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May 4, 2010

Oh How Easy it is to be Fooled!

Several years ago my husband and I looked over his genealogy. Much of it was done before we met, and I kept peppering him with questions "Where did you find this?" "How do you know this is correct?" "What's your source?" "Who told you?" He was a novice researcher and most of his answers were "I can't remember" or "My grandmother told me" or "I think I read it somewhere" We did manage together to track down most of the sources for his lines. And he became really conscientious about noting his sources.

However just recently I was going over one of his Irish lines. He is descended from a Catherine Kennedy who married Thomas Elgie. Catherine's birth location and exact age at death is on her tombstone which is a very nice find. Her gravestone reads
ELGIE/ Sacred to the memory of Catherine Kennedy/ beloved wife of/ Thomas Elgie/ died 1 June 1890/ age 66 years, 5 months, 6 days/ native of County Kerry, Ireland/ may her soul rest in peace
From this we calculated a date of birth as 26 Dec 1823. This may not be exact, for we do not who had the tombstone done. It was probably her husband for he outlived her by another 10 years. But it may have been someone else. How knowledgeable were they? Maybe they knew her exact age, maybe they did not. But it was a start.

I'll keep my long story short and just say that for various reasons we had her parents as Cornelius Kennedy and Elizabeth Clifford. Cornelius was the name given to one of Catherine's sons. Cornelius was from Co. Kerry as was Catherine. Cornelius and his wife are buried beside Catherine in the Cemetery. They all lived near each other in Ontario Canada. In the 1861 Canadian Census, Cornelius and his wife have an 18 year old daughter named Catherine. The age is off, but we all know we can't completely believe a census or a gravestone. So the decision was that this Catherine was the wife of Thomas Elgie.

We gathered lots of interesting information on Cornelius Kennedy. He was written up in local newspapers as a man who lived through 3 centuries (born 1797 died 1901). There were photos of him. It was rather exciting to find such a wealth of detail!

Then reality hit. Recently another descendant of Thomas Elgie and Catherine Kennedy contacted me and asked for information. I hadn't looked at the lines in a very long time so as I was digging through my files and notes to make sure I had every document and every source, I realized that the connection of our Catherine to Cornelius was tenuous. There were discrepancies that needed to be resolved.

With that in mind I began a more thorough search. Now that all the Canadian census records are online on Ancestry as are early Ontario births, deaths and marriages, my search was much easier. And then I found it. The death of Catherine, daughter of Cornelius Kennedy and Elizabeth Clifford. But their daughter Catherine was married to John Kean aka Kane and she died in 1913.

Back to our Catherine Kennedy who married Thomas Elgie and died in 1890. Another search of our long-forgotten notes revealed that buried in the same plot as Catherine Kennedy Elgie were Peter Kennedy and his wife Mary. Peter was from Co. Kerry. Their stone reads
Sacred to the memory of Peter Kennedy died 10 Sept. 1868, age 75 years. His wife Mary, died 14 Oct. 1867, age 70 years, natvies of County Kerry, Ireland
Another look at Thomas Elgie and Catherine Kennedy's children showed they named a son Peter and a daughter Mary Ann. Light bulbs were flashing in my head. Bingo. I suspect that the correct parents of our Catherine are Peter and Mary Kennedy.

Given the dates of birth, locations of birth, settlement locations and burials, I also suspect that Cornelius and Peter might have been brothers. I'm itching to start researching Peter and Mary, but sad that old Cornelius, the man who lived through 3 centuries, is not an ancestor of my husband.

And I'm reminded how easy it is to be fooled and how diligent we genealogists have to be in our ongoing research into our ancestors.


Ravenswick said...

What a great story! I have had similar things happen in my research. Great reminder about sources and always evaluating new information.

Anonymous said...

What does that mean that one man lived through 3 centuries?

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

@anonymous. Cornelius was born in 1797 and died in 1901. Therefore he was alive in the 18th century (1797-1799), 19th century (1800-1899) and 20th century (1900-1901).

Greta Koehl said...

It's comforting to know that the pros can be guilty of "making assumptions," too; it's one of my worst faults as a researcher.

Anonymous said...

My name is Wayne Elgie and we have just completed our family history book, entitled the Elgies of Nissouri, which speaks somewhat about TW Elgie and Catherine Kennedy and their 8 children. What is most interesting is that Catherine is buried in the Catholic Section of St.Marys Cemetery, and Thomas Walker is buried across the road from her in the Protestant section.

The Grandmother Here said...

Wayne: Do you have any extra copies of your Elgie family history book for sale? Or have you donated a copy to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, all sold out. Only archived copy is in the St.Marys Library Archives. Wayne