I was six years old when I first met my great uncle Simon. It was my first trip to Minnesota to meet some of my father’s relatives. I was somewhat shy around those ‘ancient’ Scandinavians, but I listened intently as they visited. Simon’s wife, Hanne, from that first meeting became one of my favorite people of all time. Her happy and positive nature was never diminished by the hardships she experienced.
Years later I gathered names, dates and places of events, and stories of the family. Then I started gathering documents to substantiate what I had been told. Every piece of evidence was confirming Simon’s birth date in Norway…death record, social security original application, marriage record, naturalization record…every record I could find here in the United States. When I began searching the parish church records of Norway on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City (now you can search those records online at http://digitalarkivet.uib.no/ ), I was more than surprised when there was no entry for Simon in the baptism record for the ‘known’ date. So I began searching backwards in the records and found nothing. Then I searched forward in the records and there he was! Not born in June of 1882 but born in July of 1885. Simon had managed to keep this truth from the entire family here in America and from this truth came a very interesting story that his children and I are still learning about.
Having documents and records with incorrect information is quite common. The further the recording of information is done from the time of the event the better chance there is for error. Sometimes the error is intentional and sometimes it is accidental. An effective way to make your research findings as accurate as possible is to acquire documents and records that were created as close to the time of the event as possible.
I believe I have at least one record for almost every person in my database that has errors in it. I don’t discount them or throw them out. I weave them into the information about my ancestor for they hold clues to more information and stories that I can research and learn from.
Enjoy discovering where documents and records lead you as you search the clues within them. Discrepancies and inconsistencies will be found more often than you wish…but will make you more determined to uncover the truth.