Here are some things I’m learning while doing all this genealogy research —
People can’t spell, or their spelling is heavily influenced by accents. I see this mostly in census records; I have written down “Alpha Maude” and the census record comes up with “Alfa Maude”. “Amanda” becomes “Amandy”. Some people spell it “Clemenza” and some “Clemensa”. “Gertrude” is “Gertrout”. Sometimes it’s “Shellhorn” or sometimes “Shelhorn”… or even a couple times, “Shellborn”. While this makes total sense, when you’re thinking about accents and perhaps the level of education of the person writing the name down (or having it written for them), it will make you doubt sometimes that you have the right record. Especially because…..
First names, middle names, and nicknames seem to be more fluid than set. Some records say “Amanda Clemenz(s)a” and some say “Clemenz(s)a Amanda”. Sometimes, a person marries someone with the same first name as their parent (John Don, son of John Timothy and Ida L., marrying Ida Elizabeth, and I can’t find out what the “L” stood for anywhere because most records I’ve found confuse the two Idas. But one was born in 1882 and the other had a child in 1884 so I’m pretty sure they’re not the same person (cue song: I am My Own Grandpa) (Oh, and to make things more confusing, Ida Elizabeth was the daughter of Ida Vesta, and wouldn’t you just love to be at a family reunion? “Ida! Bring me some napkins!”). Even if Find-a-Grave does link the daughter-in-law to the father-in-law as spouses. Sigh. Sometimes the official census record will have the nickname as the given name, as in “Mandy” or “Nellie” or “Nancy” …. which, incidentally, I found for all the same person… “Amanda”.
Dates are wrong. I’ve found four or five relatives where I had the actual date, and then I find it online with the same day and month, but different year. More than once I had something vague like “about 1823” and then found an official record with a date, but sometimes I just don’t even know what to do. Which is right? Because also a couple of times I’ve found online where someone typed, say, 1933 instead of 1833. Clearly that’s a typo. But does that mean everything is suspect? I want rules! I want things to be one thing or not be, I don’t want “maybe”!
People love to name children after relatives and/or maiden names. This is most obvious when I get back into the 1700s, because then I have a clear view of generations and naming conventions. It seems that first born sons are named after favorite brothers. Second born sons are named after fathers, or grandfathers. After that, sons are named after brothers, brothers of the father — maternal brothers names don’t seem to get used unless they run out of paternal brothers. First daughters seem to be named after sisters of the mothers first, with possibly a middle name coming from the maiden name. “Belle” for “Bell”, for example. This can get really confusing when there are, say, four John Haldemans, all with brothers named Christian, Abraham, Peter, and Jacob, and all five of those brothers have at least ten children, at least five of which are boys, and guess what those boys are named? John, Christian, Abraham, Peter, and Jacob. And somehow somebody got a Daniel, and then all of them had Daniels. And I don’t know if they were racing, or what, but a lot of the same names were born a year or two apart — the same year, in The Case of Two Daniels, and then both of those Daniels married cousins, named Ella Haldeman. SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE?!?!?!
Family members take in other family members, and this confuses census takers. One of the Peter Haldemans (father of one of the Ella Haldemans) sent one of his daughters to live with one of his brothers, an Alice A. Alice A. then shows up on at least the next two census records as being the daughter of Joseph (my great-great-great grandfather) and then a few years later Peter and his wife had another daughter, whom they also named Alice. WTF, Haldemans. W.T.F. (I actually can’t wait for this chapter because it looks like there was some weird, tragic stuff with this branch of the family.) Oh, that reminds me, too, that there’s at least four cases I’ve found of people naming their children the same as children who have already died. This also confuses records, let me tell you! It’s also a little creepy.
Genealogists were apparently some of the first people to realize how beneficial the World Wide Web could be to research. Now, on one hand, that’s awesome – a lot of pages I’m finding have clearly been up for years and they rank pretty high in all the Google searching I’ve been doing. However, once made, while updated with pictures and new research, they clearly have not updated the look of the websites. I haven’t seen this many sparkly gifs and flashing backgrounds since Geocities. I found a page yesterday that I don’t know if it would have helped me or not, because after about 30 seconds of reading the bright yellow letters on the flashing red sparkly background, I felt like I was going to have a seizure and I closed it down.
Don’t get me wrong, this research is fun. I let myself take little 10-15 minute breaks from work a couple of times a day, and look up a different relative each time, try to find something new. It’s fun, it’s like a puzzle, it’s research, it’s a mystery. BUT MY GOD. A couple of times it’s also tried my patience, heh.