Every document in the United States indicates that my third great-grandmother was born in 1808. I’ve seen the year so many times in United States records that I have it memorized. I “know” my third great-grandmother was born in 1808. It’s even in the church record of her death.

The problem: it is wrong.

Her christening record in Germany when she was a few weeks old indicates she was born and baptized in 1807. That’s a record that provides primary information about her date and place of birth. It was created close to the time of her birth with information likely provided by her parents. The difference is only a year off from what records in the United States indicated. All those records in the United States are secondary as far as her date of birth is concerned as they were recorded after she reached the age of fifty.

My memory about the year does not matter.



One response

  1. Going by my incorrect memory, I was repeatedly spelling my grandmother’s middle name wrong. When Indiana birth certificates were uploaded to Ancestry, I found out my memory was incorrect. I confirmed with a cousin that the birth certificate was what he knew, as well.

    Another time, I wrote an article about a baby born during a cyclone in 1902, when she was actually born the week before. I was relying on my memory of the story as I thought it was told to me by a cousin. Historical records confirm the date of the cyclone.

    Good post. Thank you.

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