Conflicting Information in Documents

Conflicting Information in Documents

Conflicting Information in Documents is something that as a Family Historian, you will come across on a regular basis.

Finding different information about a person you are researching among the various different documentation that you will view happens a lot more than people seem to think.

Age is the most common variance you are likely to find but, it is also the one thing that people are most likely to change for all sorts of reasons. Other areas of difference I have found in the past that people appear to have changed include the place of birth, their name, their occupation and their residential addresses.

Possible Solution:

To help to determine which document has the correct information in it we can:

  • Make sure that we have the right (and the same) person in both documents (It seems obvious I know). This can be achieved by checking any previous information we have on the person and ensuring that it matches the other information that is contained in the document
  • Determine whether the person themself was the one that would have forwarded the information or, was it given by someone else who could have made a mistake ie a family member on a death certificate or a landlord on a census.
  • Determine whether there was possibly any reason for the person to change their details eg lower or raise their age to join the military or change their address to be eligible for something (Parish charity etc).
  • Determine whether there was any medical reason for the discrepancy ie. were they suffering from anything that could affect their memory or mental state?

It can possibly take a lot of leg work with a few assumptions thrown in but it is possible to determine which of the documents is most likely to contain the correct information.

It would also be advisable to make a note of your reasoning behind disregarding the info in a document in your sources so that future you and, anyone else that views your research, can understand why you believe the information to be incorrect in the first place.

Happy Hunting!

If you know of any other methods to determine how to find which document has the correct information please email me and let me know.

Conflicting Information in Documents