Today I am doing some "clean up" and "easy" genealogy - at least that is what I call it. I don't feel like doing the complex and harder genealogy (like deed, probate, tax lists, etc.) research. Instead, I am going through parts of my tree to see what easy records, likes censuses, I can find for some of my ancestors siblings and other family members. I do this every once in a while just for a change. I also find that as I do that type of research, I learn a lot of things about family members, even my direct ancestors, that I never knew.
Everett John Anderson (1916-1967)
At this point I have four different birth dates:
None of these sources are primary sources of his birth, meaning the record/information was not created at the time of his birth. A primary source is the the best and most reliable source for an event. The problem is, many times you cannot access a primary source for an event. Even if I were to obtain a copy of his birth certificate from the state of Idaho, the certificate was likely not filled out the same day Everett was born, so there could still be error in that. With that said, his birth certificate IS the best (known) source of his exact birth date.
Until I am able to obtain a copy of his birth certificate, I will evaluate each of the four sources mentioned above and tell you which one I think is the most accurate and why.
Member and Institutional Collections (Birth Date: 21 October 1916)
At this point, I think this is the least-credible source of the four. Since I have no clue exactly where the information came from I can't evaluate how good the source is. The database description says the information could come from a number of different types of records, all of which are submitted by volunteers to Ancestry. The database description even has this note:
Documents in these collections are voluntarily submitted by Ancestry members. We take all data "as is" and cannot guarantee the completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information contained in this database.
Since there isn't any kind of verification on the information provided, for all I know this birth could have come from Everett's great great-grandmother's cousin's nephew's sister's dog, which I don't know about you, but I don't think that is a very good source.
Obituary (Birth Date: 10 October 1916)
Everett's obituary was likely written by his wife, children or close family. When I think of my close family (parents, grandparents and siblings) I know all of their birth dates and they likely know mine. (Dad, my birthday is 28 September, not the 23rd. And your sister's birthday is the 22nd, not the 23rd either. I'm not sure where 23 September came from...[chuckling inside])
Everett had been married to his wife, Marie, for almost twenty years. During that time I would think she learned his date of birth. Although you would think a spouse would know their spouse's birth date, you might be surprised. There is also the possibility of the newspaper accidentally typing the date wrong.
So, at this point I think the date in Everett's obituary is a descent source, but maybe not the best.
Find a Grave memorial and Headstone (Birth Date: 11 October 1916)
For those who are not familiar with the website Find a Grave, the data found on the website (including the creation of the memorial pages, content on the memorial pages and photos of a grave marker) are all volunteer and user-contributed. When using a database like this, you always need to keep this in mind! For all the memorials I have created or maintain, I could go into all of them right now and change all the dates and places to whatever I want, regardless of whether they are right or not. Now, I am not saying that I would ever do that, or that anyone else would intentionally put wrong information on there, but you have to keep in mind that you don't know where they got their information. Think about Everett's great great-grandmother's cousin's nephew's sister's dog - that dog could be providing information it overheard one evening at the dinner table, hoping they would feed him some scraps. Okay, I know this is overly exaggerating, but seriously, how many family trees and other places do you see genealogical information, but they do not include any kind of source? The question you should always ask is, "Where did this information come from, and how reliable is it?"
So, back to the point I was originally making about Everett's Find A Grave memorial page (squirrel!). The memorial page was created by someone named Collins Crapo. Since they are the creator (and still the manager), they are the only one who can actually change any of the names, dates, places or bio for the person. On Everett's memorial, there is a note that says, "Husband of my great-aunt Marie." I am assuming Collins is the great-nephew, but I cannot be 100% sure unless I ask Collins. The date on the memorial matches the date on his headstone (which doesn't always happen on Find a Grave).
The birth date on the headstone is 11 October 1967. This date is one day after the date found in the obituary. I would think Marie (Everett's wife) would have likely provided the birth date in both the obituary and the headstone, so I kind of find it interesting they are two different dates. However, I cannot say for sure whether she provided the info for either - I simply just do not know.
Two scenarios I thought about (but cannot confirm) are that Marie (or someone else) either provided 11 October for the obituary, but the newspaper accidentally typed 10 October, or Marie (or someone else) provided 10 October for the obituary, but was told by someone else that his birth date was actually 11 October, and therefore provided the correct birth date for the headstone. I doubt I could ever find out who provided the information for the obituary, so I'm not going to worry about the who. A headstone seems to be more "permanent" than a piece of paper (the obituary) so I could see the date being corrected from the obituary (if it was wrong) to put on the headstone. At the same time, I have seen MANY headstones that do not provide accurate name spellings, or birth/death dates.
At this point, I lean towards the headstone being a better source for Everett's birth, compared to the obituary, but that is just my opinion. I'm sure others could argue that the obituary is more accurate than the headstone.
Social Security Death Index (Birth Date: 12 October 1916)
In my opinion the best of these four sources is Everett's Social Security Death Index (SSDI) and here's why:
Information from the SSDI, regarding his birth, was most likely provided from Everett's Social Security Application (SS-5). An SS-5 is an application form people filled out in order to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN). Today when someone is born, an SS-5 isn't filled out. The person is assigned a number the same day they are born. For Everett, Social Security did not exist in 1916 when he was born. Therefore, when he was an adult, he had to fill out an SS-5 application in order to obtain a SSN.
Social Security Applications were always filled out by the person requesting a number. According to the SSDI Everett filled out his SS-5 in Idaho prior to 1951. One of the questions in the application is the birth date and place of the person requesting a SSN. Now, do you know your own birth date? Most likely you do. From the time you were in kindergarten (or earlier) you had to memorize your birth date. Unless your parents lied to you (and never showed you your birth certificate - or you were adopted), you most likely know your own birth date.
Since his SS-5 was a government record, I am sure Everett was truthful about the information he provided on the application (although I'm sure some people lied and got away with it). Since his SS-5 (which is most likely where the SSDI obtained his birth date from) is the only document Everett filled out himself, I would say this is the source that is the most reliable. Since Everett's death was sudden (a heart-attack) he most likely did not write his obituary himself, or provide his birth date on his headstone (since it was likely made after he died). Therefore, my analysis of these four sources tell me that his SSDI likely provides the most accurate birth date.
There are still many sources I could check to see if I could find a more accurate birth date - I just have looked into any of them yet. Depending on how much effort, time and money I want to put into solving this, I could order/research the following records:
Are you related to me? If so, let me know! Do you want more information about the family or better quality copies of the documents from this post? If so, please contact me, don't just steal the low-quality photos and documents I have posted here.
A.C. Ivory is a professional genealogist, blogger, product manager, ux designer, computer geek, and traveler.
Do you love old photos? If so, check out my other site, Forsaken Photos!