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Resolving Conflicting Evidence

  Over the past few weeks I’ve mention conflicting evidence a number of times.  As I like to say in many of my lectures…it’s something I can guarantee…just like death and taxes.  In the first blog this year, I discussed a “reasonably exhaustive search” and used the example of my grandmother (not a good source of information) who sometimes claimed to be born in Scotland and sometimes in Ireland with many different dates.   I continued to research until I found her birth registration in Ballyshannon, Donegal, Ireland.  I had enough corroborating details to verify that I had found the correct document…one created at or close to the time of the event by someone with firsthand knowledge (her mother).  I resolved the conflict, determining she had been born on 12 Dec 1892 in Ballyshannon.  

   Last week in my blog about writing it down, I used the example of Patrick Moughty.  His death certificate gave his birth date as 26 Oct 1889; his Naturalization gave his birth date as 18 Oct 1889; his birth registration recorded the date as 20 Oct 1888; and his baptismal record showed his birth as 16 Oct 1888 and his baptism as 17 Oct 1888.  How do you pick?  His death certificate and naturalization are both original documents but with secondary information when referring to his birth. They were not done at the time of his birth, and although Patrick was there, he was not likely to have remembered it <g>!  I would give them less weight than  the birth registration which was an image of the original document with information provided by his father, about three weeks after the birth.  The final document, the baptism is a transcription of the church record done by the local Heritage Centre and found at RootsIreland.  I have not been able to view the original as the digital images at the National Library of Ireland for Moyvore parish in Westmeath end in 1881.  Do I give more weight to the “official” birth registration or the transcription of the baptismal record?

   Understanding the context of the sources we work with and the type of information they hold, is very important.  Civil registration of birth in Ireland had to occur within six weeks of the birth or there was a fine.  If the registration was late, it was not unheard of to simply move the birth date to within the required period.  Roman Catholic baptisms,  however, were typically performed within a day or two of birth and written into the register by the priest.  Unless you find a date in a baptismal register that is out of order, it is usually accurate.  If you find a child baptized prior to birth…go with the baptismal date.  For this situation my proof argument would place more weight on the baptismal record, but as always, this is open to re-evaluation should new evidence become available. 

   Happy Hunting!


I’ll be leaving next Sunday, February 5th to attend RootsTech (getting in a few days of research at the FamilyHistory Library before the Conference).  I’ll be lecturing on “Jumping the Pond” at 3 pm on Friday.  I’ll also be in the Exhibits area doing mini lectures for GenealogydotCoach on Thursday at 1:30 and Friday at 11:30, and at Genealogy Gems at 5:00 on Friday.  Stop by and say hi if you’re attending.

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2017