Friday, May 3, 2013

Happy Anniversary! 82 Years

It can be very easy for a beginning genealogist to assume that a death certificate is a one size fits all document. That is to say that all of the dates, locations, and names will fill in all the blanks of a 5 generation pedigree chart. And, because this is a certified document, everything is correct. Wrong!! It all depends on who provided the information that was entered on the document.

OK, so maybe all the information on a death certificate isn't correct. 

But, how about a birth certificate? Pretty simple, right? What could be wrong? Again, it all depends on who provided the information.

Ok, the information on a marriage record has to be correct. After all it is two adults providing their own information. I would say this is your best bet for accurate information. Maybe!!

Everything depends solely on the person who provided the information that was eventually entered on the certified copy that you have in your hand. This really hit home with me last year when I finally received my husband's death certificate. As I looked over the document, my genealogy mind took over and I began to see this piece of paper as a source of information. That is when I realized that I never  provided the funeral home with any information. I was not the informant. Every other death certificate I have in my possession has an informant listed at the bottom.  Hmmmmm! So does that make my husband's death certificate any more accurate than my great grandfather's?

Probably not! So let's look at what can go wrong.

My birth certificate: My name, date of birth, and location are correct. My parents' names are correct. My mother's place of birth is correct: my dad's place of birth is wrong. Informant: mother. 

My husband's birth cerftificate: I think it is safe to assume that everything here is correct. Informant: mother.

My dad's birth certificate: Names of mother and father are their middle names. Place of birth is probably correct. Informant: mother.

My maternal grandfather's death certificate: Birth place is wrong, but information about the cause of death is complete. Informant: Hospital employee.   

My parents' marriage certificate: All information correct - I hope! Informants: bride and groom!!

As you can see even with the simplest of documents, a birth certificate, something can be wrong. My birth certificate shows my dad's place of birth as Newtown, Ohio. I know my dad was born in Mt. Carmel, Ohio. He told me so

So what went wrong? My mom was the informant -- she provided the information for my birth certificate.  My mom grew up in Northwest Ohio; my dad is from Southern Ohio. My dad's sisters and brothers lived in or near Newtown, Ohio and my mom probably just put Newtown down for lack of a better location. I am sure she didn't realize that a bunch of genealogists were going to question her integrity sometime in the future

When it comes to my husband's birth certificate, I think it is pretty safe to assume that all information is correct. His parents were born and raised in the same small community in southern Kentucky, so the possiblity of misinformation is pretty slim. 

My dad's birth certificate shows a common trend in some families. They just seem to go by their middle names. Frank and Delia are really Eben Frank and Lou Delia. When I first met my husband I couldn't figure out who this "Gary" person was. Turned out it was my husband, Chuck, and they still call him Gary.

Since my maternal grandfather died as the result of injuries sustained in an automobile accident, the information on his death certificate was supplied by a hospital employee. The information about his place of birth is questionable, but his cause of death is pretty complete. Consider the source of information!

When I look at my parents' marriage certificate, I have to wonder if everything is correct. After all the informants are the bride and groom and the only thing they really know for sure is that they are at the courthouse in  Bowling Green, Ohio and they want to get married. 

Bill and Clara -- May 2, 1931.

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