Monday, September 13, 2010

The records do not always give us what we want

I have recently had an inquiry concerning a Spanish marriage record from the middle of the 1800s.  The individual who sent me the copy of the record wanted to know why the prospective groom's grandparents were not mentioned in the record, to see if the page she sent me revealed any information on that score.

Alas, it did not.  It often happens in these records that there is a variation -- sometimes a wide variation -- in the amount of information provided.  You would think, for instance, that a will would name any heirs to an estate, or that an inquiry into an intestacy would reveal the names of heirs.  Not always.  I had one probate case -- in fact, it was the one I have discussed here before, of the doctor who committed suicide in St. Augustine in 1809.  The rather lengthy packet of documents mentions, more than once, the doctor's two daughters.  Nowhere in the documents are their names revealed.

And in the marriage record in question, there is no information as to why the groom's grandparents were not named, nor would there be.  It is often the luck of the draw in how much information we find in a particular document.

I am currently dealing with baptism records in my research into the families of St. Augustine, FL, during the Second Spanish Period, and I find a tremendous variation in the amount of information provided.  Some records list not only the parents and godparents, but both sets of grandparents as well.  Some reocrds list the profession of the father or the godfather, and sometimes both.  Others are mute on the subject. 

One tactic I intend to employ, once I get all the transcriptions done, is to see whether it was one particular priest who entered the more complete information into the records.  That may or may not have been the case, but it has my curiosity up.  It could very well be that one of the priests was more prone to gather more information than the other one was.  It could also be that parents just did not reveal a great deal of information about the family.

We just have to understand that we may not always find what we want to find in the documents.

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