When searching for documentation on my great-grandmother, Isabel, I wasn’t able to find her civil birth registration. Where it was supposed to be, it wasn’t there. While searching for her sister’s birth record, I was surprised to find Isabel’s birth certificate in 1902–five years earlier than expected. Isabel’s death certificate and headstone both have 1907 (the incorrect birth year) which was the “known” fact. My grandfather was her oldest child of 7 and they all “knew” she was born in 1907. She told that fact to her kids, and they all passed it down to each generation.
In the grand scheme of things, five years really isn’t much. Except it made a big difference in the story of her relationship with my great-grandfather. Isabel said her parents didn’t approve of the relationship because he was not only poor, but much older. It was a scandal that the two ran off together and she had my grandfather when she was 14!
After finding her birth certificate, I spent extra time searching through the marriage certificates and finally managed to dig it up. The two were married the year before my grandfather was born. Isabel was 18 and my great-grandfather was 23. So…no scandal, no running away with a much older guy, and definitely no having a kid at 14. Now time to tell the family, including her surviving children.
People today lie about age for a number of reasons, but to make yourself younger and create a scandal? My great-grandmother told this inventive story and my great-grandfather never set anyone straight. I have no idea why she did and the motive will remain a mystery.
I love searching for documents and putting the pieces together for my family tree. Finding this birth certificate and disproving Isabel’s spun tale was a good reminder for me to look for documents to source all of my facts. This includes “known” facts and turning them into proven facts.
So if our ancestor lied, how do we find the truth? Challenge what you know by gathering the evidence to document and source the events in your family. Best of luck!