An incorrect death record

Most people think that when you find a certified death record in your genealogy hunt, all the information is correct.  That is not always the case.  It depends on who supplied the information, and sometimes the informant was wrong.  Could be the birth date,  location or maybe the parents are listed incorrectly.  Which is why experienced genealogists always look for more than one source to verify information.  And looking at original records is best, although no guarantee that the information is right.  Here is an example  of why:

At the August Courthouse today, we had a request for a marriage record.  Information supplied by the researcher said Samuel Payne married Maria Craig 7 May, 1848 in Augusta County.  They did not mention where they got this information.  When the marriage records were checked, it was not there.

They also wanted a death record for Samuel Payne and it was our hope that the death record might list his wife.  It did, but incorrectly.  The date and place for Samuel’s death in 1896 were correctly given by his daughter, naming his father as John Payne.  She said his wife was Mariah Page, which was close but not what was expected.  We surmised that Maria might been married prior to her marriage to Samuel, hence a maiden name of Mariah Page, and a first marriage name of Maria Craig.

If we could find the marriage record, we could verify the maiden name.  Knowing the supplied marriage date might be wrong, I checked the index for 10 years prior and 10 years after the date given.  I finally found the marriage record – Samuel Payne son of John married Maria Roberts daughter of John Roberts on 4 May 1840.  Not even close to the year given.  Someone along the line must have transcribed the 0 for an 8 (A good reason to look at original records.)  Here was a third name for Maria.  Since this marriage bond was hand written and signed by John Payne, the groom’s father, and John Roberts, the bride’s father, this original record is assumed to hold the correct information.

Which brings us back to the death record.  Usually a spouse or the children supply information for a death record.  I have even seen a neighbor listed as the informant.  But obviously in this case above, the daughter did not know her mother’s maiden name.  So even thought the researcher was going to get a certified death certificate, the wife’s name shown there is incorrect.


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