Family genealogy – an inexact, exact science

Published 8:16 am Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Genealogists who research tombstones find numerous inaccuracies, particularly in birth and death dates. Whether the family supplied the incorrect date or the engraver made an honest or inadvertent error, few tombstones were ever returned.

Evidently, many families chose to accept the stone, thinking that family members would remember that the date was incorrect. Unfortunately, after two or more generations, no one remembers the error, and future genealogists are thrown off in their research.

Names on tombstones are most often correct; not so, on numerous Census Reports, since Census takers were not highly educated people, and recorded names quite often by the way they sounded, rather than the way they were commonly spelled.

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Oral histories handed down through generations are often repeated, very colorful, stories that are beloved by family members. As examples of factual accuracy in family history, however, they are usually the least reliable … yet the most engaging.