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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Evaluate Your Sources When Finding Conflicting Information

Evaluate Your Sources When Finding Conflicting Information
Dawn asked Olive Tree Genealogy about her great-grandmother:

I live in the states and I am having an issues with the 1911 Canadian  census.  My great grandmother Mary Ann Lavallee was born of Joseph Nazaire Lavalle and Delia Desautels. The 1911 census has him born Feb of 1872  but all info from other sources has him born in 1870. We think the census might be incorrect with his bday listed as Feb 1872. We also can find no records of marriage for Delia and Nazaire here in the states.

Ask Olive Tree Answer:

Census records are often incorrect but  we should not reject what is found in a census record without further proof. Remember that we do not know three things - WHO gave the answers to the census taker,  HOW the census taker worded his question, and WHAT the level of understanding was of the person providing answers.

You mention that "all info from other sources" shows your ancestor born in 1870 but you do not tell me what those sources are. You should look at those sources and determine how accurate they might be, in other words, how much weight should you assign to them as "good" sources.

Unless the source involves the individual him/herself providing answers, that source is questionable. A death record for example, contains information given by others. It might be accurate, but it also might be completely wrong. A marriage record would have information provided by the individual so it is far more believable.

You should always evaluate your sources when you uncover conflicting information. This will allow you to determine the most reliable source. 

But if you know your great-grandmother's parents, why not hunt for a church baptismal or birth registration for her? That will give an accurate date of birth. Or are you hunting for her father's date of birth? Your query does not make it clear.

As for a marriage record for Delia and Nazaire, you neglected to tell me where in Canada they lived or were born. And Canada is the second biggest country in the world, so without knowing a more exact location (province/County, town or township or...) I cannot direct you to marriage records.

It also depends on their religion, that is, what church did they attend and are there records available for that church in the necessary time period. Depending on the province, there may be civil registration records available.

So my advice is to search for the location where your ancestors lived and find out what records are available for that location.

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