which document to believe, death cert or sworn affidavit

+1 vote
126 views
Ida wagner b 2/19/1870 d 7/28/1950 mother Lavina Wagner father Henry Wagner, per death cert.

Per sworn affidavit by Lavina Wagner listing 9 children by name place of birth and date of birth omits the name of Ida Wagner. Also list Henry Wagner as husband with date of marriage. affidavit dated 9/27/1936

 Lavina would have been 15 years old at date of Ida's birth and unmarried untill 2 years later
in Genealogy Help by Don Ryniker G2G1 (1.1k points)
edited by Don Ryniker
I'd cite both, but be more inclined to go with the death certificate. Affidavits, even though sworn on, are often done so by those with an agenda - as much as I hate to say so. Prone at times to not be quite the truth somewhat ;)
People lied about their age on a regular basis in the past.  My maternal grandmother did so early in her career, and my paternal grandfather's year of birth was given incorrectly on numerous occassions.  Cite all of your sources and be done with it.

There are some records which are more trustworthy than others.  If you have an actual official death certificate for the actual deceased, use that for the date of death.  Otherwise, if it is just a name listed on the document (date of parent's birth, for example), use that as the starting point for a brand new search and go find original records.

But always, list all your sources.

2 Answers

+4 votes
For me the problem with death certificates is that the person that knows all the correct answers unfortunately is the corpse, and the person providing the details could be suffering from stress due to this death.  I don't know to which sort of sworn affidavit you're referriing but such a paper is likely based on memory.  If this is something in the USA there surely must be more records available to provide more clues. Often census records are incorrect regarding year, place of birth and it often takes three or more records to draw a conclusion, and even then it's not necessarily accurate.
by Vincent Piazza G2G6 Pilot (241k points)
I have ran into that my great uncles widow who was up in age gave wrong birthdate and the wrong mothers name. Luckily I had other records and the dates where so far off they had him 20 years older and the wrong mom listed was a first wife who was dead long time before he was born. You have to remember birth certificates and other documents weren't required until a certain time and a lot of info on older birth and death documents can be wrong not on purpose.
Right, you can imagine at the coroner's office the clerk is asking "What was his mother's name"? and the people kind of look at each other and say I think it was Jones or Smith, yea yea , it was Smith", and it gets recorded that way, it must be, there's no other reason some records are as inaccurate as they are.
And people fib, even on affidavits.
I've run into errors on a couple of my ancestors' death certificates, both related to mothers. One lists the wrong person entirely, mistakenly assuming that the family that raised him after his parents died was his mother's. The other gets the first name right, but the surname given is actually the grandmother's.
Precise, you really need quite a few records before you can even make a good estimation.
+1 vote
I would list both as sourses with a discription of the differences in the biography. That way others could look at both and possibly find additional information later.
by Dale Byers G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)

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