52 Ancestors Week 37: Mistake

+13 votes

Time for the next 52 Ancestors challenge!

Please 52 Ancestors and 52 Photos sharing challenge badgesshare with us a profile of an ancestor or relative who matches this week's theme:


From Amy Johnson Crow:

Mistakes. We all make them. (We are human, after all.) What's a mistake that an ancestor made? What's a mistake that you've had to correct in your research? What was something that you were sure was a mistake in the records, but turned out to be right?

Share below!

Participants who share every week can earn badges. If this is your first time participating and you don't have the participation badge, or if you pass a milestone (13 in 13, 26 in 26, 52 in 52) let us know hereClick here for more about the challenge. 

in The Tree House by Eowyn Langholf G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
Does my own experience count?

When I was in college and on the synchronized swim team, need for $$$ drove me to give up my amateur eligibility to take a summer job swimming in a professional water ballet troupe.  One of the numbers was a parody of a beauty contest.  There was Miss this and Miss that, with sashes naming them, who came out when announced and dove in, swam an introductory piece with some scenery/music appropriate to each title.  I was last - announced as Miss Take, I dove into the center of what appeared to be a toilet seat.  We all swam together after that, except for me - I was deliberately out of step with everyone else.

49 Answers

+17 votes
Best answer

Though there have been many, the most recent mistake I made had to do with the Brother Jonathan Cemetery, a cemetery close to my home.  I had recently joined the Cemetrist project and decided this cemetery would be perfect to start with because of how small it was -- only 29 folks interred there.  I proceeded to do my research on the cemetery/memorial online.  I took photos of all the markers and made profiles for each person.  Of course I knew that there was more work to be done, especially on the profiles, but I thought that I'd done all the right things.  Wrong!

About two weeks ago I made a trip to the local Historical Society and discovered that the small cemetery was sitting on top of a very large cemetery with dozens (if not hundreds) of "lost" graves.  The story is very interesting and I'm looking forward to going back and revamping this free space page.  I learned to never think that you have all the facts just because you did some research.

by Robin Shaules G2G6 Pilot (387k points)
selected by Michelle Parker
Thank you, Michelle, for the star. I appreciate it.
+16 votes

I have made many mistakes.  One that comes to mind is a 5x great grandmother Elizabeth Harrison Ratcliff who I first added to wikitree when I joined.  I then disconnected her because I was not convinced by the evidence I had.  This past spring I found additional evidence as well as DNA confirmation so I reconnected her to my family line.  


by Caryl Ruckert G2G6 Pilot (139k points)
+14 votes

One mistake I made that I had to correct was identifying the correct Elizabeth Thompson who married George Henton and was the mother of my 5x Great Grandmother Rebecca Henton Millard (through three of her children, Timothy, Abiah, and Anna Nancy).

Lots of Ancestry trees have Elizabeth Thompson as being born in 1726 in Maine and the daughter of James Thompson and Eunice Elizabeth Frye. However, I found a reference to a book on the Thompson family which included the fact that Elizabeth daughter of James and Eunice was born in April and died in December of 1726.

The U.S. and International Marriage Records on Ancestry have the name of George's wife as Elizabeth Thompson and the baptismal record of their son George list him as the son of George and Elizabeth Henton. My belief now is that she was born about 1715, very likely in Berks County, Pennsylvania. 

by Emily Holmberg G2G6 Mach 5 (57.1k points)
+12 votes
In my "famous" self-made family tree about my greatgrandpaternal family mum wrote a birthday of a relative (who was there) as 31 Nov. When we realized what had happened we called her by phone and asked for the true date. it was 23 Nov.
by Jelena Eckstädt G2G6 Pilot (239k points)
+11 votes
In trying to source the children of Zebulon Rice, I almost connected his daughter's husband to the wrong Alexander Oliver. Both men served in the American Revolution, one settled in Ohio, while the other settled in New York. It was plausible that some of the family might follow their older sister Persis to Ohio as many of their other relatives had done so. But when I looked closely at the Ohio Oliver, I realized he had married someone entirely different and wasn't the correct man.
by Diane Hildebrandt G2G6 Mach 1 (18.2k points)
+15 votes
The headstone for my mother at Fort Gibson National Cemetery in Oklahoma has a mistake on it.  She was moved to this cemetery 13 years ago, and there is a large mistake on it. The date of death is wrong, as it should say 20 June 1966 and not 2 June 1966. Now that I am doing genealogy, I realize that this needs  to be corrected. I let it pass at the time she was moved, as I  was too emotional.
by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Mach 8 (81.3k points)
+23 votes

My genealogy mistakes have been too numerous to consider any of them noteworthy. I did find this "fun" mistake made by someone else though! My GGGfather Philip Forsyth (1814-1891) was a very big on both bringing lawsuits and being charged with hot headed crimes. Thomas Dudley made the big mistake of spreading tales about  Philip's daughter Elizabeth(1839-1902) (my GGmother) and had to declare such in the local Sacramento papers! I sure wish we knew what it was he blabbed!   Whatever it was my GGfather seemed to think she was OK. :)

by Lyn Sara Gulbransen G2G5 (5.9k points)
edited by Lyn Sara Gulbransen
Love this story!  I have a 10x greatgrandmother in the St. Mary's Colony in Maryland who kept showing up in the court records as causing trouble.  She continued being cantankerous after moving to Westmoreland Co., VA, as she and her second husband carried on a lengthy and  "tedious" land dispute there (as described by the court records).  Needless to say, they lost.
love it Anneliese
+13 votes
Just before the Civil War Nathan Cory (https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Cory-748) moved from Indiana westward to Kansas.  Unfortunately his house was burned down during the conflict. He ended up moving his family back to Indiana.  So I would think (and he probably did too) that moving westward was a mistake.
by Eric McDaniel G2G6 Mach 3 (31.3k points)
+11 votes

I felt sure that  Ida (Tuttle) Fish from Illinois was Frank and Lydia Wheat's housekeeper at their home in Iowa.

A nagging 1880 census cites her as "adopted daughter", but don't census records tell many a falsehood? 

In 1870 she was considered housekeeper OK, so the 1880 record must be wrong, I reasoned. Maybe the Wheat's had something to hide? Besides, Lydia Wheat was only 14 years older than Ida, so...

Not long ago, as I was improving profiles of ancient aunts & uncles from New York, I saw that the young Eliza Richmond had been a domestic at the Wheat home in Franklin, before marrying the elder Wheat son. Her sister Lydia Richmond, a few years later, had also married one of the Wheat boys. And another sister Cornelia Richmond had worked at the Wheat home, like the other two.

As I worked to clarify these relationships, I stumbled upon a surprising New York State Census, 1865. There she was, Ida Tuttle, only 15 years old, adopted daughter of Lydia and William Wheat! How could I have doubted?

Now I know how Ida (Tuttle) Fish came to marry one of my great grand uncles, Wellington James Pierson, in Iowa. He was none other than the nephew of  Lydia (Richmond) Wheat

by C Ryder G2G6 Mach 3 (39.9k points)
I forgot to add Ida's mother, the merry widow, was alive and well in Charles City, Iowa -- another reason to doubt that Ida was adopted by the Wheat's.
+9 votes

I made a mistake in the Coppola family. It turns out that Rosa Coppola was really Rosa Stella. Details in this week's blog: https://allroadhaverhill.blogspot.com/2019/09/52-ancestors-week-37-mistakes.html

by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (250k points)
+12 votes

One of the biggest genealogy blunders I've ever made was not getting DNA samples from my grandparents.  It is something I'm trying to rememedy now by getting from their siblings and from my parents.  Oh how nice it would be to be able to reach back two more generations in autosomal searches.  I've had to use all sorts of family finder + YDNA coonnections to solidify links like the case I made for my Grandma Virgie Ella (Ulmer) Baty's ancestors when I wrote this:

Proof of Descent from John Mullins (1718) to SJ Baty

Just having Grandma's DNA test would have made it so much easier.

by SJ Baty G2G6 Pilot (615k points)
edited by SJ Baty
+14 votes
I thought this was a hilarious mistake: one of my ancestors, Jacob Toothman (Toothman-139), accidentally created his own swimming pool according to an article in "The Coshocton Tribune."  He'd been trying to keep some ice on cold storage (hard to do in the 19th century).  Unfortunately, it didn't go well and he ended up with a pool instead.
by K. Anonymous G2G6 Mach 7 (70.2k points)
+13 votes

My gr. gr. grandfather William Holman made the biggest mistake of his life, when he was drunk, and fell off the dredging barge 'Dugong' which he was working on, and drowned in Townsville Harbour in 1900. William Holman has an unmarked grave in Ravenswood, Queensland.

by David Urquhart G2G6 Mach 5 (50.8k points)
+17 votes

Repeating the same thing over and over with the expectation of a different outcome is one definition of 'insanity.' It could also define the word 'mistake', particularly in genealogy.

This was an 'insane mistake' on my part when I started to do my mum's paternal family line around 1975. Mum's paternal surname is 'George' and she said the family came from Northern Spain in the Basque region and said the name was originally pronounced with a French accent. 

I spent 4 years trying to track down every 'George' lead, even with different spellings that I could find (over and over expecting a different outcome for 4 years). Then my great Aunt Lydee (Delida) died. I got to talking to a cousin at Aunt Lydee's funeral (in 1979). She told me she had the family Bible and made copies of birth, death and marriage entries. I started from recent to past...George, George, George, George until I got to Aunt Lydee's oldest sister 'Flaminia Giorgio'! Their father wasn't Tony George (1852-1931), he was Antonio Giorgio from Turin Italy (https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Giorgio-63)! 

Antonio Giorgio

He certainly wasn't French and he certainly wasn't Basque. He was Italian. To be fair, this was before the advent of computers in genealogy. All those letters and searches for naught. My mistake was not asking 1) Aunt Lydee when she was alive, and 2) not asking cousin Cathy sooner about any knowledge she had of her dad and our great aunts and uncles!

by Carol Baldwin G2G6 Mach 8 (87.8k points)
+14 votes

I made one big mistake when I was getting started researching my family. I had asked my mother to tell me what she knew about her parents but at the time she could not remember many details about her father Harry White. She thought he was born about 1902 in the Birmingham (England) area, his father died young and she could not remember his mother's name. She also talked about visiting his sister in Hockley, Birmingham when she was young.

So with that scant information I looked for possible candidates and found a Harry White who was born about the right time and lived in Hockley in the 1911 census. There weren't any other obvious candidates with the right name, birth date and birth place.

For over a year I assumed I was right and researched the family of Harry White in some cases going back six generations.

It was only after I had the 1939 Register record for my grandfather and grandmother that I had his exact birth date and further research confirmed he was a different Harry White born a few weeks earlier at Netherton near Dudley, Worcestershire which is about 8 miles west of Hockley but still within the Birmingham conurbation. 

It illustrates how valuable the 1939 Register is as a source and how important it is to try to find as many sources as possible and not just rely on a few.

Hopefully some lucky family member will benefit from the research I did on the wrong Harry White.

by Ray Hawkes G2G6 Mach 2 (23.3k points)
You aren’t the only one to make that sort of mistake.  In my salad days, I followed whole branches of a Zimmerman family only to find they were originally from Switzerland.  I was excited, then I eventually discovered the right ones and have multiple DNA matches to substantiate.  They were German.  It was all confused by many descendants claiming they were originally Dutch.  Hey ho, we live and learn :)
+14 votes

One of the mistakes I have made over the years has been not asking enough questions of people while they were still living.  My paternal grandmother was one such I should have asked for information and clarification, but I didn't, so am still paying the price.

Grandma had seven siblings—only two of them brothers.  Two of the sisters were half-siblings, as my Great-Grandmother died when Grandma was 22 and away serving in the military during the Great War.  Great -Grandad remarried.  All well and good so far. 

Fast forward a few decades and I come on the scene.  Grandma gifts me with snippets of family history and photographs (not many, because she had them all lined up on the dresser, which is where they stayed until she died, when they went to my Dad).  Unfortunately, she didn't always write on the backs of those photos who was which person on the front—so I have a couple of lovely photographs of two of my Grand-Aunts: Lena and Nettie, but no idea of which was which.  As such, this was how I knew them until last year: Lena and Nettie.  Big mistake not asking, because tracking down their births was not the easiest of tasks, but I was determined to find sources other than my "family records, letters, journals, photographs, etc" (which are perfectly valid sources, but they aren't accessible to anyone else, so are not very handy).

Perseverance (aka being more stubborn than a mule) pays off, and I eventually found "Lena" was actually Eleanor; and "Nettie" was actually Annetta Irene (Wilton née Perman).  Now, *I* think "Annetta" is a lovely name, as is Eleanor, but I have a feeling my Grandma felt them a tad too "common", so I was told the names by which I always knew them (Lena and Nettie).  So—I found their birth registrations to back up what my records told me, then I found the marriage registrations for them as well. 

The trouble is, even though I found out more than I had known, I am still in the dark, due to that early mistake of not asking questions while people are alive to give the answers, regards which photograph is Lena and which is Nettie—so I made them into a single image and it now resides on both their profiles. 

Maybe, one day, one of my English cousins will stumble on Wikitree, find those profiles and will be able to tell me (finally!) which is which!


(37 weeks in, 37th post of sharing.)

by Melanie Paul G2G6 Pilot (209k points)
Melanie, this is a mistake most of us would have to own.

I know .. but it doesn't suck the less for "everyone" having the same regret.  cheeky

Still, I have the photographs and I have them attached to both profiles.  I just wish I could sort out Grandma's notes better.  I know they made sense to HER, but I often don't have a clue.  (They're worse than my Mum's!)

+13 votes
The mistake I want to complain about was made by a town clerk in my grandfather's hometown of Peru VT.  Grandpa's name was Kirt Adams.  KIRT.  Yes, it is an odd spelling, but that was what he was named.  The town clerk insisted on calling him KIRK.  Now this is a tiny town.  Everyone knew each other.  You'd think the clerk would get the people's names right.  But further study has led me to conclude that O.P. Symonds just plain couldn't spell.  His own name is spelled three ways in the records.  And sometimes I think he went by O.P. so he wouldn't have to spell it.   Unfortunately, O.P. Symonds' misspellings get taken as fact by many (especially on Ancestry) who insist if the town clerk spelled it that way, you don't look at the gravestone or the family records, you just look at the town record.  Right, thanks O.P.
by Carolyn Adams G2G6 Mach 1 (15.8k points)
I think you're right Carolyn. There are O.P.'s everywhere in the records, confusing us about the spelling of names.
+11 votes

Early on in my research, I was fascinated by the lines that led back to colonial times.  One of my earlier fascinations was to the immigrant Lt Francis Bell.  I spent months reading different sources related to him, and that time period in Stamford, CT.  I even bought a book, read it from front to back, completely entrenched in learning his story.  I would dream about that time period, and being one of the original settlers of Stamford.  

The descendent that led me to Francis Bell was Joshua Hoyt, my 8th GGF, or so I thought,  Then there was the day when I realized that it was not Joshua Hoyt that was my 8th GGF, it was Moses Hoyt.  Joshua Hoyt was his brother, making Joshua my 8th great grand uncle.  My connection to Francis Bell?  Nada!  Well, not completely nada; he is the father-in-law of my 1st cousin 9x removed.   Pfffftttt!

I still enjoyed the stories, and enjoy the continued research, but I have slowed down on buying books related to alleged ancestors.  :)

by William Catambay G2G6 Mach 1 (15.2k points)
+11 votes
Money is not everything in life ... but someone one said it sure is nice to have!

I have had a good life ... made enough to live comfortably ... and had enough saved to retired at the young age of 56.

However, there is one decision I made in my life ... not sure I would necessarily call a mistake ... but it would have made me a wealthy man if I have taken an opportunity that was once offered to me.

in 1963 computer were a relatively new business tool ... I attended a computer training school ... I then became manager of a computer center for an insurance company.  

That company had just entered a contact with a start-up company to do its computer processing.  The company was started by Ross Perot and called Electronic Data Systems (EDS).

Ross had the office next to mine ... so we became friendly ... he asked me to join his young company ... the salary was not an improvement ... however, there were lots of stock options.

I chose another career path ... I went to the academic world ... I became director of the computer center at the University of Dallas.  I also taught some computer courses there, SMU, TCU and St Edwards.  I later returned to the business world.

As most of you may recall ... GM bought EDS for billions ... thus, Ross became a multi-billionaire ... and his initial employees also became extremely wealthy.

Was it a mistake on my part ... I like to think not ... but I do wonder what life would have been like had I joined Ross in his new adventure.
by Bill Sims G2G6 Mach 3 (30.6k points)
+18 votes

Census records, on which we all rely, are full of mistakes such as names misspelled, incorrect ages or years of birth, entire families left off or families enumerated twice. Then there are the transcription errors of those census records which often leads to indexing errors. Then we might improperly evaluate the records and perpetuate mistakes others made or we make our own errors.

On the 1880 Census, my 3rd great-aunt Jackson Ann Davis was incorrectly recorded as being a male child, so I'm using her profile as the one I feature for this week's prompt.

by Nelda Spires G2G6 Pilot (123k points)

Don't you just love that 

My 4Xgreat grandmother* was also, at times, recorded as male, despite her having given birth to four children!  surprise

Maybe it's the name, as appears the case with your great-great-grand-Aunt. 



* Tempest Margaret Paul née Hughes.  (Tempest has been used in the family for both girl children and boy children, right down to today.)

The naming of children in this generation will give researchers fits in future!  One thing in past was knowing some names that were feminine in the last century were masculine in centuries before-- but not always! I am looking at a group pic & a woman was labeled Clarence but on re- examining, it is probably Clarene or Clarice!  Another problem I had was tryi g to determine which name is middle, since many were called by middle names. Another is using names passed down so that each son names his sons after a father, then uncles, and self! When several generations have several children & each does this , it is both confusing, and a (slight) sign maybe they are related!
Census enumerators' errors are a huge challenge to finding relatives in centuries past.  My mother's ancestors, in particular, have members attributed to unrelated families in Ancestry because Prendergast was often misspelled in Canada as Pendergast or Pendergrast until the 20th century records.  Killoran could also be misspelled at least three different ways.  Fortunately, our great-grandmother wrote down the names of spouses and children, and where people moved to, which makes finding their records a whole lot more reliable.  Yeah, Granny!

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