What do you do when you’re researching an ancestor on the FamilySearch Family Tree and you run into conflicting information for a date, place, or even identity? You have a few choices: ignore the conflicts hoping someone else will figure it out, randomly choose what information to use, or do more research and resolve the conflict. I ran into this challenge when researching my second great-grandmother, Harriet (Huggett) Kelsey. I recently wrote about Harriet’s early life in England based on histories compiled by herself and her granddaughter, but I noticed some issues with her record on the FamilySearch Family Tree. I decided to see if I could resolve those conflicts by researching and discovering more sources.
Conflicting Birth Years
The first conflict I noticed was Harriet’s birth year. Her profile gave her birth as “before 3 August 1823” in Charlwood, Surrey, England, United Kingdom. Viewing the sources on her profile in FamilySearch I saw that this was likely based on an indexed record of her christening on that day. 1 Unfortunately, no image was available to double-check the date.
Harriet herself wrote a letter to her grandchildren and stated that she was born at Lovell Heath, Charwood Parish, England, on the 6th of June 1826.2 June 6th makes sense for a christening on August 3rd, but the date is off by three years.
Finally, Harriet’s headstone gives her birth as 6 June 1825 with the 6 June correlating with Harriet’s letter, but the 1825 giving yet another year for her birth.3
To resolve the conflict, I needed to view the original christening record to verify Harriet’s identity and her birth year.
Conflicting Names and Identities
Harriet was a triplet. One of the babies died at birth, but the other was named Hester, and the girls were known as the London twins because of their identical looks.
Researchers often change Hester’s name on her profile on FamilySearch to Esther because many of the records do give that name. Among the papers I inherited from my mother was a Family Group Record filled out by Effie Kelsey, a granddaughter of Harriet. That record had a note that reads: Due to dropping of the “H” in Hester, she was known as Esther after coming to Utah.4
Comparing the spelling for Hester’s sources on FamilySearch, I found the English records that name her Hester include her marriage record and the 1851 and 1861 England and Wales Census. The U.S. records that name her Esther include a ship manifest, pioneer overland records, and the 1870 -1900 U.S. Census enumerations.
Hester’s headstone names her as “Hester,” as does a temple record for her. But, a history written by a granddaughter names her as Esther.
It would seem that both names are appropriate, but with the information from the family group record, I settled on her birth name of Hester and added this note to her record on FamilySearch, so other researchers would know the source of my information.
Another challenge comes with an indexed record for the christening of an “Esther Harriet Hugget” on 3 August 1823 in Charlwood, Surrey, England, causing confusion about who this record referred to – one female or two? Again, it came with no image to check. When the newly indexed record appeared on FamilySearch, Hesters name was changed yet again to “Esther Harriet Huggett,” combining the two sister’s names.
It was time to search for the original record for the christening. I found it on the website FindMyPast which specializes in English records.5
Baptisms solemnized in the parish of Charlewood, Surrey County
3 August 1823
Esther & Harriet Daughters of Thomas, Jane Huggett,
Profession of father: Wheelwright
Ceremony by S Porter
The record settled the question of whether this was one female or two but, interestingly, did give Hester the spelling of Esther. This again could have been because of the dropping of the “h” and the clerk recorded it as Esther.
I created a new source for this baptism record, linking it to the image on FindMyPast and adding the source citation. I also put in a complete transcription in the notes and added a reason statement clearly stating that these were two separate daughters of Thomas and Jane Huggett.
Resolving the Conflicts
Finding the original christening record resolved the conflict with the birth year of Harriet and Hester. Although their records showed 1825 on both their headstones and Harriet gave 1826 as her birth year. Clearly, they were born in 1823, as shown by the original christening record that was created soon after their birth. Since Harriet was a secondary informant of her birth, not being cognizant of the date, she was told her birthday by her mother. June 6th was probably celebrated as her birth throughout her life, and later in life, she confused the year.
The 1841 census correlates with the birth year of 1823. 6 In this census, Harriet lived in her older sister Eliza’s household, headed by Major Agate. The census also correlated the family history that Harriet made her home with her older sister, Eliza, and her husband.
I added a reason statement for the birth date explaining my reasoning:
Harriet and Hester were baptized on 3 August 1823, so their birth would have occurred a few weeks prior. Harriet stated in letters to her grandchildren that she was born on 6 June 1826, but her headstone gives her birth as 6 June 1825. It’s probable that the date of June 6th is correct and she was mistaken about the year. Additionally, the 1841 census shows Harriet as age 18 which correlates with a birth year of 1823.
Conflicts will always arise in our research, and instead of ignoring them, we do our best to resolve them. Using qualifiers such as “likely” or “probably” helps with our writing since another record could appear that changes our conclusion.
In this case, I feel confident that there were two sisters, one named Harriet and one named Hester/Esther. They were likely born on 6 June 1823 in Charlwood, Surrey, England. Hopefully, my reason statements and notes on their FamilySearch profiles will help other researchers to understand my reasoning.
Best of luck in all your genealogical endeavors.
- “England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975”, database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JS6W-YMR : accessed 12 August 2023), Harriet Hugget, 1823.
- “The Following Letters Were Written by Harriet Huggett Kelsey and William Henry Kelsey,” Memories, Harriet Hugget, KWJ8-WBF, uploaded by TERRY60, 2016, digital version, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/photos/artifacts/24266978 : accessed 4 August 2023)
- Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/84600/harriet-kelsey: accessed 04 August 2023), memorial page for Harriet Kelsey (6 Jun 1825–22 Dec 1899), Find a Grave Memorial ID 84600, citing Historic Springville Cemetery, Springville, Utah County, Utah, USA; Maintained by Dee (contributor 47925131).
- Effie Kelsey, Family Group Record, sources of information listed, Mrs. Dora Kelsey McCann (Payson, Ut), Miss Effie Kelsey (Springville, Ut), Mrs. Lorel H. Mason (Provo, Ut), compiled before 1981, in possession of Diana Elder (Highland, Ut). Diana received the document from her mother, Anna Mae Kelsey Shults.
- Surrey Baptisms, Charlwood, St Nicholas, Surrey, England, Harriet & Esther Hugget, 3 Aug 1823, p. 45; digital image, FindMyPast (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=PRS%2FSURREY%2FBAP%2F0926755 : accessed 11 August 2023).
- 1841 England Census, Surrey County, Civil Parish: Croydon, Enumeration District: 7; Folio: 11, Page: 14, Line: 22, Harriet Huggett; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 August 2023); citing National Archives of the UK, GSU roll: 474665.