Source date conflicts; what do we trust?

+8 votes
152 views
I am finding several date conflicts between Family genealogical records (including data extracted from the family bible records, and notes found in the estate of a recently deceased aunt) and dates found on find a grave memorials. I have near 100% certainty that the graves stones are authentic and represent the ancestors I am portraying then as.

My question is: what do we consider to be canonical?  Do family bible records weigh more or less that the records found on grave stones?
WikiTree profile: William Fay
in WikiTree Help by Christian Werner G2G Crew (530 points)
retagged by Ellen Smith

6 Answers

+13 votes
 
Best answer
Notes extracted from any source can include transcription errors. If you have the original family bible or copies of it then that data could be more reliable than gravestones. The family bible details were probably written at the time of the event. Dates on a gravestone are dependent on the informant remembering correctly or making a best guess if they were unsure.
by Lynda Crackett G2G6 Pilot (630k points)
selected by Pip Sheppard
Case in point: www.wikitree.com/wiki/Voliva-2

Clear conflict between bible dates and gravestone dates, see biography notes.

I was present at his funeral; I was far to young to care about records and dates.
Pip, Thanks for the best answer star.
+11 votes
Without any additional corroboration, I don't think you can necessarily consider either of them to be authoritative.  In a case like that I would include all the available info in the biography and explain the conflict and whatever you know about the sources.  If the dates are close to each other, you can enter just a year, or a month and year, in the date fields of the profile.  If there are significant differences, or you want to use a specific date, then it may be a judgment call that depends on how accurate you find those sources to be in other cases.
by Dennis Barton G2G6 Pilot (427k points)
+14 votes
I try to document all the different records and back up my conclusion.  When possible,  I scan and post the family bible pages for others to make their own decisions.   

I've found many errors on headstones   (the most surprising,  was when a Union Civil War Soldier was given a Confederate Headstone)...... My grandpa Hamilton had a  Hamelton headstone........

My own father spelled my married name incorrectly in his will  (I had only been married twenty years when the will was drafted).....
by Peggy McReynolds G2G6 Pilot (442k points)
I think the best choice is to document all of the recorded dates in the biography. You will have to choose just one date for inclusion in the data section of the profile, but people reading the profile should be made aware of the other dates.
I agree with this approach.  If you record each date and point out all the differences in the profile (headstone says X, family geneologist says Y, obituary says Z) then you can't go wrong.

Logic will often lead you to the correct date.  Right in his own obituary one of my cousins had a mistake which would have had him getting married after his death.  You'd think they would have caught that considering it was in the same paragraph. :/
+9 votes
As this is a reasonably modern person, I would use both as hints and then go and look for actual birth and death records. The cemetery may have a record created at the time of burial and a baptism record may give a birth date, or point to the correct one.
by Fiona McMichael G2G6 Pilot (165k points)
edited by Fiona McMichael
You also list a couple of sources on his profile already.  I'd flesh those out more.  Where can those sources be found and what exactly to they say about this person?
+9 votes
Several good answers already given.  All things being more or less equal, discuss all dates in the bibliography or notes, and pros/cons on each.  Myself, I would go with bible records, usually the closest to the event, although sometimes changed from family pride and such, or just spite.  Had a great great grandmother whose name and dates were scratched out of the bible because her children didn't like her very much; scratched out so hard they wore a hole in the page.

I've found several incorrect gravestone dates in my family.  The carver messed up on one and my grandmother could't afford a new stone; watch out for replacement stones too, my great grandfathers stone was replaced about 50 years ago and they got dates wrong.

Another cause is not uncommon in low income or poorer areas and counties; stones were not placed for several years and the carved death dates will be years after the actual demise.  More common in the 1930s.
by Art Black G2G6 Mach 4 (44.2k points)
I have a great great grandmother who died in 1844, but her headstone says 1855 (an obvious replacement stone).

I now keep a list of incorrect headstones I find. I have dozens of documented cases so far. Headstone errors are quite common.
+9 votes
All documents need to be evaluated on a couple of different levels. A Bible record depends on whether the information was recorded at the time of the event of some time later. Entries all in the same ink and the same handwriting may have been transcribed at a later date. That assumes you have copies of the original pages. Someone elses transcription is a derivative source and could have errors. Find a Grave memorials are likely derivative. The gravestone image is better but could have errors. I've seen plenty that are wrong.

The best sources are those that are primary sources created by someone present at the event. When all you have are secondary or derivative sources, you have to do a lot of analysis. I would, as was suggested, include some commentary in the Biography section explaining the conflicts.

It does take experience with records to determine reliability.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (424k points)

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