Tip 07: Booby Traps
Over the last many years, I think I have made every mistake it is possible to make. I have learned some lessons the hard way. For example, I was taught early on that censuses are unreliable at best. And I bet you have some horror stories about them. I had a John Bristow. In the 1900 census, he had a wife Mary, who was born in Kentucky in 1875. In 1920 his wife, Mary was born in 1875 in Tennessee. In 1930, Mary Lou was born in 1880 in Kentucky. By this time, I was sucked in all the way. I found a child born in 1906 in a Death record and found her name as Mary Watts. So I went on my merry way. But nothing in this tree seemed to work quite right. So eventually, I went back over all of this and began to wonder. After doing what I should have done originally, I discovered that the guy had a different wife in every census. So all my relationships between matches were half matches because they all were from different wives. Lesson one. Sometimes census records are right. . Then there is another tree that nearly drove me crazy. Jessie Diggs had a wife Lisa in 1900, In 1910, the family is missing. In 1920, she is Lena. So is this one wife or two? I looked for Death Certificates, and SS applications. I found her son’s SS application with a mother Lisa Burkholter. This threw me for a loop because there were no Burkholter matches. I struggled with this and worried about illegitimate children, and adoptions, and other wives, etc. Eventually, I went back to the beginning and started back over the tree. This time Ancestry felt sorry for me and dropped another SS to a sister with the mother Lisa Hudson. Suddenly things were better. There are Hudson/Smith matches in the DNA. So what was going on? 1, 2, or 3 wives? This is SC where there are no marriages before 1917. So maybe he was married more than once. I then started to look for a Death Certificate for this elusive female. Luckily SC death certificates are online. After hours of digging in it, I finally found a Liza Burkholter. Mother has no surname, but father was a Hudson. I was still scratching my head until I discovered that the person who gave the information was Walter Diggs, who was the son according to the censuses. Apparently, she started life as Lisa Hudson in the 1880 census, married and was a Liza Diggs in the next census. Her husband died and she remarried a Burkholter after 1940. The idiot son who filled out his SS application put in her married name instead of her maiden name. Lesson two: Double check facts. Don’t assume that SS applications are correct. . I am sure you have run afoul of Ancestry’s indexing. A lot of their indexing is done by volunteers or in foreign countries. When they use AI, they may pick up Glover as Clover. This explains why they can’t index some things that I think are obvious. The other problem is incomplete transcriptions. In Louisiana, there are a lot of Delayed Birth Certificates on Ancestry. Birth records were not kept early on so when people applied for Social Security, they had to first get a birth certificate. These are brilliant records with amazing information on them. But the transcription that Ancestry gives you has only the fathers surname even when the mother’s maiden name is given. There are cards in
there where massive family information is given. I saw one with an affidavit by a grandmother because the mother and father were deceased. The date and place of death was given. And the residence of the person was given as of the date of application. When you are chasing descendants all across the country, that is marvelous. So when an image is available go look at it. See if there is any additional information. Check the name of the witnesses on baptisms. Ancestry does not usually include them, but I have seen surprising people as witnesses. Sometimes not but look. Lesson three: Read the whole document. So, stay out of my booby traps.