What’s in a name?

Posted: February 26, 2012 in Harris
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I wonder sometimes at people who say I’ve researched my family history. Have they really? A comment I received recently said ‘ my surname’s blah’, so I must be connected to your tree! I don’t think so. How would you know if you aren’t prepared to do the hard work? Other’s find information and think that what they find is gospel and correct. Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not. Recently I found a photo of a house on someone’s tree on Ancestry that apparently was the house of one of my ancestors. I contacted them to ask where the house was, the name of it and what evidence did they have to say it belonged to this said couple. This person has not bothered to reply so I can’t help but wonder, is it correct, did they find it on someone else’s tree and just copied over without thinking? Why bother uploading something and not be prepared to show the evidence.

Way back when I first started doing my family history (where talking 1988 here by the way), the only way to research was go to the library and then spend weeks waiting for that certificate or other piece of information to be snail mailed to you.  These days, it’s quite easy to find information on the internet somewhere but what if that piece of information you found is ‘wrong’?

Back in the old days, I spent a great deal of time at the local library, basically because that’s where you went to do your research and then when you found something, weeks would go by before you had that little piece of evidence that either proved it right or wrong.

When I first started researching my beloved grandmother’s family history many years ago, it was without the advantages (or maybe disadvantages) of today’s technology.  My grandmother had the details of her parents, she had their birth, death and marriage certificates, which back then was a gold mine, considering that they were married and born in South Australia. Living in NSW, it’s a little hard to do family history research in another state, though it is a little easier now. Their marriage certificate showed that my great grandmother’s father was George Honney Harris.  Her birth certificate showed her parents as George Honey Harris and Rose Ann Harris. With this information I was able to look up the SA BDM index’s and find the marriage. After obtaining the marriage certificate, it showed that George’s father was Peter George Harris and Rose’s father was Frederick John Hurst.

So armed with the fact that George’s father was ‘Peter George Harris’, I went searching. I found a book, which I think was the South Australian Biographical register (can’t remember the name but I still have the photo copy of the page) and found the following entries.

This showed the family of George Honey Harris and Rose Ann Hurst, along with the names of their children, parents etc. It does have one glaring mistake, the name of Daisy Beecham. This I guess the contributor believed Daisy married someone with the surname of Beecham.  I knew this to be wrong as I had both her birth and marriage certificates, which proved otherwise. By the way, I have not been able to find a marriage between a Harris and Beecham in the SA indexes.

This entry also shows that George’s father was George Peter Harris. Now yes, it’s possible the first and second names were swapped around on the marriage certificate, so maybe it’s the right piece of information.  The next entry that is of interest is further below, which has the details of George Peter Harris and his apparent two marriages.

So without much further to go on, I believed that the information, contained here was correct, though I did keep digging every so often to find more information. It wasn’t until late 2010, when I realised that the information in the book was incorrect. Everyone believes that the George Peter Harris (co-founder of Harris Scarfe) was the father of George Honey Harris.

With access to Ancestry, Trove and a contact with a cousin I was able to discover that there were two George Peter Harris’s living in South Australia around the same time. There was a George Peter Harris and then there is Peter George Harris. I can see where people might get confused and think one is the other, but they are not.

The above entry indicated that ‘George Peter Harris’ had arrived in SA by 1854. Research tells us that yes, he did, but in fact he arrived in February 1849 and co-founded the ‘Harris Scarfe’ store.  Yes, he did marry Caroline Fischer and had two children. This was his only marriage. He also died in London on 1873.

Peter George Harris’ arrived in 1854 along with his family. They are listed in the 1851 census at Guernsey Channel Islands and this showed George Honey’s birth to be closer to 1844 not 1849. His actual birth registration is:

George-Honey Harris
Gender: Male
Birth Date: 06 Jun 1844
Birthplace: Guernsey, Channel Islands
Father’s Name: Peter-Geo. Harris
Mother’s Name: Adelina Bienvenu

Even though I don’t have Peter G’s death certificate I do have a photo of his grave, which has his birth to be the 24th May 1805.  The George Peter Harris was born around 1823 in I believe London. My Great Great Grandfather, Peter was also known as Pierre George.

I’m a little miffed at the moment, that despite all the evidence that we now have, many still believe that our family are related to the G P Harris of Harris Scarfe. We are not. The evidence proves it.

So in summary, you need to put in the effort and obtain the birth, marriage & death certificates of people so that you can then ensure that you are tracing the right tree. Someone might have something in a book or on the internet but how do you know for sure it’s correct without obtaining the evidence?

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