When Genealogical Evidence is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

Follow the geese. NOT!

The great thing about having half a century of genealogical research under my belt is that it’s easy to recognize when an official has got it very wrong. But what about when you are starting out and you tend to take these pieces of evidence: birth, marriage, death, census records as pronouncements of truth? Well it can really mess with your research let me tell you. I recently came across my great grandmother’s 1930 census record and it was so badly wrong I just had to share it with you. And it’s an honest mistake by the census enumerator.

1930 San Francisco Census for Karl B Anderson & his wife Lulu P

As above it has Karl B Anderson’s birthplace as Illinois and his parents born in Ohio and Indiana. Well this is a simple transposing error as it is Lulu who was born in Illinois and he in Sweden.

I have a 3rd great grandfather, John L. (Loy or Lafayette?) MOSER, who was born 27 MAR 1800 in Orange County, North Carolina, USA. However that did not prevent his children from inventing all sorts of places for his birth. And not a single one I have found got it right!

  • 1880 John Wesley Williamson MOSIER said his father was born in AL (not yet a state)
  • 1880 William James Jasper MOSIER said his father was born in Tenn
  • 1880 Madison Columbus MOSIER missing
  • 1900 John Wesley Williamson MOSIER said his father was born in PA
  • 1900 Madison Columbus MOSIER said his father was born “At Sea
  • 1900 William James Jasper MOSIER said his father was born in PA
  • 1910 John Wesley Williamson MOSIER said his father was born in SCOTLAND
  • 1910 William James Jasper MOSIER said his father was born in AL
  • 1910 Madison Columbus MOSIER missing

So we have PA, Tenn, AL, At Sea and Scotland as the place of birth of their father! None of which is correct!!! Their 2nd great grandfather Frederick MOSIER was born in Breitenau, Ansbach, Bayern [Bavaria], Germany. He immigrated to PA with his father Johan Martin MOSIER. Their grandfather Nicholas MOSER was born in PA then moved to Orange County, NC, then to Madison County, AL and finally to Anderson County, TN. Their mother Nancy WILLIAMSON’s family is believed to have roots in Scotland so this may be where some of these places have their genesis. What is clear is that with 7 CENSUS records NONE is correct. This should be a cautionary tale to others. All records are fallible. Not everyone knows where their parents are born. Please take all evidence with a teaspoon of salt.

The above are extreme examples but they are more common than you might think. And let me tell you, they can send you on some wild goose chases if you aren’t careful!

Kelly Wheaton © 2022 All RIghts Reserved.


5 Comments on “When Genealogical Evidence is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong”

  1. I have seen a similar thing with one of my great-grandfathers. In three different Census records he is listed as born in Germany, France and Pennsylvania. However, the German/French problem was fairly easily figured out if one remembered that he was from the Alsace Lorraine region. That area went back and forth from Germany to France. But, I’m not sure who reported him as from Pennsylvania. It all confused me early on, but sometimes you also have to look at historical borders as well.

  2. A good reminder! I always have to laugh to myself when people claim they are related to some famous person from the past just because they have the same last name.

  3. Pingback: Friday’s Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree

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