Records lie to us. The very records we depend upon to reconstruct our families, lie all the time.
This 1900 census for my gggrandmother Hannah Harbor stated that she was widowed:
But her former husband was alive and well; he had just left her for another woman. I guess I wouldn’t want to say that either.
This 1920 census shows my ancestor Ada Seaman happily ensconced with her family:
But she had died in 1918. She could not have been in the household in the year 1920, unless they were living with her ghost:
This Maryland ancestor remembered my gggrandmother’s name was Margaret (Simpson), wife of Levi:
Close. But it was Martha. Margaret was Martha’s stepmother.
Ferdinand Holt migrated to the great city of Indianapolis in the early 20th century. He filled out a World War II Draft card that proclaimed his birthdate:
But he wasn’t born in 1895. He was born in 1887. It was correct on his World War I Draft Card:
Oddly, the actual day (Dec 6) stayed the same, even though the year changed by 8!
Records lie. Records manipulate and deceive. The only way to be sure that what we are recording is accurate is to correlate each piece of evidence and closely examine every document and rationally explain any conflicts. Every document has the potential to contain inaccurate information. Viewing records in isolation and accepting what they purport as true can’t be our practice.
I only show a few examples above, but those examples kept me going in the wrong direction for years. It is only by researching many different document types (census, vital records, deed records, court records, military records, bible records, etc. etc.) that we can we begin to form an accurate picture of our ancestor’s lives and flesh out the data that is incorrect.
So, what documents have been lying to you?