Making Sense of Misspelled Records
This post comes from a question my brother had about our great-great grandfather and information I had entered on Geni.com. Points to a common problem in historical records — the ability of the record-keeper to take accurate notes. Most common mistake is misspelling a name. But close behind are confused birth dates, birth places, parents’ names, etc. And that’s when our relatives weren’t lying to census takers or when memories weren’t failing.
Thomas Morgan — Says he was born in Yorkshire, Wales, but I can’t find a Yorkshire, Wales on Google Maps. Are we sure that it isn’t actually the Wales that is a small village in Yorkshire England?? Look at the wikipedia link:
Wales is a village and a civil parish in the Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham in South Yorkshire, England. It is on the border of South Yorkshire and Derbyshire. The civil parish of Wales, which has a population of 6,455, encompasses the village of Wales and neighbouring settlement Kiveton Park.
I see your Scooby sleuthing skills have awakened! That’s what genealogical research will do to you.
Good find. And who knows? You could be on to something. I haven’t dug much more into Thomas, specifically, since beginning research in August 2008. But a look at the docs we do have that are definitive seem to point to a clerical error or something else at work (listing point of emigration, rather than birthplace) rather than a birthplace in England. Here’s why, looking at the sources:
1. marriage record for Thomas Morgan and Jannette Reese
2. 1880 census record (Appollo, PA, northeast of PGH) for Thomas, Janet and three oldest children
3. 1900 census record (Carnegie, PA, southwest of PGH) for widowed Janet, three oldest children that match 1880 census, plus more kids that match the relatives we know in our family, including Beatrice (spelled Bealnica) (matching dates to M.A.)
4. 1910 census record (Carnegie) for widowed Janet and matching kids at same address and Beatrice spelled correctly with matching dates to M.A.
Now. The marriage record is the ONLY one out of dozens of Thomas Morgans (very common name) that I can find that match up to a Jannette Reese. Find this record copied and pasted into her About Me section on her profile. That record indicates his birth date and their marriage date, which happens after the date of emigration noted in census records, occurs in Philadelphia (which matches family memories) and occurs a year before their oldest son was born. So… seems to fit. But that’s where that strange combo birthplace comes from.
Census record for 1880 is a bit of a wild card because even though the names and dates appear to link up, the 1890 census was largely destroyed in a fire, and by 1900 the family is living without Thomas (with Janet indicated as widowed) southwest of PGH. Which is possible, after 20 yrs. But it would be great to have a death cert for Thomas and/or a replacement document for the intervening 20 yrs.
1900 and 1910 censuses from Carnegie match family memory and link up all the names decisively. ALL Census Records — 1880, 1900, 1910 — report the birth COUNTRY (the census asks for this and doesn’t get more specific) of Thomas and Janet AND their parents as Wales. Death records for her descendants, including M.A., list the birth country of their parents as Wales.
So… it’s a case of all other records outnumbering that one notation on the marriage record, which we don’t have an actual copy of, only a transcription by the Mormons in the International Genealogical Database. I recorded it on Thomas’s profile because I had to put it somewhere. But that’s how this genealogy stuff works — you piece together clues from many documents, and then refine the information as you confirm more definitely.
Another thing to understand is that these records are often misspelled — on the actual form, and by transcribers who scan and upload the electronic copies. I’ve seen our family’s names misspelled was Wible, Fontz, Hautz, Lea (on the death certificate for Grandpa’s brother, Dickie, when the parents are correctly spelled Ley), and I’ve seen birth dates clearly botched and added up wrong. (Death certificates will say how long a person lived in years, months and days). So: the record keepers are far from perfect, and people sometimes lie when they give information, which is why we research several docs and then piece together the best information.
Pretty cool, though, huh?