Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 3 Sep 2015.
Recently I’ve been ranting about the problem of looking for a record that never existed or once existed and has since vanished. Today, I’m going to share a frustrating story about trying to correct an error in a record.
As genealogists we know that it’s common to find discrepancies in records. One census may show a person born in one year and the next census may show a different birth year. A marriage record may state a person was born in one state but the census record may show a different state. We know it’s a best practice to try to find primary sources but sometimes even a primary source isn’t correct and it becomes a herculean task to try to fix the error.
Daughter recently moved and was trying to have her power turned on. Power company told her they couldn’t do it because she had a discrepancy in her birthdate through one of the credit services they used. She called the credit service (and I use the term service loosely!) and they refused to tell her which company had reported her birthdate wrong. She was told to fax 2 of the following 3 documents to the credit card company to prove her correct date of birth: a birth certificate, driver’s license, passport, or social security card. Since daughter didn’t have power she couldn’t fax the documents (duh) so she took a picture of them on her phone and emailed them to me to fax.
Immediately I thought this was a scam but I checked and found that the number she was supposed to fax to was legitimate and lots of other people have encountered the same problem. I faxed and got confirmation that the documents were sent. Daughter called the power company back and informed them the information had been faxed but it could be 10 days before the situation was investigated. Power company turned on the power (hooray!).
A few weeks later daughter received via US mail a letter from the credit service stating she had to refax the documents as they were not readable. Daughter refaxed and then sent a hard copy via US Mail. Another few weeks went by and daughter received another document from the credit service in the mail stating they had re-investigated and would update the record if she sent them either a birth certificate or driver’s license. This will be the fourth time they received copies of those documents. Frustrated, daughter again tried to find out which record was in error so she could go directly to the source to get it corrected. Although it is her credit record, the credit service again refused to divulge the information. Daughter contacted her bank and credit card companies to see if they had the birthdate wrong. Nope, their records were correct. So, for the fourth time, daughter resent proof of her birthdate.
I’ve noticed when looking at US Public Records Index that too many individuals have conflicting birthdates in comparison to my other sources. I don’t know if you’ve notice this, too, but I’m guessing there must be a date of birth field where someone is entering the digit 1 instead of the actual date of birth. Since the month and year are correct, I don’t know if all the fields must be complete and if they don’t have the day of birth they enter a 1. No way to correct the error, either!
It’s important to remember that clearly, even today, record accuracy isn’t going to happen 100% of the time.