Friday, June 23, 2017

Facing Those Uncomfortable Facts

There is one hazardous fallout from the spring-cleaning approach to genealogy: every once in a while, "duplicate" files turn out to be two separate individuals with similar names and dates. Those of you researching those ubiquitous Irish couples, say, John and Mary Kelly, whose sons all dutifully named their firstborn sons after their father—and all at the same time—know exactly what I'm up against.

Since my mother-in-law's Perry County, Ohio, line is riddled with circumstances producing similar results—in that case, something I've dubbed "Endogamy-Lite"—I've had to face up to some duplicate entries in her family tree. Still, I have to tread carefully through that list of potential duplicates. Sometimes, those "doubles" turn out to be separate individuals with very similar life scenarios.

Yesterday—still hunkered down in front of my computer as an escape from the heat wave bearing down on us outside—I ran across that very problem. I had been working on my mother-in-law's Gordon line because, well, lots of duplicate entries. I ran across two entries for a Gordon descendant named Mary Frances. Both showed dates of birth in 1884, and dates of death in 1963. Both were Ohio residents.

One of the entries for Mary Frances Gordon showed her marrying a man named John Patrick Hennessy. The other entry had the husband's name as John P. Hennessey. Each one of those Mary Frances Gordons were listed as daughter of Thomas—only in one record, the name was Thomas R. Gordon and the other record showed Thomas V. Gordon.

This was clearly a case of duplicate entries. With, perhaps, a case of a hard-of-hearing census enumerator to top it all off.


Of course, now that I've asked that rhetorical question, you know the answer isn't necessarily a slam-dunked "yes." That would be too easy.

The one stumbling block was the mother's name for each of those daughters named Mary Frances. One mother was listed as Elizabeth McCabe. The other one was identified as Elizabeth McCann.

Close. But not exact.

Back to the drawing board. I can't simply assume I made a transcription error. I'll have to pull out all the old documents and re-examine to see where I went wrong. Then, because each Mary Frances was only one of several siblings, I'll have to re-sort the whole family unit to make sure the right children are aligned with the right parents. Worse, since each of those children include records of their own spouses and subsequent descendants, I've got a long trail of names that will require meticulous attention to sort out properly.

Our simple (and well-intentioned) genealogical tasks can sometimes inadvertently end up with mistakes which can echo down through the generations. Better to take some time on a regular basis to double check what work has already been done. Sometimes, we've placed the wrong grandchild under the wrong John and Mary Kelly. Or Mary Frances Gordon.


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