Does it make sense?


We’ve all seen them. Family trees with children born to a mother who died before their birth, or three children born in the same year and linked to the same parents (and they are not triplets). People marrying at age 10, and women having babies in their 70s.

As we research, it is essential to ask ourselves, “Does this make sense?”. I recently came across some research done on my 5th great grandfather, Edward Bellis, on Familysearch. I have not been able to identify his mother yet but I do have his christening record for 1735 identifying him as the son of Edward Belis. I was surprised to see that someone had identified his mother and had added the new parents’ marriage document as proof of not only the marriage but as a source for Edward’s birth.

If the person who had added the mother and the marriage record would have stopped and looked at the dates, they would have seen immediately that something wasn’t right.

Screenshot 2018-07-30 15.33.18

Look at Edward’s christening date. Now look at the supposed parents’ marriage date. A couple marrying in 1737 would not have had a child christened in 1735. If by some chance the child, Edward, was actually the illegitimate son of Edward Bellis, from before he was married to Anne Williams, the record would show it as such. In the 1700s, church officials would write in the birth as illegitimate on the record itself as can be seen below, on the same page as the register showing Edward’s christening in 1735.1

Edward Bellis

The above is a simple example of why it’s important to pay attention to dates and to stop and ask ourselves, “Does this make sense?”.


  1. “Wales, Flintshire, Parish Registers, 1538-1912,” database, FamilySearch ( : 11 February 2018), Edward Belis, 16 Aug 1735, Baptism; from “Parish Records Collection 1538-2005,” database and images, findmypast ( : 2012); citing Holywell, Flintshire, Wales, The National Archives, Kew, Surrey. 

17 thoughts on “Does it make sense?

  1. Thank you for the reminder! Sometimes we get caught up in the small details or great discoveries that we don’t take a step back to look at the overall picture, and how our new discovery fits in with what we already know.

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  2. A well presented reminder to question findings, particularly in the online trees such as Ancestry. I am sure we have all come across examples, such as the ones you identified in your humourous introduction. I have seen a tree that has my g.g.grandfather apparently dying in 1866, but then going on to have six children. I think with pre- compulsory registration, people find a name in parochial records which they think is a match, ignoring the fact registration of BMD was not compulsory, a record might simply not exist, and it could be a totally different person from their ancestor. So,it is essential to search for additional evidence to,p confirm a match.

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    1. I think you hit the nail on the head, Susan. It is the additional evidence and analysis of that evidence that is missing. A lot of the ‘same name syndrome’ is what I like to call it. If it’s the same name, and sort of in the right place at sort of the right time, it gets added, and the person moves on. I’m always grateful for thorough researchers who take the time to analyse and correlate all the information before making a determination to place that person in their tree. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. Good reminder. I’ve caught mistakes like that I’ve made, and not from copying trees either. Sometimes records themselves are misleading, where records themselves and family tradition says someone is the parent but only continued research uncovers the truth. I have many examples, more than time here permits.

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  4. What I’ve learned since starting to research and document my family’s history is that there are a lot of nuances involved with this type of scholarship, including specialized knowledge to be able to accurately evaluate sources of information. That said, there are instances when someone’s conclusions just don’t pass the common sense test!

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    1. I agree, Liz. I am grateful for the education I have that helps me in analyzing sources and writing proof arguments, among other things. But you are spot on, sometimes it is truly a matter of common sense!

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  5. I know what you mean! People get quite defensive even when you’re trying to be nice and explain why you think they are wrong. You’re backing it up with careful analysis and they still stick to their guns. And it honestly takes such a tiny amount of time to just stop and look at whether it makes sense! BIG sigh 🙂

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  6. Yes, this! I recently had a cousin try to tell me that I had the wrong parents for our common ancestor. She believed he belonged to a different family. That family had a daughter born 4 months after our ancestor, in a different parish. Big sigh. Why did she want her assertion to be true? It would *sort of* help explain a mislabeled photo. Even bigger sigh.

    Liked by 3 people

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