For this week’s #52Ancestors I’m having a rant. No not really, just a little bug bear of mine. The theme is ‘Check it out’ which instantly reminds me of something I learnt fairly early on in my genealogy journey. If at all possible you should find 3 primary sources to prove a person is the correct one. Of course, this is not always possible but so often when searching for someone on a certain subscription site and I find that person appearing on a tree something doesn’t quite fit and there are never any sources cited to show where they got the information from. Sound familiar?
For instance, when I started researching my tree some 20 years ago, I was sent a copy of a tree from someone, and they had my Great x3 Grandfather James Winchester who married Catherine Sarah Williams in 1850 in Ashburnham. This is correct, we have more than one primary source that proves this information. Marriage certificate, and at least two census records as well as birth certificates for some of the children. I merrily copied what they had on the tree with an incorrect date of birth of 1830 in Ashburnham and his parents were William and Philadelphia, with several generations going back. I can’t remember the exact details now, but something didn’t quite fit. The census records I have for him are; 1841 – born 1828, 1851 – 1821 and 1871 – 1828. It was when I found the 1841 census that alarm bells started ringing, James was age 13 with a Thomas Winchester age 50, so presumably his father, not a William. I eventually checked it out and now have him, son of Thomas Sinden Winchester and Ann Stonestreet. My theory about the 1851 census is that his wife was older than him but he was embarrassed, he was only 23 and so he said he was 30 to appear older than his wife who was 26. Of course, without finding Catherine’s birth I can’t prove that at all but it’s a fun theory.
There are many instances on that same website where someone for instance, was searching for Joe Bloggs born about 1850 in Sussex and they find one Joe Bloggs born 1845 in Hertfordshire, think that will do and fit him into the tree. But without checking at least other parish records such as burials they cannot see the glaringly obvious for anyone who carries on searching other records, that particular Joe Bloggs died in 1848 so cannot be the right one.
Also there are many other less obvious records that can be searched that give clues such as wills which often name all children and can be checked with parish records, newspapers sometimes can be a really useful source of information about families, funerals and weddings name relatives in attendance and help to widen the family picture. One of the simplest ways of proving you have a correct family, after 1837 is to purchase the birth certificates for siblings and check the mother’s maiden name tallies for all of them. These days you don’t even have to purchase the certificates, you can tally the maiden name on the GRO website simply by searching.