A cautionary tale

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.

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.

17 thoughts on “A cautionary tale”

  1. There is nothing that raises the hair on the back of my genealogical neck more than a marriage record showing names for parents that do not match the other records I have collected. I find that most people know the names of the parents who raised them [that 10%NPE set aside] and most women who are estranged from their parents list them as “unknown” maybe as a wee slap in the face.

    1. Listing said parent as “deceased” is another not-so-wee slap in the face. Have seen that variant as well.

  2. Well now … haven’t we all been there with that official “golden egg” award …but certainly, not on purpose.

  3. Thank you and bless your <3 for clarifying the reason your wore the egg so proudly. Genealogy does test its warriors!!

  4. Oh, how true, and I thought I was so meticulous in my research. Who knew there could be two men in NYC, mid 19c, same age, same Irish county of origin, etc. etc. and both named Hugh Bruton. It’s my personal egg-on-the-face cautionary tale.

  5. It’s complicated, though! I have a great-grandmother who made up names for her parents for her marriage certificate because she was embarrassed not to know them (her mother died when she was 2 and she went into an orphanage). But point taken!

  6. And how about two Charles Murphys marrying two Johanna Murphys in the same area of Wexford, in the same year? Fathers previously unknown, images of one couple not yet on Irishgenealogy.ie. The two Charles died a few months apart too. Fortunately one was a widower at time of death and the other (we knew) had re-married, and his death was reported by his new wife. It took a bit of figuring out though.

  7. John, you do not have egg on your face. You examined the facts and followed the clues and went down a rabbit hole. To your credit, you were OPEN to and honest examination of the situation and really-analyzed the records and eventually came to a proper finish. You would only have egg on your face if you ignored the inconsistencies and try to make a square peg fit a round hole. Thanks for sharing that even an expert will find his way down a rabbit hole and demonstrating how to rectify the situation.

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