Genealogy: When The Facts Don’t Align

When I research my relatives I look for three key documents:

  • Birth Certificate or notation on the state’s Register of Births
  • Marriage Certificate/License or notation on the state’s Register of Marriages
  • Death Certificate or notation on the state’s Register of Deaths.

My discovery of the online Archives from the WV Division of Culture and History has given a greater ease to my process (for WV ancestors).  For those of you with WV ancestors, that link is HERE.

Keep in mind, the volunteers who have spent tireless hours transcribing old documents are only human.  They are not free from errors and sometimes mistype a name or year, etc.  Because the site searches the specific names, it might be easier for you to keep a running list of misspells for your family surname to use when searches do not provide results. Or, you can leave off the date, the county or even the first name.  I once searched through every live birth in a specific year in the 1880’s in the state of West Virginia and was able to use the actual birth date (month/day) to lock down a relative’s birth certificate.  I have combed through pages of names to find something within the realm (and sometimes far to the fringes) of what the spelling of mine might be (Seletyn and Taraczkozy – the spelling combos are endless).  The thing is, sometimes the facts do not align with what is recorded (both electronically as well as in writing).

In searching ancestors who migrated here from Europe, the facts not aligning becomes exponentially more frustrating.  For example: trying to locate the ship manifest for my Great Grandpa Taraczkozy.  I had copies of both his Intention to Naturalize as well as the Petition to Naturalize (county level documents filed and easily found in Raleigh, WV).  On that paperwork, he (himself) stated that on August 9, 1903 he traveled from Havre, France to the port of New York (Ellis Island).  My searches through the Ellis Island records (the website for Ellis Island records can be found HERE) gave zero results.  Every few months I would circle back around to it, trying various  spellings of Taraczkozy.  I would do this for both the Ellis Island site as well as the various Ancestry sites.

Then, one day I caught a break.  One of the random searches on an ancestry site was close enough to catch “Balint Tarasztkozy” on a passenger list.  I pulled up the document and did a face-palm.

Name: Balint Tarasztkozy
Gender: Male
Race: Magyar (Hungarian)
Birthdate: 1872
Age: 32
Arrival date: Aug 1904
Port of Departure: Bremen, Germany
Ship Name: Cassel
Port of Arrival: Baltimore, Maryland
Destination: Braddock, Pennsylvania
Friend’s Name: Istvan Turdic
Last Residence: Hungary
Page: 195

The glaring differences from my GGPa’s own statement of facts on his naturalization records: Name (transcribing error, not his), Year of Arrival, Port of Departure, Port of Arrival.  The few correct items (his last residence was in Hungary, his race was Magyar and he was born in 1872) allowed me to confirm this was actually who I was looking for.

There he is, on the very first line, in all his brazen glory!

I seriously did a little happy dance in my library when I found this.  “There you are.” I said aloud to my laptop.  Later, my cheeks would hurt from smiling all evening.  I am smiling now, as I type this.

So now I have all kinds of additional questions:

  • Who was Istvan?
  • What work was there for him in McKeesport, PA?
  • Where did he go from there?

(Side note: I am fascinated to find that there are a number of websites on which you can find a picture of the boat noted as the vessel that carried your ancestor to the United States from Europe.)

See the source image

So, the morals of the story:

  • Just because you cannot find it with accurate/proven information does not mean it is not there.
  • A name is just a name until it is misspelled.
  • Even your own ancestor could state the wrong information.
  • Use what you have as a guide to find the next document, but do not get caught up in the “exact” information.

Do you research your ancestors?  Do you have any tips you would like to share?  I would love to hear about them!

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