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January 26, 2011

Who's Your Daddy?!!

A few days ago I found out that I might have followed the wrong ancestral line on my Mother's English ancestry. I was contacted by another researcher who has different parents for my 3rd great-grandmother Betsey Norman born circa 1822 in Devon England. Does that mean she's right and I'm wrong? Not necessarily but....

My new-found contact has well-documented sources for Betsey and her family (spouse and children). So do I. We agree on our findings in Devon England census records from 1851 on. But I've never found Betsey in 1841. New-found contact has found a Betsey Norman in 1841 who could be my Betsey. Problem is that 1841 Betsey is with a different father than I have for her. And my new-found contact doesn't have any other proof of parents. So who is correct?

One other tiny piece of circumstantial evidence weighing in on the side of my new-found contact is that Betsey did name a son Nicholas which is the name of the father in that 1841 census record. Her other son was named after William's father so that's something to consider.

I opened my FTM program to look at what I have for Betsey and her parents. I haven't looked at this line in over 15 years so had to refresh my memory. Where did I obtain her parents' names? Ah, I see. About 20 years ago I searched through the Brixham Parish Records (Brixham being the place of birth Betsey gave in all the census records I found for her) In those records I found a Betsey born at the right time and assumed this was my Betsey. Perhaps it was but I never did try to find other proof!

Hmm. How did I make that very basic error of assuming without having more proof that the church Betsey was MY Betsey? Well - in my defense it was over 20 years ago. I wasn't as careful back then to not leap to conclusions without more proof, and I wasn't as experienced a researcher as I am now. It also was not very easy to obtain those English records as I can't easily order into a Family History Library. Okay enough excuses! I may have goofed.

Then I spotted something else of interest in my Family Tree Maker genealogy program. Betsey married her husband William Henry Williams around 1847. But I don't have their marriage record! Wow, I actually forgot that I didn't have it. Twenty years ago, obtaining a birth, death or marriage from England was difficult. You had to get the filmed indexes (remember I don't have a nearby FHL to order film), then find your ancestor's name and then find someone living in England to obtain the full record for you.

The FHL in Salt Lake City had a retrieval system for a few years where you could pay for one of their volunteers to obtain the actual record after you found what you needed in the microfilmed indexes. Unfortunately I didn't find out about that until a few years before that service ended.  I am guessing that I simply forgot I didn't have Betsey and William's marriage record.

Now we are fortunate to have FreeBMD to search the transcribed indexes and the ability to order the actual certificates online from GRO (General Register Office)  for England & Wales. What a boon! Even though it is a bit expensive to order a certificate now (GRO recently raised their prices from 7 L to 9.50L which converts to about $15.00 Canadian) it is well worth it if you are searching your UK ancestry.

And of course that 1847 marriage will seal it once and for all as to who Betsey's father is. Was I right to assume the birth in the Brixham church records was my Betsey? I'll let you know once the certificate arrives! I ordered it on Monday.

You'd think I'd be upset that the research I did on the parents I had for my Betsey might prove to be wrong. But I'm not. I'm actually kind of excited thinking that maybe I've got brand new lines to research! What fun! And I've reminded myself of an important lesson or two:

1. Don't assume, find more proof to substantiate what you find in one source.

2. Review your research a few times a year! I'd completely forgotten that I didn't have that 1847 marriage and could have obtained it a few years ago had I remembered.

Lesson learned and now to wait anxiously for that marriage record.


Kathy Reed said...

This brings back memories of trying to prove I had the "right" William Wainright in Cincinnati. The two William Wainrights not only shared the same name but the same family. It was a nightmare and I wanted to get it right. This guy qualified me to be a part of a local lineage group called "First Families." I had to prove he was in Cincinnati before 1820. He was here in 1819. I'm 90% sure I have the right one and no one has disputed it -- but it's one of those things. Good luck with yours.

Randy Seaver said...

Been there, done that...I know how you feel, and I hope that you find the right answer.