Monday, January 6, 2014

My birth record - When documents (and people!) lie...

As is well explained in Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills, when we examine a document for genealogy evidence, we consider the informant, and how reliable they likely are for the information given in the document.  This is a good, sound practice, but like everything else in life, there are always exceptions to the rule.  

My own birth registration illustrates how even usually reliable documents can fail us.

The informant for my birth registration was my mother, Doneen Lois Hewitt. One would think she would be an extremely reliable source for her own birthplace. Unfortunately, she indicated she was born in Vancouver, BC, Canada when in fact she was born in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.

Her own birth record, which I had to copy and send to correct my birth registration when I was an adult, indicates her birthplace as St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. She always told me she was born in St. Catharines, and my birth record is the only document (that I know of) where she stated she was born in Vancouver.

Why did she lie on her place of birth?  I do not know.  

So, my own birth record demonstrates how even what should be ideal informants can give erroneous information. Had I not had my identification stolen, I may never have seen the actual birth registration and corrected it, and some future genealogist would have had quite a hard time finding my mothers birth record in Vancouver, which is very far indeed from her actual place of birth!

I guess I should be happy she registered me under her own real name and not Jan Cordelli, which is what she was apparently calling herself those days.

My birth record also contained some other very genealogical relevant but erroneous information.   My mother recorded "unknown" for father.  This was clearly a lie.   Since I started this blog, I was contacted by my father, who was told by my mother at the time she was pregnant with me that he was my father.  DNA testing has shown that he is indeed my father.  Why did she lie and put "unknown" for my father?  I do not know.  Maybe the part of the story where she said she did it because she was "fighting" at the time with my father was true, although in the story she claimed my father was Daryl Foster!

Despite having registered my birth name "Kristina Lee Hewitt" for the first several years of my life, I thought my name was Kristina Lee Foster.  This was the name I was enrolled in school in.  This came to mind when writing a blog post yesterday on my Kindergarten days.  My doctors records were for Kristina Foster. My health card was Kristina Foster.  My immunization records were for Kristina Foster.   I still have old school things I made, signed Kristina Foster. 

When my mother remarried in 1985, she asked if we wanted to start being known by her new husbands name, and we agreed, and this was the name I went by.  She never filed for a legal step-parent adoption, but switched our names at school etc.  So, from then on my school records were for Kristina Gilby.    

Later, in my teens, after her divorce from her 2nd husband, I switched back to Hewitt.  Now, I'm married and go by my married surname Stewart.   As I didn't know who my father was when I got married, I don't remember what I put on my marriage registration.  Daryl Foster maybe or maybe unknown.  I will look into amending my marriage and birth registrations.  

If a genealogist in the future were to look for documents of me, they would find all kinds of confusion.  

In conclusion: Consider the informant, and consider the likelihood that a document is correct, but also consider that as Dr. House says ...."everyone lies"

Do you have any documents in your genealogy that you know contain inaccurate information?  Do you write this knowledge in some format for future researchers?