Friday, January 10, 2014

William Colston - Birth Year- 1875 or 1881...That is the question.....

     William is my husbands grandfather.  Per initial information, from husband, his grandfather died when a barn fell on him.  Tombstone states DOB as 12 January 1881.  Newspaper article and obit indicate he was 56 when he died on July 26, 1937.  Information on Death Certificate was provided by daughter and stated DOB as 12 January 1881.

     So far, I've not found a record of birth.  In looking at Census records, he was 51 in 1930, 42 in 1920, 30 in 1910, 22 in 1900; nothing for 1890 AND 4 in 1880 census.  RED FLAG-If he was born in 1881-how could he be 4 years old in 1880 census?   All surrounding information such as parents, wife, siblings and children match.  So no question of having wrong census records.

     In looking at the evidence:

1875                                                                                  1881
1880 Census                                                                    Newspaper Article
1900 Census                                                                    Obituary
1910 Census                                                                    Death Certificate
1920 Census                                                                    Tombstone
1930 Census                                                                    Find-a-Grave
WWI Draft Registration

    I'm very guilty of gathering information and then gathering more before processing it.  So, while gathering the information, that red flag kept popping up with the discrepancy in birth year.  Finally, I decided to tackle it once and for all (well ok at least til I find more information:)  Spreadsheets are really good for things like this.  I have my 'workbook' where I add the individual's data and create a timeline.  Not only does this point out things to consider in the timeline, it also gives me a chance to really look at the information.  When I plugged the above information in-it hit me that all the 1881 information seems to have come from later sources-further away from the actual event and not provided by the individual (William).  Census records were closer to event time-plus, if he was in the 1880 census as 4 years old either I had the wrong person or year of birth was wrong.  Luckily, the WWI Draft Registration was available and had been completed by the individual.  His DOB was listed as 1875.  Conclusion is that the preponderance of the evidence points to 1875 as birth year and later information (DC, Obit, Tombstone) are in error.


*Spreadsheets are invaluable in outlining information, creating timelines as well as identifying gaps/discrepancies

*Analyzing each piece of information is important in defining value of that information.

*Sometimes it helps to stop gathering and start processing so you can make progress:)

*Double check everything-especially if your gut is acting up.  Guts have a way of alerting us to things we might not otherwise pay attention to:)  Just because something is recent, it doesn't mean it is always accurate.  We all make errors, and those that know me, know I made a lot of them!

Happy Hunting!

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