Problems in doing the research
been wrong or when a stone-buyer wrote the name, the stonecutter could have misread it.
One of the common reasons for misspelling results from the fact that many early residents were immigrants from various parts of Europe. We must assume that many of them never learned to speak English well or perhaps retained a heavy native accent. Obviously, the listener often heard something quite different than what was spoken, translating a name into a set of sounds that “made sense” by American language standards. The result was that, in the saying and/or translating of names, a lot of “slippage” occurs. One good example is the Haberlein family. Conrad Haberlein (1832-1901) is bur-ied in the cemetery next to his two-year-old son, Anthony (1870-1872). However, the surname on Anthony’s headstone reads “Everline” which we must assume is the way Haberlein was “translated” to English in spoken form. Other sources indicate that Mr. Haberlein may actually have been a Haberland or Haverlaud. It is obviously going to be difficult to make a familial connection between the Haberleins and the Everlines for the researcher. It is often through mere chance that we do find that a real connection exists.
Another example is that of Justus Schneider. His first name is spelled variously as Yustus, Eustace as well as Justus. This, of course, makes it difficult to know if different sources are talking about the same person. Some of these spelling differences are easily resolved by other data such as birth and death dates, spouse names and so forth. Often, though, it is not an easy task to sort out “who’s who.”
A related issue has to do with certain names being passed from one generation to next. Quite commonly sons and daughters are named after parents and/or grandparents. When a name is used, it sometimes challenging to know which generation is being discussed. A good example of this is the Bruce family in which three generations of males were named George. Sometimes it is easy to determine which George is being referred to but often it is not.
Dates and dating are another area of difficulty. Again, we often relied heavily on headstones to provide us with the information we needed to calculate birth dates. Many of the headstones are very helpful in this regard because they used to give the death age in years, months, and days, e.g. John Smith, died in 1865, aged 71 years, 6 months, 12 days. With this type of information, fairly exact birth dates can be established.
However, we cannot always assume that the years, months, and days are completely accurate, either. It was quite common for those who lived to advanced years to “forget” exactly when they were born. Sometimes the children of the elderly were not quite sure when parents or grandparents were born, either. Detailed paper records like birth certificates were not widely used until well into the 20th century. Thus, it was often anyone’s guess about how old someone was at death.
There were sometimes conflicts between different sources—the headstone giving one age, the census another, and an obituary or church record a third estimate. Generally, we used the most frequently occurring estimate—two out of three sources with the same date. If we were able to find a person in two different censuses, and the ages were relatively the same (i.e., the person had aged 10 years from the previous census), that was often an authoritative source, other things being equal. We tried to verify both birth and death dates as well as we could.
Our conclusion is that dates and ages should be treated as estimates at best. Exactitude can be es-tablished in some cases, but infrequently. One of the most exceptional examples of dating problems is the case of Susan Uhl Beall. Her headstone very clearly indicates that she was born in 1823 and died in 1909 (months and days were not given in her case). We searched through the newspaper for 1909, trying to find her obituary, a procedure we ordinarily used. We could not find an announcement of her death. As it turns out, Susan did not die until 1913, four years later than indicated on her head-stone! < Susan was actually a very prominent woman in the community, as her obituary indicated (once we found it). We still wonder how the headstone can be so incorrect for such an important woman. Thankfully, this kind of thing did not happen often (we hope).
Anthony E. Crosby and Michael R. Olson
28 x 22 cms
Cemeteries, Maryland, Frostburg; Obituaries, Maryland, Frostburg. .
Frostburg (Md.), 1800-1972