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Which Date is Correct?

   You’ve probably noticed that I have been writing very regularly for the past few months.  I’ve been busy catching up on projects for clients, as well as trying to update some of my own research.  I can’t say I’ll do much better over the next two months as I’m getting ready for my youngest daughter’s wedding in July.   Kelly is an Episcopal priest who has been serving in Maine for the past three years.  Her future husband lives and works in the DC area, and Kelly has just accepted a position at the Falls Church in Virginia.  They met in Seminary at Yale and so the wedding will take place on July 11th in the Divinity School Chapel at Yale.  But, here’s the quandry for the genealogist…the wedding in Connecticut is a religious ceremony and the following Friday, July 17th, they will be married in a civil ceremony in Nebraska followed by a second reception on the 18th.  I asked her when they planned to celebrate their anniversary, and she said on July 11th.  But the civil marriage record will be in Nebraska on July 17th, it’s so confusing!  Her response…you’re the genealogist Mom, take care of it!  And so I will, very carefully documenting and explaining for future generations.  Don’t we wish our ancestors had done the same for us.

   Now I’m sure that all of you have had issues with dates in the past, especially if you have Irish ancestors.  Just like death and taxes, I can guarantee you will find conflicting dates with your ancestors.  Birthdays were not important in 19th century Ireland and many people didn’t know their birthday, so when asked, they made something up.  Even if they were close on the day, years get mixed up.  If you follow your ancestor through all of their census records (and you should) you’ll usually find a range of possible birth years as they age (my grandmother seemed to get younger with each census!).  Add this to the issue of so many common names, both given and surname, and it’s easy to end up with former ancestors…those are the ones you’ve been searching for years, only to find your in the wrong family.  Find out as much about your ancestor and his/her family as you can so you have some other detail to use to corroborate your findings.

   I have not spent much time over the past 12 years working on my own family.  Before a research trip I’ll try to pull some information together to focus on one family, and I’m doing that again now.  Since my husband and I are driving from Connecticut to Nebraska, I’ve planned for a short side trip to Fayette County, Pennsylvania to research my McDowell ancestors.  I’m sorting through research I did back in the 1990s, creating timelines and a research calendar on items I want to check while I’m there.  I have the family back to Robert “Gate Bob” McDowell born about 1800, but I haven’t found the names of his parents.  He was called “Gate Bob” because he was the toll keeper on the National Road just outside of Uniontown, and according to The Old Pike by Thomas Searight (published in 1894) this was to “distinguish him from a number of other well known citizens bearing the same name.”  I’m going to be looking at all the Robert McDowells to see if I can sort them out.  

   Happy Hunting!

The Toll House in Wharton Township where Robert “Gate Bob” was the toll keeper.

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2018