For years my distant cousin insisted that her great-grandmother (my great-great grandma) was related to a descendant of a famous musical family whose worldwide concerts are well-documented. She even showed me a limited edition of a book written about the family, whose unusual cover had an actual family portrait tooled into the binding. “My father told me……” “Yeah, yeah, yeah….we cousins told her….where’s the proof?” We were skeptical; without proof how could we believe her? Then one day I had a brainstorm! The death certificates of g-g-grandma’s children might reveal her maiden name, potentially linking her to the famous clan. With that, I located the death certificates of all 3 children (who, although they were born elsewhere each died in the U.S.) and voila! — 2 had the maiden name of their mother as a match to the suspected name.
As always in these endeavors, one mystery solved led to the next unsolved: only 2 of the maiden names, so who was the “other woman.” Did the siblings have different mothers? Were there enough years in between births that a widowed husband could have taken another wife and conceived? Why do the siblings have such a strong physical resemblance if they have different mothers? How reliable was the information provided by the elderly wife of the decedent?
These questions are still unanswered (for now). However, I think the death certificate is suspect. Who gives the information? The bereaved 95 year-old wife whose memory of her long-since-dead mother-in-law is hazy? Or the 76 year-old grieving child who just lost a beloved parent? These are the kinds of things to watch out for when dealing with complex evidence.
The moral of the story is: sometimes the farfetched nonsense you hear actually does turn out to be true!
© 2012 Copyright Billie Elias