Thursday, October 31, 2013

This is a little different

I am having to prove that someone did not exist.  I don’t think I’ve ever had to do this before.  In a nutshell, I think someone lied on a document about who his father was.  I think he made up a name. I have a lot of evidence to explain why he would want to do this.  Now I have to prove that this father doesn’t exist. 

I am going to have to do more work proving someone did not exist than I normally do to prove someone did exist.  Just because you can’t find someone in the records doesn’t mean they didn’t exist so my work is cut out for me.  I am going to need as many different kinds of records with different informants that were created for different reasons as I can find and I need all of it to turn up nothing.  My biggest obstacle will be that I can’t really narrow down the location.  Sure, I can search in the county where the child was born and where that child spent his entire life.  This is also the same county where his mother migrated to as a child and spent the rest of her life.  I can say there is no one in that county matches my guy but how can I prove that someone with that name didn’t just pass through and then mov on to another location?  This isn’t going to be easy.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. I had a somewhat similar experience. I found an ancestor, Rebecca Smith, then found the man I believe to be her father, Thomas Smith. Unfortunately, in his will Thomas named his daughter, Rebecca, and her husband, Dobson Bartley. Except that Rebecca was married to Dixon (or several variant spellings) Bartley. Was it an old gentleman's slip of memory? Was it the clerk's error? I don't know. I've never found Dobson Bartley.... But you're right, it's more work to prove someone isn't a real person than it is to find documentation for a real person.

  2. My great grandmother settled down to one marriage and half a dozen kids. Her older sister had a more interesting life. That sister's first child was born within her legal marriage (I've got the marriage certificate). After that, she and her daughter appear in the census with a second child under a new surname in a new state. In city directories she is the widow of Carl Olson (that was her legal husband) and of Dwight, Arthur, and Hubert Robinson. These four names are interchangeable, with Olson reappearing for the 1910 census. She moves with her son to Texas and suddenly loses her first name and the Olson; her daughter makes up a completely new first name and becomes a Robinson.

    So who was the father of young Robinson? Access is the issue. There was one such guy in the town where the son was born in the year the son was born there. His middle name was the given name of the son. It's a circumstantial case but -- if Robinson was the surname -- only one guy had "access" geographically.

    What I don't have an explanation for is this. My great great grandmother remembered both of these daughters in her will. In 1909 she gave $500 to my great grandmother. Then she set up a trust for the older daughter. The trustee was to sell great great grandma's home and then to use the money to buy a home in Texas for the use of the older daughter for her life. After her death, that home was to go only to the daughter whose original name and new Texas name were both given. The Robinson boy wasn't mentioned.

    I'm not sure whether the trust was an effort to avoid the management of the daughter or to avoid the inheritance by the grandson.