Traveling to a cemetery can be prohibitive for many people, which is why sites like Find-A-Grave provide an invaluable service. However, despite the information you will find on such memorial sites, you need to be careful what you accept as fact and what is simply a clue.
Find A Grave Memorial Pages provide many details and the question you have to ask yourself is, “What information is the most reliable?”
Because online grave photo sharing sites are a collaboration of volunteers, the details of birth date, place, parental names, siblings, full names, etc, are not considered original sources.
The most reliable details are the facts listed on a gravestone, and that’s it.
Mind you, a gravestone can be full of errors. If a mistake was made on a death record, it can perpetuate onto the stone marker. If an engraver made a mistake despite receiving correct information for a stone, then what is set in stone might not be accurate. Additional errors creep into gravestones, but that’s enough for now.
If gravestones can be full of errors, then everything else on a user-contributed memorial page, often created long after our ancestors have died, is subject to error. EVERY-THING. Everything.
With that in mind, let’s investigate Winfield Underwood’s Memorial Page on Find A Grave as part of the Research Over My Shoulder series for beginners.
For those following the Research Over My Shoulder series, here is the Memorial page for Winfield. Notice there is no image of his gravestone. The major reason we visited this site is lacking. However, we have CLUES to relationships and a copy of his death record.
We also see that someone indicated that Winfield’s middle name is Gaddie. In a previous post, we attempted to discover what the G stood for in G Winfield Underwood. Is this proof that the G is actually his middle name, which would explain why he didn’t use it often? Also, is this proof that his initial stands for the name Gaddie?
NO. It’s not proof of either.
We have no idea who put this information on Find A Grave and what source they used.
We can not use anything on the site as proof, but we will use them as CLUES.
What if an original record is attached to the profile on Find A Grave?
When you have an original record attached to a Find A Grave profile (such as an obituary, an interment record, photos, and more), you have to evaluate the original record by the following standards:
- Who is the informant?
- Did the informant witness the event or just hear about?
- Was the record created near the time of the specific life event?
Find A Grave, Billion Graves, and other collaborative memorial pages are helpful in providing a resource for sharing images of gravestones. They also provide a way to share additional information about the persons featured on the memorial pages. However, we have to be careful accepting everything on these pages, including the biographical sketches.
Do you have further questions on how to evaluate Find A Grave profile pages? Ask them below in the comments section.