Why We Should Never Assume

While researching my family tree, I have always tried to not make assumptions.  There have been plenty of times when I have found an “assumed” connection but I have always followed up with research to prove my find.  I have chastised others for not backing up their assumptions with proof.

Well, then I went and did it…BIG TIME!  I made an assumption that I now know (quite by accident) is incorrect.  In my opinion, this assumption was made even worse because it of the close relation of the people involved.
What assumption was made you ask?  Here it goes.  By the way, I am not using names here as one of the family members involved is still living and I don’t have permission to use her name.

This all started at a post-funeral get together in 2008 with members of my father’s side of the family after my grandfather’s brothers death.  A cousin mentioned that during a visit with his wife a few months earlier, my great aunt revealed that her and my great uncle had a little baby girl that did not survive.  If memory serves me, she pulled out baby booties and a little dress to show my cousin.  Of the family members who were there at the time, most did not know about this baby.

Fast forward to about 2 years ago when I discovered that there were additional names inscribed on the reverse of my great-grandparents’ headstone.  One was their first son, who lived less than a day (at the time a new discovery, one that I researched and was able to verify and find records on) and the second was “Grand Daughter Henry” with a date of Feb. 18, 1946.
So at this point you know where I am going?  This granddaughter has to be the same baby mentioned above right?

Last year another cousin sent me scans of 5 pages of family information that her mother had.   I read the information carefully (or so I thought).  The page that my grandparents and their children were listed filled up the entire page.  On the top of the next page was “Baby Henry died at birth in Shrewsbury Twp. Feb 18., 1946”.  Immediately after this listed my great aunt and uncle that supposedly had the baby girl that died.  Since there were other pages that had information corrected, arrows and cross outs, I figured that this baby belonged to them.

    My sister has a Family Bible that belonged to my grandmother.  There was no mention of this baby.

    Fast forward again to last week.  Pennsylvania has put all of the death certificates that fall between their approved release years on-line at www.ancestry.com.  This has been a valuable resource for me over the past few months for putting together families and finding “lost” people.  I created a search list in my genealogy program for people who died in PA during those years.  Since I had entered “Baby Henry” in my database with my assumption, she appeared in my search list.
    I first searched using parents’ names and plugged in the last names of my great aunt and uncle.  Nothing.
    So I switched to search by last name and the year of death (1946) and location (York County).  There it was, fifth on the results list.  Baby Girl Henry in Shrewsbury, York County.  Then I saw it…Parents – John Henry and Anita Burk.  My grandparents.  What?  It was a shock.  Not because I thought it impossible that they would have a baby that didn’t survive, just that I had no clue about it, had never heard a peep about it.  I opened the death certificate and found that the little girl was stillborn.

    Since my Dad is deceased I couldn’t ask him, but there was a Henry family gathering to celebrate my uncle’s birthday on Saturday.  I mentioned my findings to a couple cousins, they were as surprised as me.  They also assumed the baby buried with my great grandparents belonged to my great aunt and uncle, not my grandparents.  After those conversations I approached my Dad’s sister, the oldest of the kids.  She would have been 7 at the time, I thought maybe she would remember.  I told her what I had assumed and then what I found.  She was surprised as well.  She said she had no memory of her mother having another baby.  It was a little disappointing that she didn’t remember, but I guess maybe since my grandmother never recorded this little girl in the family bible it wasn’t something that was ever talked about.

    So to sum it up, I have definitely learned my lesson about assumptions.  Now I am searching through my database looking for any other assumptions I may have made.

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