Saturday, February 14, 2015

Wk6 Genealogy Do-Over - Smug people should not do genealogy

My grandfather is William Ogden Rhea. He was born in Tennessee and died in Montana. He was born in 1882 and died in April of 1962. He lived on a farm and worked for the railroad. I know everything I need to know about my grandfather and so I added all the records from Ancestry. I didn't really look at them because I know everything there is to know about my grandfather. A little smug, I never thought I could learn anything more because I know everything I need to know about my grandfather.

Come the Genealogy Do-Over. Still smug, I pull the paperwork I needed and started on me. That was boring because I know everything I need to know about me. There are a lot of documents and tidbits for my parents so I skipped back a generation to cite those for my grandfather. It would be easy because yada, yada. yada.

I pull up the Web: Montana, Find A Grave index, 1864-2012. It says he died on July 1, 1962. It doesn't really hit me but I continue to cite it. Finished with that, I pull up the Social Security Death Index. I start typing it in and find the death date is 1968. Wait, how can that be? I know he died in 1962 because we took my dad to the airport so he could fly home and I was just starting high school.

So feeling a little less smug, I look at Find A Grave. The Montana link is is based on the larger national database and on the original Find A Grave, I find my grandfather died on April 17, 1962. I have my own photos of his headstone with the same date. I go back and look at the source citation on Ancestry. It is wrong! I make the adjustment on the source and look at my grandfather's profile. It has been wrong since day one because I was smug. Feeling even less sure, I look at the year discrepancy.

I think I should get a copy of the Social Security Death Index because I can't believe it is that far off on the year. Then it hits me, I have his death certificate buried somewhere in my paperwork. After some searching I find it and low and behold, it says he died in 1962. What I did find however is the social security number on the Death Index is different than the one on the death certificate. DUH, missed that tidbit too. I know there was only one William Rhea in Billings, Montana in 1962 because he was my grandfather. Could it be possible that another William Rhea lived there at the same time? I have made a discovery. There was another William Rhea. I don't know who he is or if he is even related but it's another avenue to explore.  

I have been very sure of my facts and very smug because I was so careful as I accepted each piece of information. After all, my grandfather was unique and I knew everything I needed to know about him.

Thank you Thomas MacEntee for suggesting a Do-Over. Thank you for making sure those of us who were lazy go back and cite our sources. Thank you for telling us to slow down although I now realize that when I'm done scrutinizing each piece of information, I will be a very old woman.


  1. Ah, but isn't it wonderful to know you will have something fun and absorbing to do for the rest of your life?

    1. That's the glass half full! :) It is going to take the rest of my life and since I enjoy it, it will be fun and absorbing.

  2. I'm sure you're not the only one who has done something like this. It's a good reminder to researchers to not just automatically take things they find cited by others as absolute truth without rechecking that source material as well.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Wrote By Rote