"Sadly, sometimes ya just gotta roll with it." "This is how I deal with conflicting data/dates...." "Researching in the real world." "Review, review, review."
These are snipets of discussions I have shared with students and clients and other researchers over the years. I know, we all want EXACT dates, perfect to almost the hour, however, in my "real" world of researching, that does not always happen.
This post is based on my response to a querie from a fellow who was writing a family story, but, readily admitted he was no researcher/genealogist and he was confused about all the conflicting dates he was finding, especially in those all important birth and death dates. I have edited my responses (a little) for this post, and they are typed in black. Notes in parentheses have been added here and were not part of the original conversation and they are typed in blue.
Dates are frequently found to be in error or not in agreement.
(Back story on the death date, my author stated his subject died mid January 1915, but, the death certificate stated burial was in January 1916. His question, what to believe.)
Lets start with the death date, I see that as one of those things that happens at the new year, how many of us have written the old year, in this case 1915, for weeks into the new year, which in this case is 1916. Yep, seen it, I don't think it is a huge deal. If you can find or have an obituary for this person, is the obit published in 15 or 16? That would be the clincher for me.
(Note: of course, this becomes a big deal if you cannot locate an obituary. Also see * below.)
(Back story on the birth year, he had several dates, all stated the month to be October, but the day and the years differed. The years differed by 8 years.)
As for the birth date, I have people in my data base, in my research, that report their age in every census differently. Birth dates, death dates and even marriage dates are frequently reported as this birth date is, off on the actual day and year, but the month agrees.
From my point of view, for the birth dates, I would report them, but give each some source data, like this:
"From the 1900 census we find his birth reported as Oct. 1846,
but on his marriage application he states he was born Oct. 1845."
Also note, that if someone else reported that birth date, they may have made an error in the reporting.
(Note: Now that I re-read the original email, I note that the first birth date and the marriage date would mean that our dude was 14 at the time of his first marriage, not likely, possible, but not likely. I neglected to see this the first time around and therefore did not mention it to our book writer.)
Trouble with this sport, even tho what we really want is exact dates, what we frequently get is approximations, guesses and conflicting data.
Sadly, sometimes ya just gotta roll with it.
And thus ended my response to our book writer. I never heard back from him, maybe my "gotta roll with it" response was unsettling, I have no idea.
* As usual, while writing this post, the process of review kicked in. As this death occurred in Michigan in 1915, I decided to see if I could locate the death certificate at SeekingMichigan. And, I did, and what I read on the certificate said, this fellow died in 1916 and was buried in 1916. Don't cha just love handwitten documents?? Yes, I immediately emailed my find and my opinion of it to the original researcher. As he had only asked for opinions in his original email I had not looked for any records. I probably should have, but, in my defense, the original email came while Man and I were racing home from Alabama, wasn't the best of times for ole Carol.