Wednesday, April 15, 2015

This Is How They Trip You Up

     There are such wonderful things coming online these days, it's getting easier all the time to put together a quality family tree, but  you can't take everything you read at face value.  For instance, while looking through the mortality schedules on Ancestry, I came across a possible relative in Auburn, New York -- the first home to my McGarr and O'Hora ancestors upon their arrival in America. The surname O'Hora is misspelled so often that I just did a search for Auburn and left the name fields blank.  There were only a thousand or so hits, I can scan through those standing on my head.  Really though, I just skipped to the O's, H's and M's.  

     I came across a young boy named Michael O'Herron, who passed away at age 6.  Below is the transcription that came up:

     OK, he died from what?  Ahewonation?  Just on the slight chance there really was a malady with that or a similar spelling, I typed the letters into Google hoping for a definition or an auto-fill.  I did get an auto-fill, not for a disease but for a band called Awolnation, which wasn't a total loss.  I loved their song called "Sail" once I looked them up on You Tube.  (I'm easily side tracked)

     I finished dancing and returned to Ancestry, where I clicked on the actual image, expecting an unreadable jumble but this is what I saw:

     Look at the the bottom line, that is Michael's cause of death, at first glance I could see it said rheumatism.  To top it off, two lines above it is a perfect example of how the census taker formed his letter A as in "Age".  That is how he drew it in the entire document, it never varied and never looked like an R.  Obviously the first letter of the cause of death was not an A.

     The second case is the Daniel McGarr family of Owasco, NY near Auburn.  When I searched for them on Family Search in the 1850 census this is the transcription that came up:

     There is Dan at the top followed by his wife Ann and son Michael.  Then we see the "Stacia" family, Ann, Jos, Mary, Eliza, etc...  Only they're not.  Fifteen year old Ann Stacia was actually Anastasia McGarr, daughter of Dan.  The census enumerator wasn't familiar with the name Anastasia so he turned it into a forename and surname which he then bestowed on her younger brothers and sisters.

     Lastly, one of my favorites.  Were you aware that many years ago Snow White moved to Ireland and settled in Waterford?  Neither was I till I saw this transcription of a tithe applotment on the National Archives site:

     Below is the actual image: 

     Granted, the entry is difficult to read, it looks like Nih' or something, then O'Neil Power, followed by Snowhill and "han".  I'm not positive, but what I think it refers to is the O'Neil Power family of Snowhill, below is from the Landed Estate site:

     It's amazing how helpful these various sites' transcriptions can be, but remember to look for yourself, your interpretation of what the record says is just as valid as a random transcriber's.


  1. Wow. the top one seems particularly obvious. This is one possible explanation for some of my 'missing' ancestors.

    1. I bet there's a good chance that's the case. I've heard some sites use transcribers whose first language is not English...

  2. Ellie,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

    1. Thanks so much Jana, I'm flattered!

  3. Hi Ellie, did you find that you are descended from the O'Neill Powers?