Always look for the anomaly.

Family historians often start to work up a case, with very few documents to work from.  The very first thing you learn as a researcher is to compare all documents, in case one may hold a key piece of information that opens up the story.  Probably my all time favourite research tip stems precisely from this method of comparing documents, and that is to seek out any anomaly between documents.  At its’ simplest, the anomaly might be an additional piece of information – a woman’s maiden name recorded in a church record, but not in the civil record for example. Sometimes, the anomaly between documents is not a difference in the internal evidence, but evidence that something different from the norm, has taken place.

I recently found an index to a baptismal record which at first glance seemed straight-forward enough.

St. Michan’s RC

Baptised on 21st Nov. 1877, of Anne Thompson of Dunsink, daughter of John Thompson & Grace Parker.

I was thrown into confusion, on finding an index to a marriage record for this same Anne Thompson, daughter to the same parents, married only nine months later.

St. Michan’s RC

Married 19th August 1878 Anne Thompson, daughter of John and Grace Thompson married Peter Hackett, in St. Michan’s RC church in Dublin City.

I went back to the baptismal records, and this time, examined the original page from the parish register and not the index.  (An index is no substitute for a document.  Always look at the original document).

The register contained additional evidence including Anne Thompson’s date of birth – 1st July 1852, and a marginal note in ‘pidgeon latin’, to the effect that it was an adult baptism.

In 1877 the 25 year old Anne Thompson converted from the Anglican church nine months before her marriage to a Catholic husband.  In 1852 at the time she was born, Anne’s parents lived in Dunsink.

Knowing that Anne’s parents were not Catholic, I was able to search for their civil marriage record – civil registration of non-Catholic marriages in Ireland began in April 1845 – almost twenty years before Catholic marriages were registered.

The civil marriage record gave added significance to the Dunsink address:

John Thompson and Grace Maria Parker were married 29th April 1851 by banns in Grangegorman parish, county Dublin.  Both were of full age [twenty-one years or over] and neither had been married before.  John Thompson was an engineer living in 16 Dalymount Terrace; he was the son of Charles Thompson, an astronomer.  Grace Maria Parker of no recorded occupation was living in 16 Dalymount Terrace; she was

By Expert Researcher,

Fiona Fitzsimons,

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