Monday, March 11, 2013

Dear Randy - Two Names, Two Birth Records for One Child? Or Two?

One of the comments on my post Follow-Up Friday - Helpful/Interesting Reader Comments (8 March 2013) was from Dandelion, who said:

"Here’s an interesting case. A baby girl was born March 3, 1861 in Edinburgh Parish, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland. Her father registered her with the name “Mary Milne” (his mother’s name) on March 9, 1861. He then disappeared. Her mother went in on March 22 and registered her with the same birth date and the name “Alison Naismith McIntyre Milne” (her name) Both records were signed by the respective parent and witnessed by the registrar. Seeing the two records I assumed they were twins but wondered why one had been named “Mary” since there already was a child by that name in the family. On the 1861 census, taken about a month later, there was only one baby girl. (The three older children were the children of her deceased husband. The census taker apparently had a hard time dealing with two last names since the two boys were listed as “unknown” although they would have been old enough to know their names.) Another descendant of the family who had seen the divorce records said that he believed that there was only one child, registered twice. The birth records usually state if there were twins. How would one describe the veracity of the two birth records."

That is certainly an interesting research problem, and one that my readers might want to chime in.  Here is my answer:

There are two birth records in the register, and both of them are truthful at the time they were made.  If the father ever saw the child again, he probably would have called her "Mary." (and probably received a quizzical look on his daughter's face!).  The mother called her "Alison Naismith McIntyre Milne" when she registered her, and that was probably the name the mother, and Alison, invariably used throughout her life.  The first one isn't "wrong," it's just "obsolete" in my view, superseded by the mother's registration entry.

Was she called Alison during her lifetime?  Are there any records that call her "Mary" besides the father's register entry?  You probably have a baptismal record, marriage record, a death record, census records, an obituary, a burial record, etc. that have Alison's name.  What about school records, school yearbooks, family Bibles, newspaper articles, work records, court records, letters to or from Alison, etc.?    

What you don't have is any evidence that "Mary" existed apart from "Alison."  There is a finite time period separating the entry of "Mary" and the entry for "Alison" in the register, and you have a logical explanation why there are two birth records.  You just don't know if the explanation is correct!

In the 1861 census, there was no "Mary," at least residing with the mother.  Are there no entries for a Mary Milne in the baptism, death, burial, marriage, or other records?  To do a reasonably exhaustive search, you should look for records pertaining to "Mary." You should obtain the divorce record you mention also.  If you find no evidence at all for the existence of Mary after the birth registration, your conclusion is that "Mary" was a name given by the father to the person "Alison Naismith McIntyre Milne," but it was never used by Alison during her lifetime.   You should write up your conclusion in your research notes for Alison's birth, and note the evidence that you found (and didn't find) to support your conclusion.

What do my readers think of this problem?  

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Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver


Geolover said...

Randy, your suggestions are good, but the seeker should also look into any surviving newspapers (was there announcement of twins born?), land and court records in addition to divorce proceedings.

What if there were twins and the husband absconded with one of them? I can think of a scenario unrelated to the following.

One of my cousins married in the 1830s and had a child. The husband abandoned them, went to another State and filed for divorce, which was granted. He returned and took away the child -- I have not had an opportunity to see whether there were Court records in the husband residence County and State regarding custody of the child. The marriage was not recorded, and births were not being recorded in the mother's home State at this time.

My only clue to look for something about this woman's marriage was the 1880 US Census notation that she was divorced. Once my eyes were opened I was lucky to locate a report of a lawsuit by the taken child, claiming his now-deceased mother's land. She had conveyed it by deed and died intestate. The court decided that the conveyance was legitimate, and ruled against the plaintiff.

The proceedings commenced some 46 years after birth of this child, which is just a pointer to not confine a search to an immediate time period.

The court record has myriad sworn statements by relatives and neighbors as to relationships between the deceased mother, her sister and various nephews, which helped resolve another couple of issues on this family.

I certainly wish the seeker good hunting.

Susan said...

Look up the entry born,March 3, 1861 to see if RCE appears in the left hand column.
You may occasionally come across a statutory image with a note in the margin ‘RCE’ and a reference number. RCE stands for Register of Corrected Entries. If, after an entry in a register had been completed, an error was discovered or some other amendment was required as a result of new information, the original entry could not be altered. Instead, each registrar kept a register of corrected entries in which such amendments were written, originally after they had been approved by a sheriff. Corrections to birth entries might be to name, residence, identity, or as a result of a sheriff’s finding in a paternity case, with the father’s name being added as directed by the sheriff, or as a result of an illegitimate child being legitimised by its parents’ subsequent marriage. Images of RCEs are now available on ScotlandsPeople.
Yours Aye, Susan

Dandelion said...

Thanks for the suggestion. I have the images from Scotland's People and I just checked both of them. I don't see anything in the left margins.
I also looked at the records for another set of twins born the same year in Fife. In the column for the mother’s information one says “Her 1st child.” and for the other “Her 2nd child.” Curiously one of those twins appears to be a third cousin once removed of Alison Naismith McIntyre Milne.
I seem to remember also seeing “(twin)” below the names of the children in some cases.