A recent research case I had involved a woman called Christina Vance. Nicely unusual surname and forename, I thought. And sure enough there was her marriage in 1928, supplying her father’s name, and there was her death in 1936, supplying her age, 27. Subtract 27 from 1936 and you get 1908/09 as a year of birth.
Christina Vance’s birth duly popped up in 1908, daughter of Joseph, a signalman and Julia née Buggle. And there was the family in 1901, with sister Mary Vance, bridesmaid at the wedding. And there was the marriage of Joseph and Julia in 1894, fathers Edward Vance stationmaster and Patrick Buggle farmer. Johnny, said I, you may award yourself the Golden Egg of Self-Satisfaction.
And then when I came to write the report, a little fly dropped into in the ointment. The marriage record gave her father as Robert, not Joseph. Hmm. Better check this. No Robert Vance death, no Robert Vance marriage, no Robert Vance in 1901 or 1911. No other Christina in 1901 or 1911. Had she (or the priest) made a mistake with the father’s name? Maybe. Or maybe not.
So I set out to check out Joseph’s family more closely. His death is listed in 1936, evidence that he wasn’t Robert, who was dead in 1928 according to the marriage record. And there, in 1929, was the marriage of his daughter Christina to Christopher Keane. A completely different Christina, unrelated to my Christina who married a year earlier just down the road also in north Dublin.
Back to the drawing board. Using my trusty wild-cards, I found the death of Robert Vanse in 1925, the birth of his daughter Christina Vanse registered in 1907, the family’s 1911 return mistranscribed as “Vause” in Summerhill, the marriage of Robert (again as “Vause”) in 1906, Christina staying with her granny in 1911 and mistranscribed as “Vanne” …
The moral? Trust the records. Distrust yourself. And make sure you really deserve that Golden Egg of Self-Satisfaction.