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!

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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.

47 Answers

+14 votes
My mistake: believing every detail of oral stories. I’ve had some stunning revelations when the paper trail proved different.  More specifically, not looking carefully at dates when I thought I had connected to a wonderful line of folks based on names alone. Duh!
by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)

been there, done  that! wink

+12 votes

My most likely mistake to make is in confusing individuals with the same name. I started at the age of 20, so I've had plenty of opportunity to learn. It's just too easy. My first case was with Molly. I had lunch with mother's cousin Molly (Johnston) White who is often referred to by her maiden name by the Johnston family. Three days later, I received a phone call from a cousin of my father, asking me to inform Dad of Molly Johnstone's death. I was shocked the Molly had died so suddenly, not thinking about the source of information being of the wrong family. My mother and father were not related except by marriage, so their cousins should not be confused. The woman who died had no connection with the one I lunched with, except through my parents' marriage. 

Many years later, I am still challenged to keep the records straight when researching ancestors of common names and fathers and sons of the same name. I try to check time, place, family connection and opportunity before I decide I have it right. Yet it did happen that Robert Russell Smith, well educated son of an English doctor was the same person as Robert Russell Smith who freighted in the fur trade out of Fort QuAppelle in present-day Saskatchewan, Canada. It took DNA tests and lots of research to convince me.

by Judith Chidlow G2G6 Mach 2 (29.9k points)
Judith, I struggled too with this problem.  One thing I've started doing is putting the year of the file as the start of its name for all my files.  In this way, I know if I'm dealing with 1830's John Smith or 1920's John Smith.

For example:

1822 Franklin County, TN baptisms - John Smith
1830 US Census, Franklin County, TN - John Smith in household of William and Mary Smith
1843 Franklin County, marriage index - John Smith to Ann Mullins

And each person's file is titled with the year of their birth and then their name.
That's a very good idea. I now do the same thing. It's still a prpblem though when I find a record that does not name the person's birth date, such as a land record. Sometimes other sources help, and sometimes they leave me wondering.
+11 votes

I feel quite certain that I have many ancestors who have made mistakes in their lives. They were just as human as I am.

One that comes to mind was Thomas Mix. Thomas was an early settler in New Haven. He and Rebecca Turner were brought to court " ... to answer to their sinfull miscariag ..., wth sundry lyes ..." Subsequently they married, but this wasn't the end of their "mistakes" Within a year they were in court again for Disorderly Night Meetings, Stolen Goods & Strong Water. A more complete story can be found on their profiles and in the records of New Haven.

They did eventually settle down and become good citizens.

by Anne B G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
+10 votes

Great Grand Uncle Waldo Ivan Truslow was literally that kid playing with matches who wound up burning down the house his family was renting.  Luckily nobody was injured, but the house was apparently a complete loss and neighboring houses were also damaged.

by Dorothy Truslow G2G3 (3.8k points)
edited by Dorothy Truslow
+8 votes

Great Grand Uncle Waldo Ivan Truslow was literally that kid who played with matches and burned down the house in 1896.

by Dorothy Truslow G2G3 (3.8k points)
+10 votes

52 Ancestors Week 37: Mistakes

I keep making the same mistake over and over again. My great-grandfather is John Hays. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Hays-3866

I had one set of parents with sources that seemed to be correct. But researching further, found out that they were not really his parents.

Upon further research, I found another set of parents with sources that seemed to work, but again, was unable to find sufficient sources to satisfy me that they were actually his parents.

John Hays has been my brick wall for a very long time. And he is the one person I have made the most mistakes with.

Probably the biggest mistake was not talking to my dad, or any of his siblings while they were alive about him to get more information.

by Cheryl Hess G2G6 Pilot (791k points)
+9 votes
I have been lucky enough to have been given old paper-based research from distant family members via a third party.  This greatly broadened my knowledge of certain family lines.  However, in common with some of the others here, I have been guilty of taking at face value what was written down, until additional sources proved it to be wrong!

One of the challenges was a family tree printed out on an old dot-matrix printer on fan-fold paper.  It had no boxes or definite lines, just a few dashes here and there to give the gist of the links.  After a couple of pages the tree stopped lining up across the page breaks.  I had several attempts at puzzling it out and ended up (quite reasonably at the time) with certain recent generations with three or four children each.  These actually turned out to be a mix of different generations and what I had understood as three or four individuals was actually two people, each with two given names but written in columns not rows, unlike all the other entries.  I cannot quote a profile because all these people are still alive, and in fact another living cousin provided the proof that helped sort out the mess!
by Linda Hawkes G2G6 Mach 2 (20.6k points)
+7 votes
Our family has made at least 3 mistakes in trying to identify our great grandfather, Henry Hughey,who is still our brickwall.  So31e thought  his name might have been John Henry, but hav offered no proof.  On the 1880 census, he gave his age as 31 and his birth place as Ohio.  We've looked at Henry Coleman Hughey who died in Civil War, Henry Francis Hughey born in Jackso County, Ohio in 1849, and Henry Hughey born in Noble County, Ohio in 1857.  The latter Henry Hughey woulrd have been too young to be the father of John Wesley Hughey, older brother of my grandfather Robert Franklin.  I'm stilltrying to break down this brick esll.
by David Hughey G2G6 Pilot (557k points)
+8 votes

The predominant mistake I made in my research was believing every vital record I came across. My great-grandmother, Vera May Munro, was born in 1911–a time where illegitimate children were to be shunned and frowned upon. For this reason, Vera was legally registered with Lawrence Valentine Munro and Mabel Gertrude Armer as her birth parents. As per my grandfather, Vera's son, Vera was Lawrence's illegitimate child by his secretary, who to this day is unknown. Lawrence supposedly offered Vera's mother NZD$50 to "bugger off", and sparsely knew his daughter. His legitimate sons shunned her only to try to play nice with my grandfather following her passing...though my grandfather was not easily swindled and certainly didn't take too kindly to that!

by Amy Utting G2G6 Pilot (147k points)
+6 votes

I discovered that an ancestor of mine had been listed as married to a Paulus Pretorius in a Pretorius Family genealogy book. This was totally incorrect. All of her children including my great grandfather by P Hartogh were given the surname Pretorius. Most  of the ancestory websites out there now contain the error. I had all the source proof and lot of assistance from Phillip van der Walt to correct the error on Wikitree

by Jaulanne van der Bank G2G3 (3.8k points)
+6 votes

My great-grandfather was Court Lake Vanderbeek. My grand parents wanted to honor this man by naming there son with his name, however, they assumed that "Court" was a nickname and wanted to use the 'Formal" name. So they named my father Courtland Lake Vanderbeek. It turns out that the elder's given name was indeed just "Court", so it was not the intended honor.

by James Vanderbeek G2G1 (1.3k points)
+6 votes
I was new to researching genealogy but full of enthusiasm.  My mother knew very little about her ancestors and always seemed to look left out when my father would bring up his ancestors.  It didn't help when he received a two volume book on his family.   My mother's 90th birthday was a few months away and I thought I would give my mother her family as a birthday present.  Her parents had divorced when she was six and never saw her father again.  His ancestry had always been a brick wall to anyone who had researched.  I don't know what I did different but his family opened up and I was able to follow it back to Germany in the 1600's.  I found a beautiful album with paper that looked aged. I calligraphied information about each person and added any information I could find beyond birth and death dates.  Then I started on my grandmother's side.  My grandmother's maiden name was Miller and anyone researching Miller from Missouri knows I might as well been looking for Smith.  I knew my greatgrandmother had died within days of October 10, 1944 because my grandmother had to leave my mother who was in labor with my sister to be with her mother who was dying.  I had been told my great-grandmother's name was Ida Mae. My grandmother was Dora Mae.  Almost immediately I found the death certificate and other documents for Ida Mae Miller, died October 14, 1944 with a daughter Dora Mae.  Then I found a photograph of Ida about 10 years old with her 4 half nrothers.  And from there I found her father who was one of the most fascinating persons I have ever read about, in fact or fiction.  So I have all of this information calligraphied, photos, documents and personal writings pasted in my album.  I am so proud and excited.  Until I was hit in the head by the proverbial bat "grandma wasn't an only child!". It was one week before my mother's birthday and I had wasted about six weeks of research and entering everything in the album.  I had to give my mother half of her family along with my tale of mixed up Ida's and Dora's and Miller's and how much I knew about some family I didn't know.  To be honest I think I was almost more disappointed that I wasn't related to the colorful character I thought was my great-great-grandfather with the most colorful first name of Flavius.  I later found out Ida's name was actually Ida Jean.  BTW my granother was the 5th child out of the 15 of Ida's children to reach adulthood.

I'm sorry this is so long.  This is my first entry.
by Judy Soden G2G Crew (380 points)
+7 votes
My biggest  mistake went on for years.  My grandmother told me her father (James H. Duffer) was named after his father, and his mother's name was Elvira (Bell).  I kept checking Duffer records all over Tennessee and Arkansas looking for James and Elvira Duffer, and not finding anything - census, marriage, death - nothing.  I even put enquiries up on all the then-existing genealogical websites trying to find them.  Finally another Duffer researcher told me the only Duffers he had with the appropriate birthdates in Tennessee were Abner B. Duffer and his wife Malvina.  I initially rejected them because I figured my grandmother must know her grandparents' names.  Later on another Duffer researcher suggested them again, and also provided the names of all their children and grandchildren.  I immediately recognized the names of all my grandmother's aunts and uncles, as well as her father and mother.  This researcher even had my grandmother's name in his tree.  Turns out, the researcher was the son of one of my grandmother's first cousins!  Starting with them, I was able to take the family back to eighteenth century Virginia, as well as adding a number of additional lines.  It was early on in my years of genealogy, and I learned to value information from elder relatives, but never trust it completely.  Keep your mind open!
by Anneliese Kennedy G2G6 (8.9k points)
+6 votes
I watch a  13 month old and an 18 month old, they eat my brain, so can't remember specific mistakes I've made right off hand but I can remember mistakes I've found during research.  On the death certificate of my 2x great grandfather, Charles Wesley Carson Sr,  somehow his son's birth date ended up on his death certificate.  This happened in 1933 and it wasn't discovered until the 1980s by my grandmother.  The next mistake is on Ancestry. Several family trees have combined twin girls into a single individual, they are Marvilla Carson Gettys and Arrilla Carson Crank. This error did exist on Wikitree but I've pretty much got it straightened out.
by Michelle Parker G2G3 (3.7k points)
+6 votes
My biggest mistake as a rookie, was to not log sites visited in research & to not log search terms used. Now some sites are no longer in existence or have been purposely taken down after purchase be a bigger entity. Really missing Rootsweb ability to download relevant gedcoms  now that I'm further in research and some of what was seen-is suddenly relevant for clues.
by Jeanette McIntyre G2G1 (1.2k points)
+4 votes
I suspect my Great x 3 grandfather Joseph was a mistake.  Fortunately someone looked after him.  For the child of an unmarried woman to leave behind three houses seems rather an accomplishment.  I suspect he was set up in business by a benefactor.
by Jim Martinez G2G6 (7.2k points)
+4 votes

I’ve made SO many mistakes.  Let’s take a fun one.  My great grandfather’s photo album has tintypes of many family members.  Unfortunately only two of the pictures are labeled.  When I first started doing my roots I got to my great grandmother Hannah Loretta Delia Holland.  In the album there was a picture of a young lady identified as Something delia.  I assumed that this was my great grandmother and put the picture on her profile page.  Months later as I was researching the whole Holland family I discovered that Loretta Delia’s father had a brother named Joel who had a daughter named Fidelia.  Ooops!  That’s who is in the picture.  I had to go and redo my great grandmother’s profile.  Here is the picture of the album pages with Fidelia and her father on the right.

by Ward Hindman G2G6 (8.8k points)
+4 votes
My aunt Ann Leonard her profile is https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Eagan-291.

My aunt wasn't to good with computers and she said whenever she put in stuff in the computer her computer will go wacky and stop working. Especially when she put in her older son name and it would say he was his own first cousin.

At first she told me and my mother that my mother's mom told her that Andrew Jackson was kin to us but I haven't find how is kin and if he is kin to us. She finally said that she thought it was Andrew Johnson that is kin to us from the Leonards. I haven't find how he is kin to us yet also. Then she said that my mom said that Davy Crockett that fought at the Alamo in San Antanio, Texas is kin to us and I haven't find how he is kin to us too. That is my Leonard's brickwalls to find out if it is true they are kin or they are not kin.
by Linda Barnett G2G6 Pilot (382k points)
+5 votes
As with many a genealogist in my seventies, my biggest mistake was not getting better information from my grandparents while they were living. I can substantiate very few of the stories they told me about their early years, but I'm working on it.
ago by Judy Bramlage G2G6 Mach 8 (81.5k points)
+4 votes

52 Ancestors, 52 Surnames

It would be easy to make a mistake in researching so common a name as John Williams https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Williams-70265 especially during the 1730s to 1750s. John was living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and came to Frederick County, Maryland in the early 1750s.  He died in Frederick County in 1756.

It might also be a mistake to assume that his wife Mary's last name at birth was Bentley, based only on Bentley being the middle name of his eldest child, Jane Bentley Williams Shields. 

When I started working on daughter Jane's profile, I discovered someone had attached parents to her that just didn't seem right.  I detached that John Williams and created the profile for her correct father John and am trying to expand it based on Maryland records, and whatever I can find that pertains to his children.      

ago by Margaret Summitt G2G6 Mach 5 (51.3k points)

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