Errors and inconsistencies abound in genealogy...some are more serious than others. At the very least, they provide can provide a much-needed laugh. The more serious errors enable us to become better researchers by forcing us to look for additional evidence to back up what we "know" to be the case. At worst, they encase the story behind brick walls topped by barbed wire and broken glass...but what a wonderful feeling when we can break through.
One of the more frustating experiences with my first DAR application surrounded what I thought was an easy generational connection between my mother and her parents. Mom's birth, marriage, death certificates all listed her parents, including her mother's maiden name, all spelled consistently. Grandma died in a terrible accident when mom was 5, but grandma's death certificate named grandpa as her husband, named her parents, etc. I had the family Bible with their marriage date, but no official certificate was available. I had census records of grandma and grandpa from 1920, but mom wasn't born yet; the 1930 census had mom with grandpa living with his second wife. Obviously, grandpa's death certificate had his living widow, not one who had died 50 years before. I had cemetery records and photos of their graves.
None of this was "good" enough in the mind of my mentor, I needed to find an obituary that named all of the kids, her husband, her parents, etc etc. ???? Cause we all know how accurate newspapers are.
Well, I am a determined researcher, and found a donnybrook of newspaper articles and obituaries -- let me tell you, if you think the cable networks focus too much on gory details...well they had good teachers. Anyway, I found a couple of pretty good obituaries with all the requisite information...I chose the one from the county seat newspaper rather than the hometown newspaper, however. Why? Well, the hometown paper had a rather lengthy article about the accident itself, and reiterated some of the info in the obituary...except it had grandma married to grandpa's twin brother. (The obituary was correct on who was married to whom.) Therefore, I picked the truthier newspaper.
As I said, errors sometimes can be carved in stone, which makes the truth harder to find. Grandma's father, my g-grandfather Cyrus, has "1861" carved on his tombstone as the year of birth, which is the date listed on his death certificate. The census records after 1900 back that up, but earlier records show he was born in 1857. Finally, I found an old published genealogy on his maternal line in which his mother gave some pretty detailed information, including his birthdate in 1857...same month and day, just a few years earlier. I have not been able to figure this out, except Cyrus was a bit older than his wife...maybe it was vanity on his part, I'll never know.
Sometimes people find records with the same name as an ancestor, same state, and just assume it has to be the ancestor, no matter what. My cousins insisted that g-grandpa Calvin had been in the civil war. Well, he was a little bit long in the tooth to be a soldier, and he never left a written account, but here were some records from Wisconsin showing a man of that name listed! Excited, I ordered them, and sure enough...it was someone else...living several counties away and more than a decade younger. I did some more digging and found that Calvin on census and the 1890 veteran's schedule living in that same far away county. (I did find my my Calvin's draft registration in the proper county, but he was never called up as far as I can tell.) Nonetheless, my cousins argued for several weeks that I was wrong! That the records matched! I was nuts! I finally had to create side-by-side comparisons of the records, highlighted in yellow and circled in red before they would believe me.
On the lighter side, some of the errors carved in stone can be quaint reminders that things and styles change. Here are the tombstones of my 5th g-grandparents Nathaniel and Suviah Hayden. Not wrong wrong, but spelling and capitalization are definitely different:
What are some of the amusing/frustrating things you've run across?