Sunday, July 14, 2019

Duplicate Birth Records - Different Names, Different Information, Same Person

Eastern Europe has had multiple border changes, including in the 20th century.  And that can impact how records on your ancestors were recorded.  It can also mean that vital records you find aren't original and could have information that differs from that on the original.

When my Rutner family was first recorded living in what's now Kolodne, Ukraine, they weren't anywhere near an international border.  They were in the middle of Hungary, in the province/megye of Máramaros.  But then World War I happened, and Kolodne ended up in the newly-created Czechoslovakia, right on the border with Romania.  Close cousins who used to just live a few villages away now lived in another country.  One branch of the Rutners lived in what was had been Pálosremete, Hungary, but which became (and still is) Remeţi, Romania.

I had some vital records from Remeţi, which I always thought were a bit odd.  Although they were recording births from the late 1800s & early 1900s, when the town was solidly part of Hungary, they were recorded in Romanian.  One such birth record registered the birth of an Iloni Ruttner, a second cousin four times removed, and I added Iloni to my tree.
Birth Record of Iloni Rutner, Remeţi, 1902

Iloni's birth record didn't have a ton of information, but it was something.  It gave her birthdate and the names of her parents.

But then I got records for the same town that are kept on the modern-day Ukrainian side of the border.  And while there was no birth record for an Iloni Ruttner, there was a birth record for a girl born the same day, to the same parents, in the same town:
Birth Record of Hani Rutner, Pálosremete, 1902
Hani Ruttner's birth record gives significantly more information than did Iloni's.  We have her parents' ages, places of birth, and professions.  We have her father's signature (bottom right), as he reported the birth.

It appears that Romania re-created the vital records of towns that became Romania, decades after the actual events took place.  And they used their own forms that were in use at that later time, losing information that had been on the original records.  And oddly enough, they altered names that were Hungarian to be Romanian, changing what was on the original certificates, which seems to be what happened in the case of Hani/Iloni.

It's important to understand the geography of the places where your ancestors live.  That can drive where records for those towns might be found, the types of records that would have been created--and seemingly whether the records you're seeing were copied from the originals at a later time.  You always want the earliest version of any record!

Have you seen this in other areas where borders changed?

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  1. I have the same problem with an Irish ancestress who emigrated to Scotland in the 1860s. In her first marriage certificate, she names her parents as John Kelly and her mum as Ann McDade. When she is widowed and remarries, she names her parents as James Kelly and Ann McInulty. On her death certificate, one of her sons by her first husband names his grandparents as James Kelly and Ann McNulty. Go figure.

    1. That's why birth records are ideal because the parents were there. But in my example, even what looks like a birth record may have been off!