Wrong Source Or Wrong Turn? (Part 2)Posted: April 28, 2011
In Part One, I was tempted to visualize my way into a mistake by over-interpreting a perfectly innocent piece of census data: a prime example of the source being right and the perception going astray.
But investigating this family further has produced more confusion, as further investigation often will. Makes you want to retire your Sherlock Holmes deerstalker cap for good.
By carefully looking at data on Martin and Mary Haigney and their family in the period of 1860-1870, it was possible to establish that the big gap in ages between their first and second sons resulted not from a second marriage and a second family, but because three daughters were born and died between censuses. Step by step, I re-traced my way through the evidence:
First steps: U.S. Censuses of 1860 and 1870 and an 1890 affidavit from Martin Haigney’s Civil War pension file, establishing that his first child, Joseph, was born in 1859, with the next two surviving children being William, born in 1867, and Margaret, born in 1870.
Second step: Re-checking my handwritten family genealogy gold mine, also known as The List. It listed seven children for Martin and Mary: Joseph F.; William; “Mary I and Margaret I — died in infancy”; Mary “II”, Margaret “II”, and Martin. It did not include birth dates.
Third step: Baptismal records for the Haigney children, transcribed from the register of St. Bridget’s Roman Catholic Church, Watervliet, now in the archives at Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church. St Bridget’s listed baptisms for eight children, not seven:
- Joseph, 29 January 1859.
- Mary, 31 March 1861.
- Joanna, 26 July 1863.
- Ellen, 10 September 1865.
- William, 10 November 1867.
- Margaret, 16 January 1870.
- Mary Ann, 25 August 1872.
- Martin, 11 November 1874.
I nodded tolerantly when I saw these entries. The List had been pretty accurate so far. In fact, darn near 100 percent accurate. But now it had missed a kid. And it had listed a “Margaret” as dying in infancy, when clearly that child had to be named either Ellen or Joanna.
Oh, well; even The List is entitled to an off day. And off I went to the …
Fourth step: Finding this family in the New York State census of June 1865. Obviously a very useful resource, since it provides a glimpse of the family midway between federal censuses. Here’s what it said:
- Martin Haigney, 35, male, head of household. Born in Ireland. Parent of 3 children. Married once. Occupation: Soldier. Place of Employment: U.S. Arsenal. Currently in Army.
- Mary Haigney, 30, female, wife. Born in Ireland. Parent of 3 children. Married once. Status: Married. Citizenship status: Alien.
- Joseph Haigney, 6, male, son. Born in Albany [County].
- Mary Haigney, [age mark illegible; might be a 4, judging from other 4s on the page]. Female, daughter. Born in Albany [County].
- Margaret Haigney, 2, female, daughter. Born in Albany [County].
Fifth step: Huh????????
Somewhere I just know that my Aunt Catherine, compiler of The List, is crowing and saying that’s what comes of thinking you know it all.
Why is the child whose age corresponds to the baptismal register’s “Joanna” called “Margaret” by the 1865 census taker, and by Aunt Catherine’s source for her List? Which piece of data is wrong?
I can tell you that the church archivist who is transcribing the St. Bridget’s registers mentioned that the recordkeeping can be sloppy. So maybe “Joanna” in the register is an error, plain and simple. Or maybe the little girl was called Joanna Margaret, and the family preferred to call her Margaret.
At the moment, I have compromised in my genealogy records by listing her as Joanna [Margaret]. Will I ever know her name for sure? Mysteries like this are infuriating, and addicting.