Thanks for reading and commenting about my blog postings. My goal is to accurately document the genealogy of my family and allied families living in Chesterfield County, SC and Anson County, NC. If you have a Chesterfield County surname you are interested in please send me an e-mail.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Primary Source Documents Can be Wrong

A primary source document is a document that is created when the event occurred. We all take primary source documents as factual in nature. But what if primary source document is wrong or conflict; how do you resolve these issues?

We all agree that a death certificate is the desired document to prove the death of an ancestor. Primarily, because the death certificate was created at the time of death for a relative or ancestor.  So let's take a look at the death certificate of one on my distance cousin.
Hurbert Arnold Brock, born 19 May 1924, a son of Samuel Arnold Brock and Henrietta Smith. He died of injuries from an automobile accident near Hamlet, Richmond County, North Carolina on 31 Jan 1944[1].  In my research of Hurbert Arnold, I found two death certificates – one in Richmond County, North Carolina and one in Chesterfield County, South Carolina. (Birth/death dates from NC Death Cert.#6117) 

The South Carolina Death Certificate[2] states that Hurbert Arnold Brock was born May 19, 1872 and died 31 Jan 1944 in Chesterfield, South Carolina of Stroke Apoplexy.  It also states that this Hurbert Arnold Brock is a son of Samuel Arnold Brock and Henrietta Smith.

I know without a doubt that the parents listed on this South Carolina Death Certificate IS NOT correct.  Samuel Arnold Brock was born 19 May 1876. If this Hurbert Arnold was born in May 1872; he is not a son of Samuel Arnold Brock. 

Both of these Hurbert Arnold Brock's died on the same date – 31 Jan 1944.

Both death certificates say that Hurbert Arnold parents are Samuel Arnold Brock and Henrietta Smith.

Only one of these Hurbert Arnold Brock can be the son of Samuel Arnold Brock and Henrietta Smith.
To resolve this conflict you need additional information. One of the elements of The Genealogical Proof Standard is a:  Reasonably exhaustive search
  • Assumes examination of a wide range of high quality sources
  • Minimizes the probability that undiscovered evidence will overturn a too-hasty conclusion
Another element of this standard is:  Resolution of conflicting evidence.
  • Substantiates the conclusion's credibility. (If conflicting evidence is not resolved, a credible conclusion is not possible.)
In this case, no research has been made, as of this date, to resolve this conflict. However, based on knowledge and research;  my first instinct and conclusion is that The Hurbert Arnold Brock that died in North Carolina is the son of Samuel Arnold Brock and Henrietta Smith.

Compounding this confusion is the Tombstone for Hurbert Brock, at the Brock Mill church Cemetery that shows his birth and death as 8 December 1923; died Jan 30, 1943.[3] This Herbert is buried near S. Arnold Brock.

So we have several areas of conflict here, between two documents that need to be resolved.
It's clear that we are talking about two different individual, both with the same death date (maybe) and a Tombstone or a tombstone transcription that is in error. 

My next step in resolving this conflict is to see if the car accident was documented in the local newspapers for Richmond County, North Carolina and look for obituaries in both states.

If you have information on either of these two Hurbert Arnold Brock's please send me an e-mail.

[1] State of North Carolina, death Certificate no. #6117 (31 January 1944), Hurbert Ambel [Arnold] Brock;, Hamlet, Richmond County, North Carolina.
[2] Hubert A. Brock, death certificate 015181 (31 January 1944), Vital Records, Department of Health and Environmental Control, Columbia, Richland County, South Carolina.
[3] James C. Pigg, Chesterfield County Cemetery Survey; Chesterfield County Genealogical Services, 1995, page 151. Tombstone of Hurbert Brock; 8 December 1923–30 January 1943, Old Brocks Mill Cemetery, Chesterfield County, South Carolina.


  1. Very interesting! I will be curious to see what you uncover. I have seen incorrect death certificates before, usually due to the informant's lack of knowledge, but I have not seen two certificates like this.

  2. You have quite a mystery here. I think these have to be two different men ... different causes of death, different times of death, different states, etc. However, the other information you claim is conflicting is not considered primary in this source. The death certificate is ONLY primary for date, time, and manner of death. The rest is secondary.

    Just to keep you from reading more into these certificates than is really there - and then reaching an incorrect conclusion because of it -- neither of the certificates state that the father's name is Samuel Arnold Brock. They both say the father's name is Arnold Brock and the mother is Mrs. Henry Smith or Hennie Smith (you could infer that means Henrietta, I suppose). The informant is the same on both certificates, so it's possible he was confused [I have a death certificate for a great-great grandmother showing she and her husband were her parents because the informant thought the question applied to him]. But with the same informant (and the same handwriting), it is most likely the men are related somehow. My guess is that it's father and son or uncle and nephew. Did Samuel Arnold Brock have any brothers named Hubert/Hurbert?

    It seems odd to me that there would be two death certificates (signed by physicians saying they were present at the time of death) in two different states, for men of different ages, with two clearly different causes of death if these weren't two different men. Also note that one of the certificates says Hubert and the other Hurbert. The certificates show both men are buried in the same place, so I would start there and see if you can find records or additional markers/gravesites for another Hurbert/Hubert.

    I'll be interested in seeing how this all pans out.