News Flash! 1852 New Year’s Resolutions Solve Genealogical Mysteries!

News Flash! 1852 New Year’s Resolutions Solve Genealogical Mysteries!

[It’s not a news flash, and you likely have seen it before, but this is a good one to come back to when are you at the brink of insanity chasing elusive ancestors…]

It is New Year’s Eve 1852 and Henry Hydenwell sits at his desk by candlelight. He dips his quill pen into ink and begins to writes his New Year’s Resolutions:

1. No man is truly well-educated unless he learns to spell his name at least three different ways within the same document. I resolve to give the appearance of being extremely well-educated in the coming year.

2. I resolve to see to it that all of my children will have the same names that my ancestors have used for six generations in a row.*

3. My age is no one’s business but my own. I hereby resolve to never list the same age or birth year twice on any document.

4. I resolve to have each of my children baptized in a different church-either in a different faith or in a different parish. Every third child will not be baptized at all, or will be baptized by an itinerant minister who keeps no records.

5. I resolve to move to a new town, new county or new state at least once every 10 years-just before those pesky enumerators come around asking silly questions.
6. I will make every attempt to reside in counties and towns where no vital records are maintained or where the courthouse burns down every few years.
7. I resolve to join an obscure religious cult that does not believe in record-keeping or in participating in military service.
8. When the tax collector comes to my door, I’ll lend him my pen, which has been dipped in rapidly fading blue ink.
9. I resolve that if my beloved wife Mary should die, I will marry another Mary.

10. I resolve not to make a will. Who needs to spend money on a lawyer?
11. I resolve to not clutter up the good farm pastures with headstones that will just get broken or fade with time anyway.
12. I resolve to protect my family and friends’ privacy by giving false names and places for events.
13. I resolve to never give the correct accounts of misdeeds in the family, so although Uncle Lem shot that guy and was tried for murder, my kids will be told he stole a cow.
14. I resolve to never trim the family cemetery of brush and tangleweed to keep out anyone doing that silly genealogical work.
15. I resolve to always alternate my children’s and wife’s first and middle names when the census taker comes around just to give him practice with his spelling.
16. I resolve to come from Ireland, where there are no records, or, if there are, they can only be examined by visiting the exact village and pleading with the local clergy, who is hostile to anyone not of his belief, which, of course, you are, and/or handing over a fee equal to or exceeding your yearly income for one hour’s research, which may not find anything.
17. I resolve that not only shall I NOT die in my country of birth, but that nor shall my children (yea, verily) unto the sixth generation.
18. I resolve that I shall call my children by odd names, which the enumerator shall spell incorrectly.
19. I resolve that I shall be absent on the night of the census.
20. I resolve that if unable to be absent on census night, I shall endeavor to be enumerated twice.
21. I resolve that when I die my children/wife is instructed to give the wrong details for my death certificate.
22. I resolve that I and most of my family shall die suddenly just before death certifications started to be used in a parish where easy access to the records ceased the previous year.
*Addendum to No. 2: My brothers promise to do likewise, thereby ensuring that each of our children has the same name as the cousins of the approximate same age.

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