Is the evidence we find in written records always correct ?.

The official recording of events in our ancestors’ lives are a key block in genealogy. We mine these records for everything they can tell us about our ancestors and indeed bemoan the lack of detail Irish records have when compared to other jurisdictions.  We assume, sometimes wrongly, that the information on these certificates is correct. 

Recently I had cause to view again my grandparents’ marriage record.  The certificate resides in a long-archived file somewhere but with marriages now free to view {thank you, irishgenealogy!) from 1882, I could easily view the record without moving from my desk. 

My mother settled less than a mile from her parents and so they were very familiar to us and their back story was very well known to us. My grandmother was my grandfather’s second wife, his first wife having died tragically young.  My grandfather, with his second wife, reared his surviving son.

Imagine my surprise then when the marriage certificate records grandfather as a bachelor.  My grandfather had appeared, a few short years before this marriage, on the 1911 Census with his first wife and child who would die shortly after.  Whatever the reason, clerical error or whatever, this certificate was incorrect. 

We rely so much on the evidence we find in written records. But as this example shows, such reliance is not always well placed.