Resolve Conflicting Evidence
Over the past few weeks I’ve mention conflicting evidence a number of times. As I like to say in many of my lectures…it’s something I can guarantee…just like death and taxes. In the first blog this year, I discussed a “reasonably exhaustive search” and used the example of my grandmother (not a good source of information) who sometimes claimed to be born in Scotland and sometimes in Ireland with many different dates. I continued to research until I found her birth registration in Ballyshannon, Donegal, Ireland. I had enough corroborating details, including her parents' names to verify that I had found the correct document…one created at or close to the time of the event by someone with firsthand knowledge (her mother). I resolved the conflict, determining she had been born on 12 Dec 1892 in Ballyshannon.
Another example conflicting information is Patrick Moughty. Last week we looked at Patrick's death certificate which gave his birth date as 26 Oct 1889 in Ireland. There was a great deal of additional information in his death certificate. I recommend that you write an analysis of your source document to make sure you're getting all the details. Based on the information and the "next steps" I have a number of new research activities to add to my Research Plan. Here's the analysis of Patrick Moughty's death certificate.
Notice the discrepancy in birth dates. His Declaration of Intent for Naturalization gives his birth date as 18 Oct 1889; the Petition for Naturalization changes the date to 16 Oct 1887; his civil birth registration records the date as 20 Oct 1888; and his baptismal record shows his birth as 16 Oct 1888 and his baptism as 17 Oct 1888. How do you pick? (BTW, the Irish typically didn't have a clue about dates...I usually use ±5 years.) His death certificate and naturalization are both original documents but with secondary information when referring to his birth. They were not done at the time of his birth, and although Patrick was there, he was not likely to have remembered it! I would give them less weight than the birth registration which was an image of the original document with information provided by his father, but about three weeks after the birth. The final document, the baptism is a transcription of the church record done by the local Heritage Centre and found at RootsIreland. I have not been able to view the original as the digital images at the National Library of Ireland as the records of Moyvore parish in Westmeath end in 1881. Do I give more weight to the “official” birth registration or the transcription of the baptismal record?
It is important to understand the context of the sources we work with and the type of information they hold. Civil registration of birth in Ireland had to occur within twenty one days of the birth or there was a fine. If the registration was late, it was not unheard of to simply move the birth date to within the required period. Roman Catholic baptisms, however, were typically performed within a day or two of birth and written into the register by the priest. Unless you find a date in a baptismal register that is out of order, it is usually accurate. If I find a child baptized prior to birth…I usually go with the baptismal date. In this case, both the birth date and the baptismal date were given in the record. For this situation my proof argument would place more weight on the baptismal record, but as always, this is open to re-evaluation should new evidence become available.
When you find conflicting evidence, don't ignore it or sweep it under the rug. It's important to resolve all the conflicts to keep the foundation of your family tree strong!
There's still time to sign up for the 2019 Ireland Research Trips.
Just a couple of spots left for Dublin...a few more for Belfast.
To find out more visit the blogs for the 2018 trips beginning on October 4.