Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Hat Trick - Point Two

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

Yesterday I showed how a professional misstated the death of the Swedish soldier Jonas Flink. She set his death date in November, 1805, while the correct date was in 1807.

Today, let's look at one tiny bit of evidence that she missed or ignored in the church records for Stora Malm parish in Södermanland

Returning to the 1803-1807 clerical survey, book AI:10A, let me show you the entire two-page spread for Jonas Flink and his family. It's very easy to skip over the various codes that the priests used. The same is true of American census records. Yet there are often very useful tidbits of evidence to be found by looking at every column and every page of a record.

On the first page, we see the names and birthdates for the family. The birth parish should be listed, but this minister (or clerk) did not complete the entries. The marriage column (Gift) is also not filled in. Brita's moving in year is entered, along with the parish from which she came. Of course, we see the cross in the death column for Jonas. But what are all the mysterious marks in the narrow columns?

If you're puzzled about a record, take the time to learn about unclear information. Whether in a physical book or online, there may be an explanation or legend somewhere in the book or online.

Inside the front cover of this book is found a Latin legend for the mysterious marks that measure each person's ability to read, to understand and interpret the Catechism, and to understand other aspects of the Lutheran faith.

The marks mean: bad, something, simply, well, and absolutely nothing. Thank goodness my ancestors weren't in that last category.

Moving to the second page of the record, we'll find a single piece of evidence too strong to ignore. Recall that Jonas Flink is on the first line of the pages. He could not have died in 1805 based on the little letter e in the 1806 column. But exactly what does that letter e mean?

The minister recorded when each parishioner partook of communion (Nattvarden) during the year. There is a list near the front of the book that lists the dates that communion was offered in the parish.

I certainly can't read every word, but I can tell that b was Candlemas (February 2) and g was Trinity Sunday. Working through the other Holy Days between those two days, I can derive that e was the code for the first Sunday after Easter in 1806.

Jonas Flink took communion one week after Easter in 1806, which fell on the 6th of April. There is no further contact with the minister, based on the church records. He does not appear in the clerical survey books that start in 1808. This evidence pinpoints his death as after April 13, 1806, and before 1808.

Ignoring this evidence seems to me to have been impossible for a professional researcher. As an experienced amateur, it certainly is obvious to me that one little letter is critical evidence. We can't ignore it. So where is the death record?

Tomorrow, using uncommon records to solve this uncommon problem.

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