Never trust the index!

+23 votes
I have an ancestor, Joseph Mullins who fought at Yorktown under George Washington.  I only discovered him and his records since starting at WikiTree.  Been working on his profile all year and I was just stumped that I couldn't find him on the 1830 census.  He had migrated from VA to Grainger, TN, and then to Bedford, TN and he wasn't showing in either county.  By 1830 he was about 91 years old - couldn't find ANYONE in the census records at that age.

Back to square one: a search with no first name, then a search with only the initial for the last name.  Hours of painstaking searching.  Searched every county and finally, I found one record in the adjoining county that had some promise under the name of Joseph Mullius - but this guy was only 80, not 90.  I thought I'd give it a check - sure enough, the box for 90 to 100 years was checked.  Whoever indexed the data put in the wrong value for the age AND the name.

Bottom line: if you can't find a record, try different ages, different name spellings, different areas - your record my just be indexed incorrectly.
WikiTree profile: Joseph Mullins
in The Tree House by SJ Baty G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
Using the wildcard * can be immensely helpful where the * is allowed/accepted.  Numerous times I have found who I am looking for just one letter off the actual spelling because of that wonderful *.

Where is it accepted?  Family Search, Ancestry?  Inquiring minds wanna know! cheeky

wow! congratulations on finding him!
Well, it works on Scotland's People .. and on the NSW BDM online search, but NOT the Queensland one that I've experienced.  (Most, but not all, of my lookups occur in those three places.)

5 Answers

+8 votes
Best answer

Really, that should be in all CAPS!  wink

Also, really - just don't even get me started!!!

But one that comes to mind is my great-great grandmother Standley's death certificate. The handwriting was so bad that even Vital Records didn't find it when I had mailed in for it, years ago, even though I knew the exact town and year. Fortunately, has PA death certificates these days.

But had it indexed as "Barbara K Slamby", which is a far cry from "Barbara Catherine (Fox) Standley". To finally find it, I searched for somebody with the exact month of death, for her county. This was NOT the first thing I tried, nor the second. Or third. Or fourth...

"Mullins" vs "Mullius" is a pretty typical kind of error. A handwritten "N" can EASILY look like a hand-written "u". EXPECT that kind of thing, as often as not!

You're hardly going to find ANYTHING if you rely on the indices to be 100% perfect. You MUST, MUST, MUST learn to use the available search criteria creatively!!!!! And BE PERSISTENT!

by Frank Stanley G2G6 Mach 7 (72.1k points)
selected by Shaun Doust
Shaun, you beat me to it!  Definitely the best answer today!
+9 votes
The spelling of my great-grandfather's name was messed up on the original documents,but even further mashed up on's index.
by David Hughey G2G Astronaut (1.6m points)
In yet another example, my gg-grandfather was "missing" because Oliver G. Ranck was transcribed as Oliver O. Ranch.  And his daughter's husband was Cull instead of Tull.
+8 votes

   This is so true. So many times on a multitude of databases that I was able to find the correct info by using a wildcard search or, as they do on many sites, change the search parameters from exact to sounds like or some other variation of that.
by Mike Guzzetta G2G6 Mach 4 (41.2k points)
+6 votes
My paternal side is McFatter -- a rareish surname that census takers just COULD NOT handle. They spelled it McFadder, McFalter, McFathy (!), etc. Even in meatspace, when I tell people the name, they will say, "Oh, so McFadden?" No, it's not McFadden or McFadyen. It doesn't even appear to be an old variant of those surnames.

My point is, I've spent so long hunting members of this family that possess a sixth sense for McFatters. I can smell a McFatter! I've done many wildcard searchs, even down to searching "McF*!"
by Jessica Key G2G6 Pilot (223k points)
+4 votes
Just for fun, SJ: my ancestor, Henry Underwood, surrendered at Yorktown while serving in a Loyalist regiment.
by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (2.3m points)

Ah ha!  I just discovered that Joseph Mullins, my ancestor who served under Washington, his grandson married Izzibiah Carter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter to loyalist militiamen Lewis Banton and John Carter.  And so, what do you do when you're on the losing side and Canada is too far away?  You name your son George Washington Carter wink

By the way, I see a lot of member profiles proclaiming that they are descended from this or that patriot, I don't see too many of the same for loyalists.  Speaking of, I have yet to add Lewis and John to my profile... blush

GW Carter, now that’s a great “get-around.” My Henry’s son (ancestor Reuben) married Elizabeth, the daughter of another Loyalist, Gaspar Club. Their son, Jacob Underwood, married the granddaughter of a King’s Mountain patriot. A “get-around” by dilution though marriage.

Finally added them - I did give them a scarlet badge though cheeky

If Lewis Blanton fought in the back country of South Carolina during the Rev War, then he was involved in the most brutal aspect of the entire war. Great piece of history!

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