Filling in Details in My Family Tree: Sometimes the ‘Facts’ Don’t Agree

My great-great-great grandfather Robert Starbird (1782-1870) was a farmer in Gray, Cumberland County, Maine, and the father of 12 children. I recently took another look at this family to try and fill in some data gaps in my family tree, with the help of GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

I looked at Robert’s son Henry Hamilton Starbird (1815-?). Henry was born in Gray, Maine, to Robert and his first wife Eunice Millett (1786-?). He married Hope P. Cobb (1820-1873) in 1845, and they had one child, Florence Starbird (1853-?).

To find Henry, I searched for his name in GenealogyBank and restricted the results to just Maine newspapers, since I assumed he spent his life in Gray, Maine.

A screenshot of GenealogyBank's search page showing a search for Henry Starbird
Source: GenealogyBank

Thanks to GenealogyBank, I very quickly found what I was looking for – an obituary notice listing Henry’s death date as 5 August 1867:

“In Gray, 5th inst., Mr. Henry H. Starbird, aged 51 years.”

An obituary for Henry Starbird, Daily Eastern Argus newspaper article 9 August 1867
Source: GenealogyBank, Daily Eastern Argus (Portland, Maine), 9 August 1867, page 3

I quickly did the math to be sure this death date would line up with the birthdate I had in my records: 26 February 1816. If he died in 1867, Henry would have been about 51 years old at his death, just like the obituary said.

To be sure, however, I kept looking in the search results to see if I could find any other records that would confirm that Henry died in 1867.

This probate notice from September 1867, which named Henry’s wife Hope as the executor on the estate, does just that:

“Henry H. Starbird, late of Gray, deceased. Will and petition for the probate thereof, presented by Hope P. Starbird the Executive therein named.”

A probate notice for the estate of Henry Starbird, Daily Eastern Argus newspaper article 11 September 1867
Source: GenealogyBank, Daily Eastern Argus (Portland, Maine), 11 September 1867, page 2

Now that I have two records that verify his death, I can continue looking for additional information.

Looking at Find-a-Grave I found this.

His tombstone clearly says that he died on “Aug. 3, 1867” – a discrepancy.

Photo: headstone for Henry Starbird
Source: Find-a-Grave

The obituary gave the date as the 5th of August… the tombstone the 3rd of August. Which is correct? A typo in the newspaper? The chiseled mistake of a stone carver? Both are known to have happened – I’ll have to keep digging to find the answer.

Genealogy Tip: Sources don’t always agree. Keep digging to get all of the information. Just like a television mystery – sometimes the “facts” do not agree. Record them all until you can verify which one is accurate.

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