Friday, December 6, 2013

A Hat Trick - Point One

This weekend I have three tips for the price of one:
  • Never ignore evidence
  • Consider unusual sources for unusual problems
  • Even professionals get it wrong sometimes -- by accident or on purpose

This three-part case study revisits Sweden, but the lessons apply anywhere.

My great-great-grandmother Matilda, pictured below with her husband and three of her children, was the granddaughter of Swedish soldier Jonas Flink. You've seen that name before, as his family holds lots of lessons. And please take a moment to glance up at the blog header. The beautiful young bride was the granddaughter of Matilda and my great-aunt.

Generations digital kit from ClubScrap

The Professional Gets it Wrong

A professional Swedish researcher, Brigitta, dishonored the memory of the Soldier Jonas Flink. This series of posts is intended to restore his honor within the family and to serve as breadcrumbs for my unknown distant cousins.

One of my grandfather's cousins, Roy Fors, paid Brigitta to send him family information. She charged $60 per family in 1992. It's interesting that she was doing a fixed-price job. That leads to a desire to finish a job, rather than extend it. Yet I can understand her pricing method.

Swedish church records follow a family through births, marriages, deaths and moves. There are some gaps that can change what should be a simple lookup into a hunt. Brigitta was working with microfilm, no doubt, which made a detailed search much harder. Today those records are online, though not indexed.

Roy shared parts of her findings with the rest of the family. I received a copy of a copy in 2004. By then I was experienced in working the Swedish records and I was shocked that Brigitta did not source her work. If she had given sources to Roy, they didn't reach me, but I doubt she shared them.

If a researcher won't provide sources, do not hire them!

So part of tip three is to insist that if you pay someone for research, they owe you, at a minimum, sources for the results. Copies of records would be wonderful, too, copyright permitting.

Without sources in the family group sheets I received, they became only a point of reference for me. I set out to check the information, but soon put them away and dismissed them from my mind as I did my own research.

How and When did Jonas Flink Die?

That research hit a bump at Jonas Flink. I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out when and where he died. After breaking through to find his 1807 death, I pulled Brigitta's file to see what she had found. Her conclusion was different. I checked the data she provided and was appalled.

Brigitta gave an outright false statement about the death of Jonas Flink. I believe she made that choice as a speedy way to complete the families of Jonas and collect her fee. She seized on the death of another soldier named Jonas, who was beheaded after killing another man.

Unfortunately, she made the claim shortly before an infamous soldier by the name of Flink went on a shooting spree. For the family members who had received Brigitta's conclusion, the two men are now forever linked as murderers.

Disproving the Professional

Let's quickly disprove Brigitta's conclusion by looking at the church records for Stora Malm parish in Södermanland.

The death record in book F:1 for Soldier Jonas Stålt, age 31 on the 13th of November, 1805, is clearly not for a man named Jonas Flink.

Did both men exist? Let's rule out a name change by the military. Jonas Stålt is listed as Soldier 18 in the 1803-1807 clerical survey, book AI:10A. It's interesting to notice that there is no cross in the death (Död) column or by the name for Jonas. The minister merely struck him from the book with no extra notations.

Two pages later we find Soldier 22, Jonas Flink. The cross in the death column confirms he died between 1803 and 1807. There is no other notation about his death and he does not appear in the death book. Note that his age is one year different than the other Jonas.

At first I thought Brigitta just made an honest mistake. However, through careful examination of all the evidence, I believe there was an intentional misstatement.

Tomorrow, examining the evidence.

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