Finding an ancestor’s birth date can be very exciting. However, finding a second resource that contradicts that information can be frustrating. Aunt Peggy is a wonderful example.
I first found Aunt Peggy while searching for my 3rd great-grandparents marriage (Jeremiah Fryrear and Susannah Neafus) in Nelson County, Kentucky. Uncle John Fryrear married Peggy Heavenhill on 3 April 1803 in Nelson County, Kentucky.
I found the marriage information in three sources – “Kentucky, County Marriages, 1797-1954,” index and images, FamilySearch; Marriage Records for Nelson County, Kentucky, 1785-1815; and Nelson County, Kentucky Marriage Bonds and Consents, 1801-1816.
My first indication of her age came from “Kentucky, County Marriages, 1797-1954,” index and images, FamilySearch and the Nelson County, Kentucky Marriage Bonds and Consents, 1801-1816. Both records show her mother Elizabeth Heavenhill gave consent for her marriage. This indicates that she was under the age of 21 at the time of the marriage.
I checked the Federal Census records to see if I could narrow down the time period.
The 1850 Census in Nelson County, Kentucky shows her age as 65 on 6 September 1850.
The 1860 Census in Nelson County, Kentucky shows her age as 68 on June 23, 1860.
Her headstone in the Fryrear Family Cemetery in Nelson County, Kentucky reads in part: “died 12 Jan 1864, aged 72 years.”
There is a difference in these records. Three (3) years between 1850 and 1860 and another four (4) years to 1864.
Was she born in 1785 as stated in the 1850 Census?
Was she born in 1792 as stated in the 1860 Census?
Was she born in 1793 as indicated by the headstone?
Remember she was married on 3 Apr 1803 with her mother’s consent.
The best date appears to be 1885 as the year that Margaret “Peggy” Heavenhill was born.
The 1860 Census Record and the headstone indicate she was born after 1792/3. This would mean Peggy was married in 1803 at the age of 10 or 11.
The 1850 Census Record shows her age as 65 and her son William age 45. This would mean she was (1) born in the 1885 and (2) was 20 years old at the birth of her son in 1805 and (3) married for two years prior to her first child. Her birth about 1885 seems more likely.
Headstones and Federal Census can be accurate. They can also be wrong.
Be very careful and search diligently to find more than one source from which to base your information. Sometimes information provided from memory is not as accurate as we think. Sometimes the memory is correct but the transcription is wrong – did they not hear the answer correctly, did they just write it down wrong or did the transcriber misread the information?
Be cautious of information provided on the internet that does not provide source information or a link to the person who posted it (so you can contact them for their sources).
Many times searching for a second or third source will lead you not only to verification, but may provide added family members or wonderful stories to add to the family history.
Best of success in your research and…..