Saturday, November 3, 2018

Research and Analysis - A Lesson Learned

Back in February, I wrote a post about my maternal great-grandmother Eva Maude Bean and the conflicting evidence of her year of birth. To review:


  • Her headstone gives the year as 1876 (Pretty sure I had that in my Ancestry tree for years).
  • There was no civil registration of births in Quebec in the 19th century.
  • Eva's baptismal record gives her date of birth of 23 April 1874 but she was baptized at age 17.
  • The 1881 census enumerated in early April states Eva's age as 6, giving us a birth year of 1874.
  • The 1891 census enumerated in mid-April states Eva's age as 17, giving us a birth year of 1875.
  • The 1901 census gives Eva's date of birth as 23 April 1874.
  • The 1911 census gives Eva's month and year of birth as April of 1874.
  • Eva died in 1916 and her father was alive.
  • I have not yet found cemetery records or any records regarding the purchase and engraving of her headstone.
As part of my research into the Beans, I began working on a timeline for her nuclear family. At the time I was mostly trying to work out their ever-changing religious affiliation, but I could have used the timeline for this date of birth issue as well - if I hadn't let my preconceived notions get in the way.



As I was writing my last post about Eva's brother's headstone I realized that HE was born in 1876, making it even less likely that Eva's headstone is correct. Yes, there are issues with the documentation of Frank's year of birth also, but they are very minor. And yes, it is possible that Jane could have had two babies in the same calendar year and even eight months apart, but it is improbable.

But what really ticked me off as I had this realization last night, was that I hadn't had it in February when I was writing the post about Eva or in March when I was putting that timeline together.

1. No one lives in a vacuum. Members of the same family and same household should always be considered and investigated, especially when trying to calculate ages or discover a date of birth.

2. If I am not willing to state that I have come to a conclusion about any fact of an ancestors life, but I do have theories, they should both be in that timeline, not just the theory I am leaning towards. That could prejudice my eventual conclusion. And if I had put Eva's alternate birth year in the timeline, I would have seen that it was the same year as Frank's birth and had this epiphany months ago.

Of course, this is not the end of the world, we're not talking about a fact that would alter the rest of my tree or even this branch or send an unwitting cousin down a rabbit hole for the wrong family or anything drastic, but it did make me give myself a little head smack.

Mistakes are how we learn things for ourselves in a way that no webinar or conference, no matter how great the speaker, can teach us. So, as I work on my research and analysis skills, I will be analyzing my data a little differently from now on and asking myself new questions. This is one mistake I intend to learn from.

1 comment:

Marian B. Wood said...

My family also "carved in stone" incorrect dates. Like you, I've been using timelines for family members to identify gaps and narrow dates for birth, marriage, and death. And sometimes my favorite hypothesis keeps me from seeing other theories that eventually turn out to be better suited to the clues I eventually uncover! Thanks for a great post reminding all of us to keep an open mind and keep analyzing.