambiguous. Frequently, Métis individuals did not know their specific date of birth, marriage, death of a family member, residence, etc, and therefore gave an approximation. In other instances, individuals gave specific information in a non-specific manner, e.g. “my children were all born after the transfer,” would indicate that the applicant’s children were born any time after 15 July 1870 (the date Rupertsland became part of Canada).