a tree-rific journey into family history

Reading Illegible Records: can you help me?

Many of the best family history records are handwritten. Old census records, marriage licenses, death certificates, letters, and names on pictures can be scribbled in such a way that will cause confusion even if you know what you are looking for. Usually, by the time you get to the documents, they have faded, burned, flooded, and smudged. Even if you can make out the letters, you also have to account for misspelling. Most online databases have been sorted by indexers who tried their best to decipher your ancestors’ records, but they often make understandable mistakes in transcription. I recommend always looking at a copy of the original record if one is available. Speaking of original handwriting, can you help me make sense of these three names?

My great-great grandmother, Pearle F. Woods Holman (1879-1975) left behind a large collection of photographs. Only a few had any identification (such as a family dog), and this one is t0o difficult for me to read. Click to enlarge and give me a guess on the first name. I am assuming Woods for the surname.

Owens Cemetery is south of Plumerville, Arkansas and contains many of my wife’s paternal ancestors. One branch, the White Family, is interred in a large plot about halfway up the hill. Can you find a first name or a date?

My wife’s great-grandmother Myrtis Morris (1892-1926) appears to have been born between her mother’s initial marriage to Ned Freeman in Franklin County, Georgia and her later Conway County, Arkansas marriage to Steward Clinkscale. Since Myrtis used her mother’s maiden name, the best chance I have at finding the father’s name is her death certificate. After paying $10 through the Arkansas Department of Vital Records, this is what I received. The informant is her mother’s husband so I assume he would know the name of his step-daughter’s father. Ben James? Benjamin? I cannot find either of those guys.

Thanks for your help, detectives!


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4 thoughts on “Reading Illegible Records: can you help me?

  1. Anonymous on said:

    It is a mystery. Regarding the White monument, it looks like Aime White. For the Benjamin, I do believe it is Benjamin. I really think they answered the question: Name of father with a first name only. If the surname was already on the certificate then they only needed the first name.

    • Thanks for the feedback! On Benjamin, his surname is not anywhere on the death certificate. She went by her mother’s maiden name until marriage so even if that is Benjamin, it could be a first or last name. There was only one Benjamin in the community she was born in that was remotely close to the right age, and he was mentally handicapped (although still a possibility).
      As for the White grave, I have considered Ame/Amie as a possible name. I cannot match that up with any known relatives, but if I could understand the dates, that might explain a lot.

  2. Willie Heaggans on said:

    This is interesting. I know about Aunt Rosie she was my great grandmother (Ella Morris Dooley sister.

  3. Thank you. I have another post all about her. I am interested in any information you have!

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