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Can a Death Record be wrong?

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Can a Death Record be wrong?

Postby Hippychick » Sat Jan 06, 2018 5:19 am

I've been searching for years for a death record for my GGG grandfather Alexander Louden in Scotland. I have enough information from other sources to narrow it down to between 1861 and 1879. I can find only one that fits in 1877. However - on this record it states his wife is Isabella Isdale. I know without doubt his wife was Jane Isdale but he did have a daughter called Isabella. The informant is his son in law John King which would be correct. I can't find any other instances of a Louden marrying an Isdale that century. Should I assume it was a mistake and this is indeed my ancestor? It would be fantastic if it was as it names both his parents taking me back to mid 1700 s but something is still niggling me. Any thoughts?
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Re: Can a Death Record be wrong?

Postby Guy » Sat Jan 06, 2018 7:28 am

Hippychick wrote:I've been searching for years for a death record for my GGG grandfather Alexander Louden in Scotland. I have enough information from other sources to narrow it down to between 1861 and 1879. I can find only one that fits in 1877. However - on this record it states his wife is Isabella Isdale. I know without doubt his wife was Jane Isdale but he did have a daughter called Isabella. The informant is his son in law John King which would be correct. I can't find any other instances of a Louden marrying an Isdale that century. Should I assume it was a mistake and this is indeed my ancestor? It would be fantastic if it was as it names both his parents taking me back to mid 1700 s but something is still niggling me. Any thoughts?


Was John King married to Isabella?
If so the mistake could easily have been made if he (John King) was asked "Did he have a wife?" or some similar question.

I would suggest your conclusion is reasonable but I would still try to narrow the 18 year timeslot as much as possible before feeling certain.
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Re: Can a Death Record be wrong?

Postby AdrianB38 » Sat Jan 06, 2018 7:45 am

It is perfectly possible that original records are wrong. Death records in particular are problematic because, as we have said before, the person who was best suited to answer the questions, isn't around.

The relatives recorded on Scottish death certificates are often problematic. If the informant never knew that person personally, it's just pot luck if they knew their names.

In general terms, to identify errors in the originals, you need to look for anomalies where the evidence is contradictory then find enough evidence to work out the real story. But of course, you need to be wary of wishful thinking.

In this instance, you need to be satisfied that you have indeed looked at all the marriage records - so you need to be familiar with those tables somewhere on ScotlandsPeople that list what registers survive or *not* for each parish. Once you have battered the problem into submission, then, and only then, can you decide that the most reasonable explanation of the anomalies is an error. I am concerned here that you might not yet have checked, double checked and triple checked the data and also have you checked that you - or rather ScotlandsPeople - have access to all the registers you need.

But, while I want you to be absolutely certain, I would *guess* (note the g-word) that you are correct and this is who you think it is. Of course, even if it is, if he doesn't get the deceased's wife right, the names of the parents are even more at risk!

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Re: Can a Death Record be wrong?

Postby Hippychick » Sat Jan 06, 2018 11:22 pm

Thanks for your replies.

Sorry I should have written 1871 not 1861!

There are only a couple of other Alexander Louden deaths in the whole of Scotland in this time period who are anywhere near the correct age. I've checked them all and the wives names and other details don't match at all.

Alexander died at an address of Watergate on this certificate, which is where his son John King lives in the 1881 census, although at a different number. I've no doubt that the census John King is my John King as his birthplace of Fife and family details are correct.

There are no other marriages between Louden and Isdale or between John King and Louden anywhere in Scotland - ever - according to Scotlands People.

I've checked FreeReg and was able to get a listing of all births, deaths and marriages and the only Alexander Louden death that fits is this one. There have been very few Alexander Loudens in the whole of Scotland in the 18th and 19th centuries, it's not a massively common name. I have used variations on the spelling.

Alexander was always a fisherman but in the 1871 census his profession had changed to labourer, and labourer is listed on death certificate.

I really can't think of anything else I can check that I haven't already looked at. As I say this has been a niggle for about ten years now and I'd love to put it to bed. I simply don't know if there's anything else I can use to rule this in/out?
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Re: Can a Death Record be wrong?

Postby phsvm » Sun Jan 07, 2018 9:55 am

Sometimes we just can't be 100% certain and at that point I think you have to put your 'genealogy' hat to one side and put on a 'maths' hat and work on probability.

I'm sure somewhere there is a mathematician who could work out the probability of this being the correct person. It'll never be 100% but may be pretty close!
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Re: Can a Death Record be wrong?

Postby AdrianB38 » Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:59 am

Can anything be done to confirm John King on the DC is yours? From a quick glance at my Scottish DCs, it looks like his address should be there - if it's not there, then he should be living at the address where the death occurred, assuming that I'm reading the form correctly.

You may need to consult directories to move JK back from 1881 to 1877 and that will depend very much on what sort of directories are available for ?Perth?

Or what about the 1875 Valuation Rolls on ScotlandsPeople? - they might help in locating JK or his father in law. Though I'm not sure to what extent renters and lodgers will appear.

Whichever way, if the JK can be shown to be yours, then that demonstrates a connection between him and the deceased - not sure what the Scottish rules were but in England, the informant had to be a relative, or someone living at the same address or with a role at the address. I think that we can discard the idea that your JK might be living at the same address as someone who just happens to have the same name as his father in law but isn't him.

Also, if you have him in the 1871 and know that he's dead by 79, then the death surely has to be in ScotlandsPeople or on FreeBMD if he's crossed the Border. I'm assuming that he's not died at sea, in Ireland or emigrated. If that's so, then I reckon that it has to be him, given that you've checked the other candidates in ScotlandsPeople.

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Can a Death Record be wrong?

Postby brunes08 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:32 am

You say that you know without doubt that Alexander's wife was Jane, not Isabella. I presume this is because you have appropriate evidence. However, many people I have come across in my own family research, and that of friends, have used different names from those given at their births. Some used a completely different name, some their middle name and some a family nickname. It was only through, sometimes, considerable research that the truth appeared. Just a few examples, the real name is in the brackets. Win (Charlotte), Betty (Dorothy), Eveline (Hannah), May (Elizabeth), Jim (Arthur), Dan (Ernest) and so on. All part of life's rich tapestry and ways to trip up historians. It may be, as mentioned, that the person registering the death did not know the original name. However, there is no legal reason to prevent anyone from using any name they wish apart from use in criminal activity.
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Re: Can a Death Record be wrong?

Postby Hippychick » Mon Jan 08, 2018 3:51 pm

Thanks for the replies.

I have Jane & Alexander's marriage certificate, her birth record, all their children's birth records and all the census returns from 1841 - 1871 and all list her as Jane or Jean, though I suppose it's perfectly possible Isabella was a pet name the family had for her.

As far as John King goes, I've found a 1875 Valuation roll with John King at 9 Watergate. The listing at 17 records several houses and attics and their tenants but no mention of an Alexander Louden.

My John King was baptised at Newburgh Fife on Jan 1st 1843. I can't find a birth record though it's obviously sometime in 1842. Jane was born in 1843 in Perth, Perthshire. I have his wedding certificate to Jane Louden, where his address is High Street Perth and occupation is Railway Pointsman. This is 1865.

According to ScotlandsPeople census returns for 1871 the only John King of the correct age (I checked under age variation of several years) is John King aged 28 of Union Street who is a railway guard. He is living with his wife Jane King a year younger. His birthplace is listed as Ebbty (Abdie?) Fife and hers as Perth, Perthshire. This puts both ages correct to their birth and I really have to presume this is the right couple.

1881 Census has this same couple (same birthplace listings and ages) as now living at 9 Watergate Perth and his occupation as Fitter at Works.

The Alexander Louden whose death record I found lives at 17 Watergate. Though my Alexander has his address through most of his married life as Orchard Nook Perth.

I think I really have to presume the John King who signed the death record is my John King, therefore making the death record Alexander 'mine'. At least I hope so!!
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Re: Can a Death Record be wrong?

Postby AdrianB38 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 4:19 pm

Well, given the lack of alternative Alexander Louden deaths; given that the AL who dies is surely somehow, linked to a John King (because surely he wouldn't be allowed to be an informant otherwise?); and that your AL has a son-in-law of that name who lives 8 numbers away (4 houses? or not?)... Well frankly, I'd say you've made your case.

One of the research techniques that we are told to use, is to look at Family and Neighbours - JK appears to be both. We're really getting to the stage where it's much harder to imagine that they are not who we hope they are.

There is the discrepancy over the wife's name but these things happen. Again, it's much simpler to believe that there is an error, than to imagine that these are different people.

So - just remember that if one name is wrong, the others might be a bit dodgy also...
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Re: Can a Death Record be wrong?

Postby Hippychick » Mon Jan 08, 2018 4:45 pm

Thanks Adrian. The informant on the death certificate John King, lists himself as son in law, so it's making it very likely.

I've already done some research on the parents listed on the record and they do indeed have a long listing of children born around the same time in Fife. However the only Alexander I can find just has the fathers name recorded on his birth, not the mothers. Genealogy never makes things easy lol.

I've emailed P&K Council burials asking for help to locate the burial plot of the Alexander Louden I've found the death record for. Maybe if I can get an inscription or something it will tie it in with the family somehow.

Thanks again for your help.
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