Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Sometimes it is hard to trust what is actually carved in stone!

It does not happen often but sometimes what is shown on gravestones does not exactly conform to what was recorded in the parish registers. Consider these examples from Cornwood parish in Devon, England.

The gravestone for little John Harvey Vivian states he died on July 1st, 1876, aged 7 weeks. That would put his birth date in mid-May. 

Photo by Terry Leaman, 2012
But the parish register says a John Harvey Vivian was baptized on July 23rd.

And the burial register says a John Harvey Vivian was buried on August 27th with the child only seven weeks old.
I think someone got some dates wrong and that he was actually born on July 1st, just over seven weeks prior to the August burial. In this case I am sure the headstone is wrong although some descendants don’t entirely agree.

And in this example we see another discrepancy between what is in the parish register and what it on the gravestone, a difference of a year. And for another Vivian coincidentally!
Photo by Bryan Truscott, 2013
The headstone inscription reads:
Memory of
Son of
Born 24th November 1825
Died 22nd January 1832
The Great Jehovah full of love
his messenger did send
to call this little child above
to joys that never end

While the headstone says Henry Harvey Vivian died on January 22nd, 1832, the register says he was buried on January 25th, 1833. There were no burials recorded in the Cornwood register between September 2nd, 1831 and February 3rd, 1832. But there are several entries on either side of the 1833 entry that demonstrate the time period.

Which one is right?

Again, a look at the baptism records revealed that Henry Harvey Vivian was baptized on December 18th, 1825. He would have been just a month over six years old if he was buried in 1832. So the 1833 date must be correct!

While there is always a possibility that entries in parish registers can be wrong, my first inclination would be to accept the written record as being the most accurate. The information can be crosschecked with supporting entries as to birth, such as we see for both John Henry Vivian and Henry Harvey Vivian, or other entries made before and after the one in question that support the date, such as in the case of Henry Harvey Vivian.

All images reproduced here were downloaded from FindMyPast and are used with the kind permission of the Plymouth and West DevonRecord Office, the copyright-holder.

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