My brother-in-law is getting into genealogy. He chose a line of the family I haven't done any research on and got really excited to see the the work that was "already done." His excitement quickly turned into annoyance when he discovered that none of what he found in online trees was sourced and that he had wasted a lot of time adding three generations to his tree that may not even be related! As I talked with him during our Thanksgiving get-together, I tried to emphasize the one big thing to remember:
If it doesn't have a source, it's not true (yet).
Yes, the topic of sources is a big one and the nuances of each source type and its veracity in relation to any particular event or fact could be, and has been, discussed in depth. However, put very simply: I may suspect something, and possibly use family "knowledge" to help guide my search but until I have proof, it's not true. It's a frustrating lesson to learn but a very important one.
The ancestor in question: Mary Ann Waller (Mills).
At the party we were unable to find her death certificate online at the Utah State Archives...I was hoping to show him what kind of information he could get from that kind of record. Later, at home, I did find it:
Here's part of the email I sent my BIL with suggestions on where he may look next:
I have also attached Mary Ann Waller (Mills) (Hatton)'s death certificate. She did remarry, which is why we didn't find her death certificate the other day. I have not yet updated my database. This is the information I currently have for her:
Mary Ann Waller
b: 16 Jun 1838, Bagshot, Surrey, England, United Kingdom
d: 25 Oct 1925, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, United States
m: 1855 to William Mills
Parents: Sammuel Waller and Diana Wild
Children: Annie Chelsea Mills
I don't have any verification for any of it! I'm sure she had more children. I don't know if she was married in England or in Utah.
Here's the interesting thing about her death certificate - It has slightly different dates and names for her parents.
Mary Ann Mills Hatton
Born: 16 January 1838, England
Died: 29 October 1928 (at home - 1788 So. 11 East, SLC)
Parents: Josiah Waller and Margaret Wild
The Informant was Edith P. Fowler who may be related...a married daughter, perhaps? Not sure.
I don't know for sure that this is our Mary Ann but I believe that it is.
From here we could try to find her in a census record living with Richard Hatton. Since William Mills (her first husband) died in 1887 she may be in the census with Richard as early as 1890 (which was destroyed), but also in 1900, 1910, or 1920. If some of her other known children (which we don't know yet but will have to find) are also living with her, that would be evidence that this Mary Ann is our Mary Ann.
To find her other children, we can try to find her in censuses with her first husband, William Mills. I'm not sure when they immigrated to the US but we could start with 1860, then go on to 1870 and 1880.