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Legacy Tip: how to record conflicting information

If I were in charge of changing genealogical history, I'd make sure that all census enumerators, doctors, court recorders, witnesses, informants, priests, and others each consulted with each other before recording a person's information. They'd all agree on the spelling of a name, the accuracy of a date, and they would certainly record the person's parents, and even their grandparents. Maybe even attach a photograph too.

Since I'm not in charge of changing genealogical history, I will continue to find conflicting information. Take a look at Maria Teter's Individual's Information screen below (click to enlarge). Different sources provided different dates and places for her birth:

  • Pennsylvania (from her son's marriage record)
  • abt 1840 in New York (from her son's 1920 census record and from her own 1880 census record and from another son's death certificate)
  • 1 January 1841 (from her obituary)
  • 17 January 1841 in Pennsylvania (from her death certificate)
  • abt 1842 in New York (umm...I don't know where this came from...)
  • calculated 1843 in New York (from her 1895 state census and 1910 census)
  • January 1845 in New York (from her 1900 census)


Good research requires the researcher to record each of these conflicting dates/places and its source for further analysis. Of course, different records have varying degrees of reliability, but whichever date/place you decide is the "most accurate", record it in the main birth field (the top half of this screen). Record all others as "Alt. Birth" events by clicking on the Add button.

If/when you are able to disprove one of the alternate birth events, change its event name to "Disproven Birth" and in its notes, explain why the event is disproven. Now you will always have a record of the conflicting information and the reasons for which they are disproven. This comes in handy when collaborating with other researchers.

If you decide that one of your "Alt. Birth" events is the correct one and you want it and its accompanying documentation to be the "main" birth event, just click on the Options button and select "Swap with Birth Information".


If you want the ability to not include these "Alt. Birth" events in a report, like a book, just mark the event as "private" by placing a checkmark in the "Private" box in the lower right of the Event screen. Then, in the Report Options' Privacy tab, select to either include or not include "events marked private".

Maybe it's just me, but do you find conflicting information in your ancestors' records too?


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I have a related question. My family names have evolved over time. I would like to be consistent, so I can pull up all family members from an index. Do I use what the name has evolved to or what it was originally in the main name field?

I just recently started doing this and I like the method so much better than my old way of ever-widening date ranges for a particular event, necessitating looking back at the sources (sometimes many) to figure out what's most reasonable. Finding that I could swap a particular now-preferred alternate with the main event made it even better. I hadn't thought about making the alternates private, which would be a good idea, especially for those that have been disproved (I've just been deleting those). I should probably get out the manual and see what else I'm not doing. ;-)

You'd insist upon all these things.....and then they'd go and spoil it all by using - unchecked - OCR.

I have seen more than one case recently of the Date of Death of someone who died in the US within the last 20 years or so, which are supposedly collected, tracked, and submitted by the Funeral Home.

The state Death Index, the SSDI, and sometimes the tombstone have different dates!

I have also seen where the given names differ between the state Death Index and the SSDI -- not just transposed, either!

My mother died in 2005. SSDI has the wrong date. I took them her death certificate and they still won't change it!!!! So don't take them as a perfect source... they
are not.

Geoff --
Thank you for this excellent information. I'll start using it today! I have needed a way to document my reasoning for selecting from conflicting sources; but have just tried to keep track "in my head" or on some notes somewhere.

My mother is still alive and is having problems with the "official" dates of her birth not matching the birth date she has known all her life. The most recent copy of her birth certificate from the State of Alabama computers is not the same as on her old birth certificate, her enlistment date, family Bibles, or any of her employment records.

This is causing problems with getting information on her military service and with Social Security and Medicare. She has been trying to resolve this for over a year with no progress. At eighty eight, she should not have to worry about some clerk's typo when they transferred her records to computer.

I am sure this will cause problems for genealogists in the future!

One branch of my mother's family is from an illegitimate birth and one vowel in the spelling of their surname was changed from the original. Nobody knows whether this was done purposely or accidentally; the overall sound of the name is very similar.

Current members of that branch ackowledge that they are descended from that illegitimate birth and have no wish to change back to the original spelling.

Therefore, all members are in my tree, but with a note why the variant spelling occurred.

Thank you for this tip and the others in the newsleter. I learn something new each time I read the newsletter and I appreciate you giving us more and more tips and tricks. I use the database every single day and I want to be able to use it to it's full extent. The "how to" CD's were a wonderful start to that process.

I've seen two curious variations on birth dates. One was for a woman (nearly got into my own database), born near mid-night (before or after not certain) in a country with not only a different calendar than CE - but was (still?) using a non-integer hour time zone from the rest of the world. Converting the Farsi spelling of the Islamic calendar month; taking into account whether the local authorities accepted the same lunar sightings as others for the start of that month; the definition of that day starting at sunset, rather than mid-night; and getting it converted to an English spelling for her passport in an emergency rush migration post-revolution - all led her to never know exactly what 'day' she should adopt in the New World for her birth date. Goes by what's on her green card, now citizenship papers, I believe.

The other situation was forty years ago when the US Selective Service set up their draft for Vietnam based on birth dates. Lore had it that some potential draftees born near local mid-night, tried to get their b.c. changed to the previous or next day to change their chances of being drafted. As suggested - all variations ought to be recorded with explanations, with best used for practical purposes. Time can be 'relative.'

What is the reasoning for putting the various dates under the Events Category? I have been putting this under sources with a commentary on the reliability of the information. If you put all of this information under Events, what do you put for the source of the information? Do you just place the main source in the Sources Category?

My parents wedding day is incorrect! Don't you think THEY would know when they were married? The marriage certificate ON RECORD WITH THE CITY AND THE PARISH CHURCH BOTH HAVE THE WRONG DATE. the CITY MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE DOES NOT SHOW THE ORIGINAL CERTIOFICATE. The wrong date is May 28, 1948. I thought that possibly they applied for a marriage certificate on May 28th and were married on May 30th and that might have something to do with the error. In going through papers following my fathers death I found their marriage certificate and as I suspected they applied on the 28th and married on the 30th. I will make the change and include a scan of the original.

Just asking...the "Teter" that you generically posted, is that a family you actually have in your personal database? I'm researching that particular family myself and would love to share information with you :)

In reply to Sandy Monza | March 08, 2010 at 12:58 PM, this is my solution to the problem of recording the spelling evolution of family names in Legacy.
I record all family members under the most generally accepted spelling (eg SMITH for SMYTHE). This ensures that all forms, no matter what the vsariation may be, appear together in the alphabetical Index. I then add variant forms of the spelling in the surname window of new Individual Records, with the note "See SMITH". I then change the RINs of these records manually to a number (such as 1000000 or greater) that I am not likely ever to reach. These records will then appear where you might expect to find them in the alphabetical list, and will refer the reader searching for SMYTHE to the SMITH entries. In addition, you can check all these special "reference records" by simply listing the Index entries in RIN order and going to the end of the Index. So far I have about 12 of these "reference records", and I find it a very useful system.
If there is a problem, it is that the total number of records in the database is increased by the number of reference records, but this is hardly a matter for concern.
I hope this idea is helpful to Sandy and others.
Stuart L Harvey

Margie - Maria Teter was the mother-in-law of Myrtle Inez Brown (daughter of David Clark Brown in Legacy's sample file). Do you have a connection with her? Yes, I am currently researching her family. Send me a personal email if you'd like.

Kent - I think either is probably fine, however, if you create Alt. Birth events, it's much easier to see when you have a conflict.

In the example above, the blank field are black and the fields with data are red. Where is the option to change that?

Rita - the red fields indicate that that event has a source attached. You can change the color of the label at Options > Customize > Colors > Contents.

Got a good one. My cousin was born in Jan, 1942. I was born in Dec 1941. Because the original birth certificate for him has 1941 as the year he was born, he got SS benefits almost a year before I did.

I pulled the original birth certificate and was surprised to see the 1941...so called him... he said he got it changed with military, but not with work or other ...

My birthday is on Dec 25, 1941. I was 14 when I got my beginners drivers lic. They put Dec 24, 1941. I am now 68, have taken a copy of my birth certificate and such...but Texas wouldn't change the drivers lic.

My mother, at birth, was named Cenia Louise..after both of her grandmothers. She loved her grandmother Cenia, but hated the name. When she was turning 65, we found out that her birth had not be recorred with Texas Birth Records. Her mother was still alive, so it was easy to get a notorized copy signed by her mother and another family member that was alive...but she changed her name to Louise Cenia....

The point I am making, is that not all "Public Record" info is correct, but it surely is hard to get corrected if not right. In cases like the above, it is a very good idea to show the correct date or info, but use the Alt Birth or other Alt..death, residence or such to show what is in perminent public records and what might be right or wrong.

The one thing that is certain is if you do extensive searching on your genealogy, you are certain to find conflicting information somewhere. Realize that all information is subject to error whether from one thousand years ago or one year ago. For example, deaths appear in the SSDI "only" if the death is reported to SSA; therefore, not finding an entry in the SSDI does not mean the person is still alive. On the other hand, not all information included in the SSDI is correct. It shows my father's SS payments were last being sent to San Diego--he had never been there in his life even when sight-seeing.

A place to document conflicting information is indeed very important as well as why you believe it is conflicting.

Thanks for all the tips and comments.

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