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Old 01-17-2013, 10:19 PM
 
Location: San Marcos, TX
2,572 posts, read 6,548,122 times
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Something I have come across many times in my research are these huge discrepancies when children are reporting anything about their parents, such as their parents names or birthplace, etc., found on census records, and also often found on death certificates where the reporting person is an adult child.

This boggles my mind. I can't imagine being raised by your parents and not knowing where they were born, or having grandparents around but not knowing their names or only knowing a nickname. Now, I tend to forget exactly where my father was born but I wasn't close to him, so it makes more sense. From all I have heard these particular family members were very close and kept in touch even as they moved to different parts of the country sooo... it's weird.

Also, I have come across several death certificates where the deceased's name is not spelled out, but just initials... "A.J. Smith" for example. Kinda crazy!

In one instance, an ancestor who documented his life story and clearly says he was born in Germany with specifics, is listed umpteen million times (by adult children) as being born in Tennessee. In fact, his wife was born there but not him. If you had a father who came to this country at age 17 and new no English at all and probably still had a strong accent, and gave his children all German names, how could you not know your father (who lived to be 87 and lived with his children, going from house to house until his death) was from Germany?

I was lucky enough to find documents relating to a couple of my relatives Dawe's applications (they were rejected, claiming to be Cherokee) but there are several pages of court transcriptions where they are asked all sorts of questions about their family history. It is, I assume, transcribed verbatim. So here you have someone who is a child in a family of eleven kids, and they are adults at this time. They are asked all sorts of questions about their father and mother and grandparents and siblings and so many answer with "I don't know"! Things like, your sister who lives in such and such, how many children does she have? Or where was your father born, that sort of thing.

Anyway, I just wondered if this was common and others have encountered it.
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Old 01-18-2013, 03:22 AM
bjh
 
Location: Memphis - home of the king
30,250 posts, read 23,703,647 times
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Disappointing and annoying, but sadly something everyone encounters. Here's a point though: not all information was asked for everytime. Someone goes into a hospital. They don't get full info upon registraton. The patient dies, and they don't go back and ask the family. "Let them grieve in peace" mentality perhaps. Then the clerk fills out "Don't Know" all over the place because they didn't ask!

For instance, one death cert supposedly supplied with info from my gf, my mom said, "That's not his signature." They even got his middle initial wrong as the informant. They just didn't bother or didn't care. Couldn't pick up the phone and call at some points in history. Could be the family's left the hospital. They've got to file the cert with the state, and they don't bother to send a letter seeking missing info.
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Old 01-18-2013, 04:20 AM
 
Location: Colorado (PA at heart)
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It's difficult for me to get my head around but my husband didn't know how old his mom was for the first several years we were together! He thought that she was in her 60s but then she had an accident and while she was in the hospital, I glanced at her info sheet which was in a slot at the foot of the bed and it said her birth year was 1932 - at the time, I think that made her 74/75. I couldn't believe my husband thought his mother was a good ten years younger than she really was. And it's not like they are estranged, he is her primary care taker in her old age!

He also thought his dad had been born in Ireland and immigrated to England with his parents as a young boy but it turns out they had immigrated before his birth.

My husband doesn't see anything wrong with not knowing these details - he says knowing them doesn't change who they are to him. But I just don't get it - how can you not know how old your own mother is? How do you celebrate someone's birthday every year without knowing how old they are turning? What especially boggled my mind was that he was aware that she had lived through (and remembered) the Blitz. The Blitz occurred 1940-1941... in order to have remembered that, she would have had to have been born by at least 1936. He apparently just "never thought of that".

So yes, it does happen. To some people, I guess these details just aren't important.
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Old 01-18-2013, 09:38 AM
 
Location: 5,400 feet
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My mother knew next to nothing about her mother's family and ancestry, because they did want her to marry my grandfather and did not talk to his family. She had little interest in finding out more. My research into her family has given her much info than she ever had and found ancestors that had only been rumors and stories to her.
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Old 01-18-2013, 03:14 PM
 
Location: Wisconsin
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I went through the first 30 years of my life thinking my grandmother on my father's side was of Jewish ancestry (turns out that was completely false). It happens.
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Old 01-18-2013, 03:46 PM
 
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My dad had seven siblings but until his death I didn't know about one older sister who died 12 years before I was born. She didn't die as an infant or in a distant place either. She died in the same county as I grew up in and had married, had children and lived to be 32 years old. And too, it's not like this sister was unimportant to my dad. According to my mom, this sister was my dad's favorite sibling. He even called to her by his nickname for her on his deathbed.

My dad was 40 when I was born so I am guessing he did mention this sister at some point during my young life but I was just too immature to listen to what an "old man" wanted to tell me, and certainly I wasn't interested in family matters.
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Old 01-18-2013, 04:36 PM
 
Location: North Beach, MD on the Chesapeake
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None of the not knowing is unusual I think. When my mother died a couple years ago my brother and I sat down and composed her obituary for the local paper. I vaguely remembered her mentioning an older brother who died in his 20's but I didn't know the name. So we called our aunt who was 97 at the time (mom was 89) and we found out that not only was there an older brother (who turned out to be a half brother, apparently grandad was a horndog) but there were 4 other siblings, some older, some younger, who had died young. Our mother had never mentioned them to either of us. Even my brother, who's 13 years older then me and was alive when our grandparents were coherent, hadn't heard of them.

It gets more complicated on my dad's side due to early deaths and remarriages and his being passed around to various relatives when he was an infant.
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Old 01-18-2013, 05:26 PM
 
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I think there are many reasons. Some of the "not knowing" I put down at the doorstep of township clerks in the 19th century who clearly were drunk and/or semi-literate, or both and were rushing the job as they scrawled into their ledgers.

However, family trees to produce some beauts: I had one distant relative who upon the death of her first husband, dumped her small kids with his relatives and remarried and started a second family (in the same locality.) When he croaked she married again and took only her last-born infant by her second husband when she married a third time, the rest she dumped on paternal relatives, and had more kids. It was only when they reached adulthood that one set of these dumped kids were told that they had half sibling, and they went and looked them up and all the kids eventually found out that they had a mother in common! And the woman did all this within two townships.

My mother had very, very little interest in her family, apart from her mother - whom she had fictionalized as a veritable saint, when the woman was a shrike. Yet her three sisters were deeply interested in their family. My father knew scads about his mother's family - he only had cousins on the maternal side. And perhaps because he had no paternal cousins, he knew very little about his paternal aunts or grandparents. This may have been exacerbated by the fact that one aunt was insane and confined to the family home, and the other was better only in comparison; thus, I am sure that trips to the grandparent's home were few and far between at best, and I doubt that my paternal grandfather did much chatting about them to his kids.

Given these kinds of circumstances, I wasn't surprised to find that things were different that I had been told by my parents.
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Old 01-18-2013, 05:49 PM
 
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There were also efforts to hide certain things that back in the day would have been scandalous. thus the reason for incorrect ages, dates, etc. And yes, many people just never really cared where their parents were born.
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Old 01-18-2013, 06:52 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gardener34 View Post
There were also efforts to hide certain things that back in the day would have been scandalous.
Yes, I have some of that in my mom's family as well. A feud where Texas lawmen and family members both died was kept tightly under wraps until I took the time to dig various versions of the story out of several old books. This is one where the family probably should have been more open because now there is a lot of confusion as to what actually happened.
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