Recently I was faced with whether or not to question what a database said. Either way would have taken me down a different research avenue. I chose to question and hope my hunch was correct.
I had a reference from a Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) database quoting an administration index for an 1839 Armagh Diocese estate. It gave the name, year, and the townland of residence. So I knew this was for the family in question. Then came the quote at the bottom of the page which stated:
“The original documents referred to in this index do not exist. No further information, other than that recorded above, has survived.”
My first thought was “Not so fast!” I knew abstracts or second copies often survive. I reasoned if one existed, it may tell me more.
The PRONI database was technically correct, the originals were destroyed in the 1922 Four Courts Fire in Dublin, when the archive when up in smoke. I knew my year 1839 was important because it was included in the Inland Revenue records which were abstracts originally filed in London (not Dublin). They are on microfilm at the Family History Library: www.familysearch.org
I looked at the Inland Revenue index for 1839, and found my entry. The index alone told me the administrator’s name and the folio number, which was basically a page number. Based upon the index, I pulled the microfilm for the year and looked for the folio. Not only did the manuscript abstract tell me how much the estate was worth; it also told me the date the person died. In this case the administrator was an administratrix – his remarried widow. It said, widow, and also gave her maiden name.
The moral of this story is if I had believed the index without question, I would have missed some very important pieces of information. This extra information allowed me to find the second husband in Griffith’s Primary Valuation (1847-64) and learn what happened to the wife who was of course also ancestral.