Mistakes happen

Today’s post is about not being afraid to make mistake when searching through family history.

But before I tell you about my first big mistake, I have to let my inner anthropologist out. It occurred to me that my tree is getting a little messy, so I drew a kinship diagram to help keep everything straight:

My family tree so far

My family tree so far

In a kinship diagram, you are always a square. Females are circles are females and triangles are male. In the diagram I drew, red represents people born in North America, blue is for people born elsewhere.

Now, onto my first wild goose chase!

Since I had so much luck with mom’s mother’s family, I turned my attention to her father’s family. My grandpa was born in Canada, but I didn’t know if his father was born in Canada as well. What I did know came from two “family lore” stories: that his family came from Wales and that someone in his line was an orphan and his original last name was Murray.

By this time in my search, I had found the Barrie Public Library genealogy pages. These pages were painstaking transcribed by some very kind volunteers. It didn’t take long to track a Charles Onley down. He was born in 1831 and was the son of a Frederick and Mary Ann. At the time, the system offered a link to send the viewer to that individual’s records in other censuses.

I thought I hit the jackpot… until I clicked to take me to the 1841 census. All of a sudden, Frederick and Mary Ann were gone and Charles was the son of Thomas and Selina. Hm. He was still born in 1831 and it was he right area. Was this the orphan I heard about?

I clicked again to the 1851 census. Charles was back with Frederick, but Mary Ann was gone, and in her place was a Christina. What was going on?

After much clicking around, I worked it out in my head that Charles must have been Frederick’s son and when Mary Ann died, he went to live with Thomas for a while. When Frederick remarried, Charles came home.

It made sense. It fit the story. But it was all circumstantial. And as it turned out, it was all wrong.

After some more Googling, I found Frederick and Mary Ann’s son’s grave with a date of death before my grandfather was born. I also learned that many records from that time period were lost, hence why Charles looked like he was bouncing around and the record keepers thought there was only one boy.

Of course, I didn’t figure all this out until after I told all my family I had solved the orphan mystery. Suffice it to say, I was very embarrassed, but my family was very understanding.

Mistakes happen and they happen a lot in ancestry searches. What this taught me to do was question the story- don’t make evidence fit a legends. Sometimes legends are right, of course, but a lot of times they aren’t. I’m still a little unclear about my grandpa’s heritage, but I hope one day I can resolve them.


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