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False names and correcting the record

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False names and correcting the record

Postby hassamal » Wed Nov 26, 2014 10:57 am

How many Great War soldiers are buried in graves bearing the names of someone else? I have a relative with two death certificates, one for his death in infancy and another for his death in 1916 as a result of being gassed. They give the same parents and the same year of birth, so there is little doubt they refer to the same person.

Evidently another person enlisted using his identity, then fought and died under this assumed name. My guess is it was a younger brother who disappears from the records after his deceased brother’s enlistment, but I can’t prove it and it is still his brother’s name on the headstone. It seems that a headstone bearing a name, age and regimental number can still mark the grave of an unknown soldier.

The larger question is whether historical records should be corrected. Or is it OK officially to have died twice and be buried in two different cemeteries?

Thanks,

Andrew
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Re: False names and correcting the record

Postby AdrianB38 » Wed Nov 26, 2014 1:16 pm

My view is that History is History and we should never attempt to "correct" it. As you say, you can't prove it. Even Dr. Who can mess up when he attempts to rewrite history (e.g. "The Waters of Mars" :geek: ). Adding an extra annotation to something is a different matter, though. Providing it is done is a non-destructive way, that's fine. Mind you, convincing anyone to annotate official documents is another matter.

PS - I presume we're talking Scottish death certificates as other UK certificates don't give parents?
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Re: False names and correcting the record

Postby brunes08 » Wed Nov 26, 2014 3:16 pm

I do not know how much research you have done, but here goes anyway. If a child died in Infancy, some parents gave a later child the same name. Have you checked to see if more than one son of the same name was born to the same parents. How old was the one when he died in the war? Does the age tie up with the earlier death? Just questions I'd be asking myself. However, if the younger brother took his older brother's name might it have been because he was legally too young to enlist? I keep asking myself questions whenever a problem pops up but apologies if you have done all this.
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Re: False names and correcting the record

Postby junkers » Sun Nov 30, 2014 7:51 pm

I definitely think that changing history is wrong, especially if it can't be proved. The burying of soldiers in the First World War was difficult, it is said the were buried up to seven times but on the evidence available most burials are probably right. I would be surprised that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission got it wrong but you could contact them over your concerns. It always help putting the name of the person in the query as we may be able to double-check and it is interesting just how many people had the same exact name.
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Re: False names and correcting the record

Postby Phizz » Thu Dec 11, 2014 12:24 pm

Probably both death certificates do not give the maiden name of the mother- unlike birth certificates. My research has thrown up coincidences of two children being born in the same year with same full name and same parents names, the maiden name of mother being the only difference - causing me much hassle. Have you seen the birth certificates of both boys?
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Re: False names and correcting the record

Postby ksouthall » Fri Dec 12, 2014 1:13 am

Phizz wrote:Probably both death certificates do not give the maiden name of the mother- unlike birth certificates. My research has thrown up coincidences of two children being born in the same year with same full name and same parents names, the maiden name of mother being the only difference - causing me much hassle. Have you seen the birth certificates of both boys?


The death certificates would give the name and address (or partial address) of the informant. Parents often registered the death of infants so you may be able to link the death certificates using this information.
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Re: False names and correcting the record

Postby hassamal » Wed Jan 28, 2015 11:06 am

Thanks for the responses. I have birth, death, baptism and burial records, so there is no doubt that the name on the headstone is the name of someone who died in infancy and that the name has been assumed by someone else. Since the mother was the informant on both death certificates--the one in infancy and the one in 1916--then she colluded with the deceit, which is why I think the younger brother took on the identity: he was indeed a year under age when he enlisted.

When we talk of history, are we referring to what happened or what is recorded as having happened? The CWGC records are correct to the extent that they are supported by official records, but they don't reflect the fact that whoever is buried in the grave is not the person whose name is on the headstone. The crux of the matter is that while there may be two death certificates for the same person, they couldn't have died twice and be buried in two different cemeteries.

I like the idea of annotating official records, but my attempts so far suggest that archivists are instinctively resistant to the suggestion that the records may be incorrect. And I suppose it would be difficult to annotate a headstone.

Thanks again to all who have responded.

Andrew
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Re: False names and correcting the record

Postby AdrianB38 » Wed Jan 28, 2015 2:00 pm

Archivists will be perfectly happy with the notion that records are incorrect. What they will justifiably refuse to do is alter incorrect records. The record is what the record is. That's the story - end of.

Sent from my GT-I8190N
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Re: False names and correcting the record

Postby Gwil » Wed Jan 28, 2015 9:27 pm

Can you provide the name of the war casualty? Have his records survived?


If you are referring to the CWGC records then they reflect what the army told them. If the army knew him a Soldier A then Soldier A he was. If you can prove with concrete evidence that Soldier A was Soldier B then what you can changed is the record to reflect ' Soldier B served as Soldier A'
Last edited by Gwil on Wed Jan 28, 2015 9:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: False names and correcting the record

Postby Gwil » Wed Jan 28, 2015 9:32 pm

AdrianB38 wrote:Archivists will be perfectly happy with the notion that records are incorrect. What they will justifiably refuse to do is alter incorrect records. The record is what the record is. That's the story - end of.

Sent from my GT-I8190N


Not so in the case of CWGC. There are countless hundreds of 'incorrect' entries that have been corrected upon submission of relevant evidence. Wrong year, wrong name,wrong number, wrong Regiment etc. I myself have corrected well over 70.
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