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.

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