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Getting the stories straight

While researching and fact checking an article written by my great-grandmother, I came to have a deeper respect for those who work with genealogy. They have to recognize when names are spelled differently, such as Van Nice and Van Nuys, that it is actually the same family. In our lineage the name Tilston became Tilottson before it was the currently used spelling of Tillotson. I haven’t had to do this tracing but family members have done it and passed on the records. When I read through the findings, I can’t help but wonder how the writers of our family tree could discern the credibility of this lineage. I imagine cross checking is the byword of such studies, yet could you ever be sure of your conclusions?

Genealogists quickly learn that census records are not infallible, sometimes due to mistakes by the enumerator. Other times because of the difficulty of reading the enumerator’s handwriting when everything was handwritten.

I found a great aunt who was listed as 8 years old in the 1880 census, though a copy of her birth certificate shows she wasn’t born until 1882. Considering that the 1880 census started on June 1, 1880, and just 30 days was allowed for completion in rural areas and two weeks for communities with over 10,000 people, it’s no wonder that mistakes happened. For the most part the census lists so much that is correct and certainly gives leads — yet brings up questions.

In our family, we know that my great-grandparents emigrated here from Story County, Iowa, in 1882. The confusion comes because the 1880 census lists them in a county in Nebraska, not in Iowa. The entry threw me off but I’ve been told people were counted where they were on the day each household was counted. From that tidbit, it is apparent that the great-grandparents were visiting in Nebraska on the census day.

It is not only surnames that are confusing. We have duplicate names throughout the family tree, and it is likely you do too. Recently I received an email from a distant cousin regarding genealogy. I happen to have the paperwork that was passed down to me, yet I am not the family genealogist. It is when these questions about specific names come up that the duplicate names bewilder me.

My great-grandfather was Ira. One of his son’s was Ira Claude and he was known as Claude. The next generation of cousins also had a Claude. To give the correct information out, one needs to know which generation is being examined. With three men named Charles, two Ferns, three Graces and two women named Gladys, among other duplicate names, attention to detail is necessary.

Although I enjoy researching local history, I don’t think I would have the patience for researching genealogy. It would be fun to add individual photos to the record of family members that is already prepared. That would be a good wintertime project. ❖


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