What’s Wrong With This Record?

What’s Wrong With This Record?

We at Family Tree Magazine are always urging genealogists to find their ancestors' original records, rather than relying on an index or on what another family tree says. Even original records can contain mistakes, though. For example: Looking at the birth and death dates on this 1918 death certificate...

We at Family Tree Magazine are always urging genealogists to find their ancestors’ original records, rather than relying on an index or on what another family tree says.

Even original records can contain mistakes, though. For example:

Looking at the birth and death dates on this 1918 death certificate, you might think Alex died at about 6 weeks old. Those are the birth and death dates shown in search results, too, which originally caused me to scroll past this record.

But when you view the record, you notice that Alex was married and employed as a conductor. Which makes sense for someone whose age is 28 years, 1 month and 15 days.

Looks like the person who filled out this death certificate in 1918 accidentally wrote 1918 for the birth year, instead of 1890. (I used this genealogy birth date calculator to figure the right year). He probably was writing an unusually large number of death certificates due to the Cincinnati area’s ongoing flu epidemic

It’s still important to locate the original record whenever possible, but also be sure to examine the entire record for consistency and use other records naming the person to confirm what you find.

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  1. Hi, Jon, the record was indexed correctly in this case, but many sites will let you add corrections or notes. On the Ancestry.com record information page, you can click "Add Alternate Information." Sometimes when you view the record, you can click on a field in the index viewer at the bottom of the page to add a notation (but there was birth date field in teh index viewer for this record).

    If the record itself is erroneous, as this one was, you may be able to contact the issuing agency to have it amended.

  2. I awaited with great anticipation the marriage registration for my maternal great-grandparents. Imagine my disappointment when it arrived with, not one, as in your record, but three errors! The document has 3 sections, the marriage licence, the minister’s certification of the marriage, and the Return of Marriage to County Clerk.

    The first two parts refer to the bride as MRS. Eliza Lamley. In the Return, however, while the "No. of Bride’s Marriage" is correctly identified as 2nd, "Maiden name if a widow" is blank. Then her Father’s Name is given as William LAMLEY! I have become very adept at the use of [sic] in my notes!

    Luckily, her maiden surname was already known and the key piece of information, the surname of her first husband, is there. Now if I could just find the birth registrations for the two children of the first marriage, I could find out Mr. Lamley’s first name!

    Marnie McCall