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May 26, 2014

Oops - I goofed!

I goofed. I assumed something when I should have known better. And my goof almost made me miss out on something genealogically important.

Several years ago I found a record for my 5th Great-Grandfather Thomas Blanden. He was recorded in Royal Hospital, Chelsea: Discharge Documents of Pensioners as being discharged from the British military in 1787 and was listed as a Chelsea Pensioner. 

Royal Hospital, Chelsea: Discharge Documents of Pensioners
Discharge Certificate Thomas Blanden
Royal Hospital, Chelsea
Discharge Documents of Pensioners
 I sent for the record and wrote about it on Olive Tree Genealogy blog in Ordering Documents Online from National Archives in Kew England - a Comedy of Errors Part 1 and Ordering Documents from National Archives in Kew - a Comedy of Errors Part 2 

The record consisted of his Discharge Certificate and it recorded him as age 48 and having served as a Drummer in the Suffolk Militia for 28 years. 

A few days ago I wrote about Thomas in a post called 52 Ancestors: 5th Great Grandpa Ordered Out of His Parish with Wife and Family in 1778 After reading the article,  Martha W. wrote to tell me that she found Thomas in's online Chelsea Pensioner records. I knew Ancestry had these records but I had never searched them. I assumed they were the same records I'd already obtained from the National Archives in England. 

That's right. I'm an experienced researcher but I pulled a novice mistake by assuming two record sets were identical instead of going and checking.

You probably know where I'm heading with this story. Martha had kindly provided me with a direct link so on a whim I clicked through. I was positive I would find the same discharge papers I already had.
Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Registers of Soldiers Who Served in Canada, 1743-1882
Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Registers of Soldiers Who Served in Canada, 1743-1882
To my surprise (and delight!) the Ancestry records are not identical. In fact they are a set of records called Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Registers of Soldiers Who Served in Canada, 1743-1882. And there was Thomas. He  is recorded as a Drummer,  age 48  and being pensioned after 28 years because he was "worn out" and had "bad eyes". These records gave me new information - that he had at some time been sent to Canada during his military life as a Drummer. His place of birth in Suffolk England was also recorded. It also gives me more detail to add to Thomas so that I have a better glimpse of him as a person not just a name.  

And now I have a new area of research open to me - to find out more about the movements and battles of the Suffolk Militia from 1759 to 1787 which was when Thomas served. I would really like to find out when he was in Canada and what battles he might have been part of. 

I am still reeling from having pulled such a bad mistake - that of assuming I knew what was in a set of records. It's not like I'm a novice genealogist. I've been researching for over 35 years and have been published in scholarly genealogical journals. One of the traits I pride myself on is being meticulous in my research and leaving no stone unturned. 

I goofed this time. This was a big rock and I am not sure if I would have turned it if Martha had not written. I hope I would have, eventually. In any case I have learned a valuable lesson (which I thought I already knew) - never assume! 

Credits: "Oops" by digitalart on


Diana Ritchie said...

We learn the most from our mistakes! Unfortunately I seem to learn that I've made the same mistake before….I need to be better about lessons learned!!

Thanks for sharing this - it's a great reminder for all of us!

Celia Lewis said...

Oh yes, I've had the same experience and learned more information by looking at two datasets from two companies, both databases named the same. Great information you found Lorine, and a great reminder, as Diana says. Merci!

Peg said...

Thanks for the reminder to check everywhere! I just did the reverse. I had the Chelsea pension entry for my third great grand uncle, so I did not check the Archives. The Archives directed me to Find My Past where I downloaded his discharge paper images for very little. Now I know when he left Quebec in 1812 (only to return later).

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Peg - glad you got both sets and also happy to hear I'm not alone :-)


Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Thanks Diana, you're right. it was a good reminder and lesson for me for sure!

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Celia - Now I'm off hunting for other databases that I might have assumed were duplicates. Wish me luck!

Anonymous said...

I suspect that the Ancestry "Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Registers of Soldiers Who Served in Canada, 1743-1882" may be mislabelled, as I found my ancestor in this record set and discovered that his batallion had never served in Canada.