In family history research it can often be tempting to add people to your family tree without checking the original documents, simply because their names seem correct and they are born in the right year and they live in the right place. This example, from my own ancestors, may show you why this is such a bad idea.
In the previous two articles, on this blog, I have referred to the marriage of Henry Thorn to Ellen Malser in Portsea back in 1859. I have still work to do on this couple, but in the process I have, naturally, decided to look for the bride’s family in the census collections to cover all the basic research that we do on each line in our family tree.
If I search for an Ellen Malser, born around 1833 and living in Portsea, I come across two girls that match my criteria in the 1851 data on one subscription website and no results on another! This outcome gives credence to the maxim that using more than one of the big subscription sites is preferable to relying on a sole platform for your family history research. My Tip is to go to a library or an archive where access to the websites is free to use, if cost is an issue.
One of the subjects of the census is the daughter of John Malser, who is a Master Mariner, while the other is a General Servant to an Excavating Contractor. When I first came across the former record I momentarily jumped to the conclusion that I had got my woman as I recalled that on the wedding certificate it said that her father was a Master Mariner. I’d assumed that as she ticked so many boxes that she was my direct ancestor. I am, however, more careful than that and so, as caution kicked in, I proceeded to check my results before entering the said Ellen into my tree.
Taking another look at the wedding certificate I now noticed that the father’s Christian name was James Malser and not John Malser. So in the 1851 census the result for John Malser, Master Mariner, and family was a red herring. If I had continued to trace this family grouping back and entered them into my family tree, then I would be populating it erroneously.
It now looks as if the Ellen Malser, living as General Servant may be my ancestor, or is she? Could there be more than two with the same year of birth? Where is the record for her father, James Malser also a Master Mariner?
Beware of seeing what you want to see and always check back to primary source material such as certificates or microfilm copies of parish records.