Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Genealogist Makes Shocking Discovery

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
Glen Kimball has been researching his family tree for only a few weeks, but already has made a discovery that will rock the genealogical world.

"There's something wrong with the censuses," he says from his home in Alexandria, Virginia. "There's something terribly, terribly wrong with the censuses."

Last week, Kimball found his great-grandfather in the 1900, 1910, and 1920 federal censuses. But the ages given for his ancestor didn't add up.

"He was three years old in 1900, twelve in 1910, and twenty-four in 1920. That's just not possible."

Concerned that other genealogists might be led astray by faulty census data, Kimball immediately contacted the National Archives and notified them of the problem.

National Archives, Washington, D.C."We were very glad to hear from Glen," says RoseAnn Polensky, who runs the Historical Census Department at the Archives. "We would never knowingly release false information to the public. This must have just slipped by our fact-checkers."

On Monday, the Archives announced a recall of all United States census microfilm, which includes records dating from 1790 to 1930. Companies like Ancestry.com and HeritageQuest Online have pledged to take down any census records found to be erroneous.

Polensky notes that Glen Kimball's action has sparked an internal review at the Archives.

"Could other bad information have gotten through? We don't know yet. Until we can look at every document in our possession and check its veracity, we won't be allowing the public access to anything.

"The first document to be released will be the Declaration of Independence," adds Polensky, "just as soon as we verify that all men are created equal."
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Who's paying for all this bad info?


I hate to say it, but this is nothing new. I've been a family historian for over 30 years, and I've come across the same thing in my research. I just put it down as transcription errors, from handwritten documents hard to read, to human error when initially recording to...you fill in the blanks. There's only so much we can rely on. Even source documentation can be misleading. History isn't perfect...


That's why the happiest genealogists are those who don't notice or don't mind inconsistencies in their data.

As for me, I'm miserable most of the time.

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