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The Reginald Punnett Wikipedia article quotes from the 31 March 1901 British Census as follows:

Reginald Crundall Punnett Age:26. Estimated Birth Year abt 1875. Relationship:Boarder. Where born:Tonbridge, Kent, England. Address 83 North Street.FIFE.Scotland. Occupation:Lethuel In Zoology...

The article says Punnett worked as a demonstrator and part-time lecturer at University of St. Andrew's at a time between 1898 to 1902, so lethuel may refer to demonstrator and/or part-time lecturer. However, I haven't been able to verify the meaning, either online or in printed works such as Webster's Third New International Dictionary. What might the definition of the word be?

Update: The Wikipedia page refers to "31 March 1901 Census" and I wrote "31 March 1901 British Census" in my question. I've now struck out British due to zpletan's census-records-of-Scotland comment.

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Might it possibly be just a poor transcription of 'lecturer'? –  Dusty Nov 6 '11 at 2:10
    
@Dusty: Or some such. ukcensusonline.com doesn’t seem to have the cited record, actually, so I can’t even see if this is an OCR error. –  Jon Purdy Nov 6 '11 at 2:24
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For the first time in a while here at ELU, I think I can safely say this is not a word! –  FumbleFingers Nov 6 '11 at 2:41
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I don't care if it's a mistranscription or what, I think this question is just too localised. Every one of Google's 38 instances of lethuel in are exact copies of the "Census entry" on that Wikipedia page. –  FumbleFingers Nov 6 '11 at 2:50
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He was in Scotland at the time, per the cited census record on Wikipedia, so he's not in ukcensusonline.com. You'll have to try scotlandspeople.gov.uk or search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/… (others probably exist too), but I'm not gonna give 'em my credit card information just to find out. –  zpletan Nov 6 '11 at 4:58
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1 Answer

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Lethuel isn't a word in any dictionaries and there's no useful search results for it (there's a French commune called Le Thuel; a typo or OCR error of Hebrew names Lemuel, Bethuel and Pethuel; in Lethuel- lier, an OCR error of surname Lethuellier; and it shows up as given names in other censuses, again likely OCR errors of other names).

It's likely this is either an OCR error from scanning, or a poor transcription, especially as the 1901 census was filled in by hand. I recommend adding a [sic] to the Wikipedia page.

Here's an example image (.tif) from the 1901 census which is fairly legible, but computers have problems with even neatly printed text.

Lecturer is a very good candidate, it has a similar word shape, this is what he was doing at the time: "Punnett earned a degree in zoology in 1898, and a masters in 1902. Between these degrees he worked as a demonstrator and part-time lecturer at the University of St. Andrew's Natural History Department."

The best way to know for sure is to check an image of the original 1901 Scotland census. (It will cost £7 for the required credits at ScotlandsPeople, and a free trial or at least £12.95 to subscribe at Ancestry UK.) Having said this, even seeing the original is no guarantee of deciphering the handwriting! There's even a website dedicated to tuition in the palaeography of Scottish documents.

(The census information was added to Wikipedia by user Ancestrypft, since deleted, who had added similar census information to two other pages, also on 15 August 2011.)

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