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Wait! What? That's Not Right

Updated: Apr 29

Bridget King Moughty, likely taken about 1913, Studio Photo by Frank Wuttge

If you've been following me for a while, you may remember that I started 2019 with a series of blogs on methodology and the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS). If you're new, please go back and read Standard #4, Resolve Conflicting Evidence. You can't move on with your research until you resolve the conflicts. Some may be easy to resolve...a birth certificate which can be used as evidence when there are multiple birth dates. Some other conflicts may be a little more complex and require an explanation or proof argument, for example a baptism before birth.

So what about Bridget King Moughty? When I begin researching I typically start with the death records. Remember, when we research we start with what we know and move back in time. Records around death are the most recent records left by our ancestors, and although they can be a treasure trove of genealogical information, they can become a mine field to work through. Let's look at Bridget's Obituary. Taking information found in an obituary can lead you down the wrong path and create a brick wall problem.

Bridget B. Moughty, Obituary, Greenwich Time, Greenwich, Connecticut, 23 December 1975.

The first thing to remember about obituaries is that the person who knows the information is dead! So ask yourself, who is the informant? In the case of Bridget, it was her daughter, Christine who had lived with her for most of her life. Christine, however, had never met her grandparents as they did not emigrate. Bridget was 86 years old. I have her birth registration from Ireland that says she was born 25 January 1889, a few days off from the 22 January stated in the obituary. Not at all uncommon. Many Irish had no idea of their birthday; it was not celebrated in Ireland and so they guessed at the date when asked after emigration. The other piece of information I check on the birth registration is the date of registration. In this case it was 29 January 1889, just a few days after the birth. I'm comfortable stating the birth date as the date on the registration. Bridget had been a Greenwich resident for 56 years (since 1919). This is off as she appears in the 1920 census in New York City but not in the 1925 New York State census, so she likely moved to Connecticut between 1920 and 1925. She appears in Greenwich in the 1930 census. Her husband was Patrick Moughty who died two years earlier. You are likely to find lots of conflicting dates on various documents. The 1901 Census of Ireland states that Bridget is 9 years old. Done on the 31 of March in 1901, Bridget was 12 (her 12th birthday would have been in January). Since there were 11 children in this family born every 1-2 years (and Bridget was the 9th child), that would call into question the ages of all of the children. Since today the registrations are all online at it is easy to confirm. (When I was doing the research, I had to purchase the registrations at €4 each from the General Register Office in Dublin.😀) The point here is don't get too hung up on dates. Keep track of all of them so you have a range of years to search and look for corroborating evidence.

But here's the big discrepancy. According to the obituary Bridget was "the daughter of Bernard and Elizabeth McLaughlin King." This could definitely send you off in the wrong direction. If, from the obituary, you began your search for her birth registration, you would not find a Bridget born to a Bernard King and Elizabeth McLaughlin. Although I did not begin my genealogy research until 1991, I did have her birth registration when I read the obituary.

Birth Registration of Bridget King, Civil Registration, Birth, Ireland, Digital Image,, 1889 Banbridge, Group Registration ID 9844336

Bridget's parents were James King and Ellen Loughlin. Remember that in this case, the informant had never met her grandparents and notice that James King made his mark...he could not read and write, so there likely was little or no correspondence. Look for other records that can corroborate the information. In this case, the likely record would be the marriage record as the person who knows the information (Bridget) would have provided it. Here's their marriage record. (Nellie is a nickname for Ellen.)

New York, County Marriages, 1847-1848; 1908-1936," database with images, FamilySearch, Patrick Joseph Moughty and Bridget King, 20 Jun 1910, marriage license and return of marriage certificate; citing county clerk’s office, Westchester, New York, United States; FHL microfilm 1,031,482.

The family members listed in the obituary are genealogically significant, including the information that she had a daughter that pre-deceased her. Remember to research everyone in the never know where the answer to your brick wall question might come from. For example, in her husband's obituary there was the mention of a sister still living in Westmeath, Ireland.

Here is another interesting discrepancy..the name Beatrice. There are a number of alternatives for Bridget, including Bedina, Bess Bride, Dillie, Dina, Delia and Bee* and it's not uncommon to see variations from census to census. I've seen family trees where multiple children are listed with the same birth year, when in fact it is the same child using one of these name alternatives. All of the records up to 1930 identify her as Bridget. In the 1930 census she is listed as Beatrice. Where did that come from? From what I've seen, Roman Catholic children in the 19th century were not typically given a middle name. Of course in the 1930 census we don't know who gave the information to the census taker, however she is also listed as Beatrice in the 1940 census and the person providing the information was her husband, Patrick. This may give credence to a family story that Patrick sometimes referred to her as Bee. Why that morphed into Beatrice (which is not an Irish name) is unknown. In 1961 Patrick and Bridget visited Ireland and the manifest on her return shows her as Beatrice B. Moughty. Her death certificate lists her just as Bridget and her obituary as Bridget B.

So after you have created your timeline with all of the records on an individual, and before you proceed to your research plan, make certain you have resolved any conflicts.

Happy Hunting!

*Dennis A Hogan, a genealogist in New York has put together an excellent resource on Given Name Alternatives for Irish Research. The best way to find this (it does not seem to have a static URL) is to go to Dennis' website for Detailed Course Handouts, click on Course III, scroll down and you will find the link for his Given Name Alternatives. I use this resource on a regular basis!

Interested in researching in Ireland? Check out the information on the October 2020 Ireland Research Trips. Not sure if you're ready? Why not schedule a consultation.

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What a great post, Donna. Many thanks for the link to Dennis Hogan's website. I struggle sometimes with the nicknames and the handout will be really helpful. I hope your shoulder surgery went well and that the recovery is coming along.

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