Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Money well spent

We know that money cannot buy happiness but, judiciously applied to the purchase of just the right certificate, it can dispel a whole lot of family history gloom.

When our 2xgreat grand grandmother Agnes Burton died in Queensland in 1937, her parents were recorded as John Cameron and Agnes Anderson.

There was no reason to doubt this information since Agnes had at least four adult daughters living in close proximity who would have collaborated on the task of registering her death.

Confidence in the veracity of these claims has been shaken by an extended period of trawling through transcriptions of Scottish censuses without locating one plausible candidate for this Cameron household. There was just one course of action left. I hesitantly opened my (digital) purse and paid ScotlandsPeople to view the record of the marriage of Agnes to Andrew Burton. This revealed the bride's parents to be John Cameron and Sarah Anderson!

Naturally, locating the relevant census records took a matter of moments with the correct names. And then the implications of the new information began to flow. The full name of Aunt Sally (Sarah Anderson Cameron Burton) now made perfect sense and reminded me not to forget the naming convention when facing a Scots brick wall. Was this further indirect evidence that Sally's younger sisters may not have known their grandmother? Did Agnes Cox simply assume that, because her name was Agnes and her mother was Agnes, her grandmother was also?

Family historians need a healthy streak of scepticism. We must remember that it is most important to bring it into play precisely when there seems "no reason to doubt". Trust no-one and examine the documents. It might be £1.20 well spent.

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