Part 768h – Brunhammer Doherty Genealogy – When Is a Date the Correct Birth Date? – Granduncle John Herbert Holmes

11 September 2012

Good Day,

In my genealogy search and research, and in response to a number of my past Postings, I was asked the question “How can there be a number of different dates concerning a specific event?” My response based on what I have been taught and learned is that a date for a specific event may change dependent upon who is giving the date and who is taking the response. Other factors for differences may be the recording and transcription errors over time, and information copied without a measure of source or documentation.

In some incidences, information relaying regarding details and dates may be compared to the children’s party game “Pass the message” or “Telephone”. Per Wikipedia, the game “is often invoked as a metaphor for cumulative error, especially the inaccuracies as rumours or gossip spread, or, more generally, for the unreliability of human recollection."

But now I have encountered a strange issue concerning a date; the birth date of granduncle John Herbert Holmes. According to the Parish Register of the Calvary Episcopal Church in Tamaqua, in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, and per the 2 November 1876 Baptism Registration of granduncle John Herbert, his Birth Date is entered as 10 June 1876. All-things-being-equal and based on the two dates, the registered birth and the baptism, there would have been 145 days. The following are the actual Pages from the Calvary Episcopal Church Parish Register.

A normal and plausible rule-of-thumb accepted in genealogy is “the document closest to the event is considered the most likely to be accurate”. In this case, the Baptism Registration, I would venture to say, which is 145 days after granduncle John Herbert’s birth date could be, at least the most probable.

But here comes the monkey wrench, sort-of. On the 10 September 1918 World War I Draft Registration Card, and signed by granduncle John H(erbert) Holmes, his date of birth is entered as “June 9th, 1876”. Say what? Check it out. Below are the images of the two pages of the Registration Card, as provided by The National Archives and the United States, Selective Service System, World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.

My questions are:

Even though there is only a ONE DAY difference reporting granduncle John Herbert’s birth date, between the Baptism Registration and the WWI Draft Registration, would I be safe in assuming that granduncle John Herbert may have made a mistake providing his birth date, when he was only 42 years old?

Did granduncle John Herbert’s parents, great-grandparents John and Hanora (aka Hannah) Holmes provide the incorrect birth date at granduncle John Herbert’s baptism?

Okay I know that this is not a big deal, it is only ONE DAY, but does this mean that it is extremely important to check and review all documents for credible information?

And can a general rule of thumb sometimes be allowed some flexibility?

Oh and by the way the name of the game "Pass the message" in Italian is: "Telefono senza fili". Translated: Cordless Phone... How apropos!




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