Sunday, January 29, 2012


Many genealogists , including myself, spend a lot of time in cemeteries. We
hunt for dead relatives, either ours or someone elses' to take pictures of
gravestones sometimes in the hopes of finding missing birth or death dates
on our family trees. But that information is not already correct.

Case in point:

Here's a photo of a  gravestone with some of my West family members. On
the right of the stone are the names and dates for my 2x great grandparents
Jonathan Phelps West and Louisa Amata Richardson West. On the left are the
names and dates of their son, my great granduncle John Cuvier West and his
wife Louise A. 

The only problem is, his wife was named Emily Enman.

I have the documentation to prove it. I have the image of the record of their
marriage in Gorham, New Hampshire on 28Jul 1893. I have the images for the
1900 and 1910 Federal Censuses for Berlin New Hampshire which shows Emily
as John's wife.   I have the entry in the West Family Bible for the marriage of
John and Emily but none for a marriage with anyone named Louise.

So, how did this happen?

Human error.

Emily's middle name was Louise. My theory is that after her death the family
either commisioned a new gravestone for both couples or had Emily's name
added to it, and in that process, the stonecutter was given wrong  information
or misread the information. (Perhaps it was caused by distance because Emily
died in New Jersey, possibly visiting a relative.)  Further proof of that is the
date for John's birth year is incorrect; he was in 1867, not 1869. As for Emily,
both her birthdate and death dates are incorrect. She was born in 1872 and died
in 1939.

If another West cousin researching the family didn't have the information
I have and used the inscription on this gravestone their family tree would be

So, before you accept the information on a gravestone, remember, it isn't
always written in stone.


Lisa Wallen Logsdon said...

I ran into something just yesterday along this line. A cousin's stone gave only her name and two dates, but the death date was actually her marriage date. Luckily, there was a larger family stone nearby that gave her correct death date, which wasn't long after her marriage. Could be very confusing!

Cynthia Shenette said...

Good point, Bill. This is the case for my grandfather and my great-grandfather. The year of birth is wrong for one and the year of death is wrong for the other. Also my grandfather started out in life with one name and ended life with another name.

Could your Emily have gone by her middle name by any chance? That's a possibility too, especially if there were other Emilys in the family.

genie holt said...

I've run in to those wrong dates etc on gravestones - they are often added much later. Also have to watch death certificates - my great grandmother's dc lists her mother-in-law as her mother. Often it's a son-in-law who gives the info and it sure can be wrong. I enjoy your posts!