Were Our Ancestors Truthful?

We have all come across an official document and from other sources, find a totally different bit of information on an ancestor that does not match. It makes you wonder if an ancestor lied at that time period for some reason.

Now many of the differences you might find on a record or document can be explained as the official writing the information did not understand the answer or by mistake wrote down the wrong information. If there was a different language or ‘broken English’ either by the official or the ancestors, that creates wrong information. But there were times for different reasons it was the ancestor who gave incorrect information.

One major reason was the ancestor was illiterate, could not read or write. So they may have never written down births, marriage or death dates only memorized the dates. Of course, there can be mistakes depending on memory.

On the census records, the answers provided could be given by someone in the household, who was not related and didn’t the complete answers. Also on census records, both ladies and gentlemen did not want written down their true age, or marital status. Many a lady stated she was a widow rather than saying she was divorced or separated from her living husband. Or if a man had been married 2 or 3 times they may not want that written in a record.

Many ancestors over the decades moved to other regions of the nation and would sometimes change their identity, or place of birth or age for a fresh start.

So you wonder sometimes what to believe. Key is to locate as many different records and documents as possible to compare. There are military, census, deeds, Wills, marriage, citizenship, diaries, journals, labeled photos and letters which might be the most helpful.

A good example: my father had written on all his military records, census and social security application that he was born in Haverhill, MA. Not until I checked his father’s declaration for citizenship, did I find written by the father that his son (my father) was actually born in Manchester, England. Getting a copy of his birth certificate from England and then the manifest of the ship voyage from England to America proved that my father was born in England.

Don’t you think your ancestors would be astonished by what you have discovered?

Photos: Military record; naturalization record; vintage journals; and discovering ancestors’ secrets.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Saving Documents

Missing Records

Additional Resources for Documents

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