Even careful genealogists sometimes accept things as correct without analysis. It can be so tempting to take information as gospel because it is written on an important document that you searched long and hard to find. But yielding to such temptation will cause one inaccuracy after another as the research continues.
Suppose that you are seeking the names of your grandfather's parents. Ordinarily, you would check for their names on his birth certificate. But he was born before 1915, when vital records started being kept by South Carolina counties.
After years of wishing he'd been born later, you hear that he received a delayed birth certificate. So, you go on the Internet and find a digital image of it. The certificate gives his parents' names as John Brown and Mary Brown and one of the witnesses to his birth date and birthplace is a Simon Smith.
In addition, the grandchild of your grandfather's older brother shares his delayed birth certificate with you. The parents' names on the brother's certificate are John Brown and Marianne Smith, and again, one of the witnesses is a Simon Smith.
Should you be concerned about whether your great-grandmother's name was really Mary Brown? Yes. Mothers on such documents are usually listed by their maiden name. While your grandfather's mother might have had the same surname before and after marriage -- Brown -- that would be unusual.
Can you assume that your grandfather and his brother had different mothers? No. Mary may have grown up as Marianne or even Mary Anne and shortened it to Mary later on. And it's not such a stretch to think that a woman's married name might inadvertently have been provided as her maiden name. The mother on both birth certificates could be the same woman.
Hopefully, the brothers have additional siblings who had children or gave reason for other documents to exist that provide their mother's name. It's a good idea to get those documents and arrange them according to ages of the siblings.
If the mother of the older children is named Marianne Smith and the mother of the younger ones is named Mary Brown, and your grandfather falls among the younger ones, you are probably dealing with two mothers. In this case, Mary Brown was probably your great-grandmother.
Since Simon Smith is not a witness to any facts about the parents, that has no bearing on what the mother's name is.
South Carolina delayed birth certificates, 1766-1900, and city of Charleston birth records, 1877 to 1901, can be accessed via ancestry.com.
Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705 or email@example.com.