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Sources Can Have Errors

An important part of doing family research is documenting your family’s birth, marriage, death and other important life events. It is important to make note of names, dates, places and write a short statement of what the event is your are documenting. From the moment you are born until your death, everyone has some type of source documented on them.

While looking at the sources you have collected for your family you are researching, be careful when using the data on these forms. Even primary sources have been known to have errors. Here are a few examples of problems I personally know of when viewing some family sources:

  1. Cousin Joe died while separated from his second wife. She had moved out of the city, so his kids (from first marriage) took care of the funeral arrangements. The kids gave the deceased information to the funeral manager and told him he was divorced, which was not the case. He was still married, and never filed for divorce.

  2. On the 1880 census, Bob and Jane are listed as the children of “Head of Family” A and “Wife” B. In reality, they are the children of A and B’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth. Elizabeth never married the father of her children, and in 1880 lived with her parents. The census taker thought the grandparents were these children’s parents in error.

  3. Do not assume the race listed is correct. I have researched white families that have been listed as black and black families listed as white. This can apply to any ethnic group. If you cannot find your person using the correct race, try leaving it blank. If everything else matched up, then that is probably your ancestor. This can apply to the census, but also other forms of documentation as well.

  4. My grandmother lived in Mississippi in the early 1900’s. The doctor who delivered her traveled around the county taking care of the ill and delivering babies. When he documented my grandmother’s birth in the official records, he listed her sister’s name instead of hers in error. With money being tight, my grandmother never corrected this error. In documenting for Daughters of the American Revolution on this line, I had to use Bible records to document her birth. Future generations might see this birth certificate and document the wrong data. Unfortunately, the Mississippi Vital Records will not correct it without someone in the family paying to have it done.

So, as you look for sources to document your families, use your good judgment and try to find more than one source to prove a fact. Here are some examples of sources you can find that might help you find those important facts you need on your family:

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