Part of genealogical research is evaluating what you have and altering conclusions when new and more reliable information warrants. Early in our research when we are inexperienced, it can be tempting to rely too much on family information. It can also be easy to rely on incomplete information–especially before we learn that “official” records can be incorrect or inconsistent.
And sometimes DNA and other information will cause us to re-evaluate what we thought was true even when we had a number of records and completely analyzed them.
My children’s great-great-grandfather (father of their great-grandmother) has morphed through many iterations over the nearly thirty years that I have researched him–always because I have located new information:
a Greek immigrant to Chicago, Illinois, born in the 1880s–turned out he was the great-great-grandmother’s second husband and not the biological father of any of her children;
a man born in Chicago in the 1880s (first husband of the great-great-grandmother) who was the son of English immigrants to Chicago in the 1860s–turned out the English couple adopted him as a child when his parents died young;
the man born in Chicago in the 1880s wasn’t actually the son of that couple who died young–he had been adopted by them shortly after his birth to unknown parents;
DNA indicated that the the man born in Chicago in the 1880s was not the biological father of the great-grandmother.
And so it goes. Don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong, but not every research problem is quite as convoluted as this family is (our post here only scratches the surface). It can happen to all of us. Just use as many records as you can, transcribe them as they are written, and adequately cite them.
At first the location on this military discharge stymied me. Then I looked at the date and it made perfect sense. A US military discharge in 1847 could easily have been done in Mexico. A little geographic searching determined the town was Comargo.
Many indexes do not include every name, indexes can contain errors, and some records are completely unindexed. No matter the situation, there are times when the researcher needs to undertake a manual, page-by-page search. The questions to ask are:
How are the original records organized? Is it by:
date of the event or document–sometimes this is known, sometimes it is not
date the item was recorded–often not known–but it is after the event took place
the person’s residence, burial spot, or other geographic location–sometimes known, but not always
military unit or some other assigned number–can be difficult to know, is there some other record that provides this information?
something else–variability here
To find the person in the desired record, it may be necessary to look at other records (organized differently) that may provide the needed information to search the desired record manually. A city directory may provide an address for use in census searches. A family bible may provide a death date to use in searching death records.
Indexes won’t find everyone, but doing some homework before starting a page-by-page search can save you some time. Sometimes.
Obituaries for a relative and her husband indicate they were married in August of 1920. Their first child was born in May of 1922–according to the birth certificate (which I’m inclined to think is right) and a host of other records. The couple’s marriage record was not found among their effects. There is no family bible where the date was written down.
The obituary references to their date of marriage, which consistent, provide secondary information.
There is the marriage record which indicated that they were married in December of 1921. It’s pretty clear that date is the intended one on the record. It’s recorded among other records for that same month and the couple’s names, along with the names of their parents, are correct. The marriage record provides direct, primary information about the marriage date.
It seems like the discrepancy is simply to make the first child born well more than nine months after the parents married. The relative (the female) would have still been fifteen had she married in August of 1920. She would have been nearing her 17th birthday upon her marriage in December of 1921 making things just a little more plausible. Based on her correct marriage date, she would have been 16 and still in need of parental consent to marry, but at a more palatable age than 15.
Relatives are insistent upon the August of 1920 marriage date despite the evidence that it is not right. All I can do is cite the information I have obtained, transcribe it accurately, and place it in my database.
Ancestry indicated that Anna Whitman was “Michael John’s wife of great-granduncle.” It took me a little while to figure out exactly what they meant. A better way to phrase it would have been wife of Michael John’s great-grandmother’s brother.
This auto-text is not the only text that is occasionally awkward. Always read any auto-generated text created by your genealogy software before publishing it or sharing it. Make certain it says what you want it to say.
One of my mother’s first cousins died at the age of 10. She’s buried in a cemetery where her parents were living at the time and has a tombstone with her years of birth and death on it.
The tombstone purchased at the time has the names of both of her parents on it as well with the name of their ten year old daughter in between the parents’ names both include their year of birth, a dash, and a partial death year (“19__”). One may think that they were buried there and the year of death had never been completed.
That’s not the case. The parents divorced sometime after the daughter died and are buried elsewhere.
Just because your ancestor uses the phrase “my now wife” in his will, it does not mean he had to have been married twice. A man might use the phrase to make it clear to whom a bequest was being made. If his will said “to my now wife I leave my farm and after her demise it to go to our children” that meant his wife at the time he wrote his will.
The phrase “property is to go to the heirs of my now wife” would have a similar import.