In Genealogy Things Are Not Always the Way They Seem: Hints and Tips
One of the aspects of genealogy I enjoy most is the thrill of the hunt! Reading, researching, and scouring each piece of material for the tiniest of clues to head us in the right direction to new discoveries about our ancestors.
However, there is a caveat about this I would like to sound, especially for those of you who are new to genealogy and working on your family history. It is this: Use those clues, follow those leads, but be careful not to assume too much nor read too much into them, but rather keep an open mind that all things in genealogy just might not be as they seem!
Let me give you two real world examples.
Recently I was contacted by my Dutch colleague, Peter Knegtle, regarding a branch of our mutual Knechtl family. While I was working on this specific family member (Edward Knechtel), I came across a marriage document. The groom was proper, but the bride, while having the proper given name and proper given name for her father and the proper given and surname for her mother, listed her maiden name as Sullivan, with no prior marriage for the bride, while our initial research has shown her maiden name to be Laskowski.
While I was surprised by this discovery I also thought to myself “Oh my! I’m going to be looking for a family with its head being an Irishman by the name of John Sullivan.” I will admit to you I also shuddered a bit since my forte is not in the arena of Irish genealogy by any means, but I was all set to dive in to this mystery.
I began to search for additional records for Frances Sullivan and her parents, John and Elizabeth. Nothing that came close to matching any of this family.
I decided to play to my strength and wait a bit on getting my Irish up and I decided to continue to research the bride a bit more with the Laskowski surname. Sure enough I found something.
In 1925 there was a marriage of Frances Laskoski (not Laskowski) with the same parents of John and Elizabeth. Plus while our Knecthl marriage record had listed Elizabeth’s maiden name as Vasalosfky, this earlier marriage listed it as a similar Weseloski. The major difference? The groom was not Sullivan, but Sulmonian.
We are continuing to shore up our records and findings, but it seems there is a very high likelihood we have the right person and her path here. It will be a bit of an additional challenge since the marriage was performed by a Justice of the Peace rather than having a church wedding, so there will be no church records available.
My second example pertains to my mother’s great-grandfather, William Evenden (1795-1881).
It was during some of my earliest work on this branch of our family when a cousin nicely offered to provide me with a copy of the birth record of his nearest brother. The certificate was crisp and clear (a delight) and I could easily read the father as William Evenden and the mother as Elizabeth Evenden formerly Brown. I thought I was all set with this nice gift especially since my grandmother had told me my great-great-grandparents’ names were William and Elizabeth.
A bit later on I got to thinking that it would be ‘nice’ for me to have a copy of the actual birth certificate for him, so I ordered one up from the Government Records Office in the UK.
I looked at it the day it arrived and was pleased to see the same birthdate I had, same given names, same father, then BAM! The mother was Elizabeth alright, but it said the following:
Elizabeth Evenden, late Allen formerly Body
I remember thinking ‘Say, what?’
Same given name, but a completely different woman!
It took me many months of research before I finally discovered the record for this marriage as it took place in a parish a good distance away, but there it was, the marriage of Elizabeth Allen (widow) and William Evenden (widower).
I continue to look for the death record for Willam’s first wife, but am certainly pleased that I took the extra steps to find out things were not what they seemed at first.
So as you begin or continue to work on your family history, but sure to go that extra few steps to insure that things are actually what they seem to be at first.
Onward To Our Past®