November 15, 2013

Gravestones Dates – should you trust them?

I am generally quite excited when I find birth / death dates while visiting a cemetery or see photo posted on Findagrave. My first thought would be “these dates are correct”, however, I have come to realize that’s not necessarily so.

I found findagrave entries with photographs for 2 of the children of John K Comfort and his wife R.A. Stephens in Mississippi. This son and daughter were listed with their parents in numerous census records where their ages and even their recorded names varied some over the decades.

Trofmoc, the son (in case you couldn’t tell) has a birth date of April 21, 1863 on his gravestone. His sister Exermenia’s gravestone shows her birth date as Sept 27 of the same year. I DON”T THINK SO !   How does that happen?

Obviously there can be problems with keeping track of a person’s birth date especially if they live a long life and a younger family member becomes the one to provide the dates to be inscribed on the stone.  If a birth or christening record can be found, that’s likely quite accurate. I did not find either in this case.

Going back through the various census records, the brother is always recorded as older, even if not by much. The fact that he died at age 30 when his mother was still alive and living in the same locale, I tend to trust that he WAS born in 1863.  By the time his sister died 50 years later, it is understandable that there might have been confusion over her exact birth year.

So, the bottom line is that I still don’t know, but strongly question Exermenia’s birth year and will just remain much more vigilant in seeking documented confirmation of birth and death years rather than considering a gravestone to be accurate.

November 6, 2013

Mansfield – McConnell – Lake: NY Civil War Soldiers

These families were neighbors in Ulster County, NY and variously connected by marriage. Jointly they made an immense contribution to the union’s efforts in the Civil War.

Simon McConnell and Charles Mansfield were the oldest volunteers of this group. They both joined Company D, NY 156th Infantry along with Charles’ sons Josiah and Isaac. Sadly, both the fathers died from the effects of uncontrollable dysentery in 1863 leaving wives and young children at home. They were buried in Louisiana where they died.

Simon’s sons Edgar and Carmile McConnell both joined the NY 56th infantry and son Alexander joined the 1st Cavalry. Both the McConnell family and the Mansfield family married into the Lake family. Alex McConnell married Sarah Jane Lake, sister of Reuben who married Charles Mansfield’s daughter Sarah Ann. Many veteran brothers-in-law!

The young men fought in various units and some lived long lives, others not so long.

LAKE                           Unit                                Died
Francis            Co D, NY 4th Cavalry              1867 at 21
Reuben           Co F, NY 127th Inf                   1897 at 52

Carmile           Co F, NY 56th Inf                     1895 at 50
Alexander      Co D, NY 1st Cavalry              1898 at 55
Edgar              Co F, NY 56th Inf                     1925 at 85

Isaac               Co D, NY 156th Inf                  1910 at 65
Josiah              Co D, NY 156th Inf                 1935 at 89