What’s Wrong With This Record?

By Allison Dolan

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.