Mistaken Linage: A Case Study

It is widely reported that my 3rd great-grandfather, Peter Vickers, was baptized 13 June 1788 at Bunbury, Cheshire, England. He was the son of Peter Vickers and Hanna Lowe. In 1812, Peter married Mary Jones and they had daughters Elizabeth, Mary and Harriot.

Peter immigrated to the United States sometime before 1840 when he was listed on the census living in Pleasant Valley, New York.

In 1850 he was living in the household of his daughter Elizabeth and her husband John Turner. Then, in 1860, he was enumerated in the household of his son-in-law James Moore who had married Peter’s daughter Mary.

Peter died at Scott, Columbia County, Wisconsin 13 November 1862.

All of this seems to be very well know and is recorded in many family trees an Ancestry.com. Like so many other researchers, I just accepted Peter’s history as fact – until it suddenly hit me that it is was probably wrong.

I have, reluctantly, come to the conclusion that Peter Vickers, immigrant to the United States and father of Elizabeth (Turner) and Mary (Chandler)(Moore), is not the same person who was born in Bunbury, Cheshire, England; son of Peter Vickers and Hannah Lowe.

The 1851, 1861 and 1871 UK censuses all list a Peter Vickers born in Bunbury but then living in Preston, Sussex, England. This Peter’s age was slightly different on each of these censuses but a 1788 birth date seems reasonable. His birth place is given as Bunbury on every one of these records.

A marriage record for Peter Vickers and Mary Jones listed Peter’s occupation as “gunsmith” just as do the 1861 and 1871 census records.

Since the Peter Vickers who immigrated to the US was living here at the time of all those UK censuses, it seems clear that we are looking at two different Peter Vickers.  While it is possible that both were born in Banbury around 1788, that is pretty unlikely. They certainly didn’t have the same parents.

Therefore, I have to conclude from this that the Peter Vickers born 1788 in Bunbury did not immigrate to the US and is not the Peter Vickers who was listed on the 1850 and 1860 US censuses and was not the father of Mary Vickers Chandler Moore or Elizabeth Vickers Turner.  At the very least, it means the immigrant Peter’s origins in England must be reexamined.

Since I arrived at that conclusion, I have changed my own tree on Ancestry to make Peter’s birthplace, his parents and his wife all unknown and removed the daughter Harriot. I also contacted several other researchers who still have the questionable information in their genealogies and let them know why I question it. Maybe it shouldn’t surprise me, but none of them have made the change. So this highly questionable ancestry keeps being perpetuated.

Do you have people in your family tree that might not belong? Please, don’t get so locked into what everyone believes that you can’t consider an alternative. Examine everything!

  • Jo Henn says:

    I found that my fourth great-grandfather is someone entirely different than the person all the other older family histories have held it to be, and didn't come over from Ireland but rather was born in New Brunswick. Good post. Thank you for writing it. I've included it in my NoteWorthy Reads post this week: http://jahcmft.blogspot.com/2015/05/noteworthy-reads-12.html

    I'm glad I found your blog last week!

  • Thank you again Jo. I'm very glad you found me too!

  • Geolover says:

    Very alert analysis, Thomas. "Same name = same person" is one of the two most common genealogical errors, and one we all have to be very careful with.

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