This problem is somewhat similar to an earlier question of mine, but the issue is more general than before. In one tree I am researching, I can find a marriage record for Nathaniel Claughton and Martha Howgate in 1791 in Guisely in both Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org (the date is off, but it's the same people). Based on his death record as well at the date of his marriage, he was probably born around 1770. They had several children, including another Nathaniel born 1802, before Martha died in 1822. This can all be traced through both Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.

Here's where it gets weird. There is a record for a Nathaniel Claughton marrying a Sarah Smith in December 1822. I had this as a marriage involving the younger Nathaniel, based on the Ancestry.com scan of the parish record, and the fact that there don’t seem to be other Claughtons in Guiseley at the time – though there are others in nearby towns in West Yorkshire. But the FamilySearch.org index listing lists both members of the couple as being 50 years old, which would be consistent with the elder Nathaniel remarrying soon after Martha died.

In her answer to my earlier question, ColeValleyGirl indicated that Familysearch.org tends to be based on Bishop’s Transcripts not the original parish record. In contrast the Ancestry.com scans are clearly the original parish register.

I suspect that the marriage to Sarah Smith was incorrectly annotated in the Bishop’s transcripts: in the marriage to Martha Howgate, Nathaniel made a mark rather than signing. But in the marriage to Sarah Smith, that Nathaniel signed the register.

So I'm going to conclude that the original parish register had no ages recorded, that the illiterate and literate Nathaniels were different people (but father and son), and that the ages in the FamilySearch.org index were erroneous additions to the Bishop’s Transcript, probably because the elder Nathaniel was a property owner and therefore better known.

Is it common for FamilySearch.org indexes of marriages (and burials, I suppose) to have extraneous information added compared to the original parish register, and if so, how much weight should be put on that extra information if it conflicts with a scan of the parish register?

I am trying to construct a question of general use here, rather than one specific to this particular case.

  • 3
    To consider: Is it so improbable for a man to have learned to (at least) sign his name over a 30-year period? Was it likely that a 20-year old male would be married without HIS age (and parental consent) being highlighted in some way? FamilySearch indexes will calculate a birth date from an age but I've never seen it added it if it isn't there. Transcription errors do occur, however. This comment doesn't address 2 records that should be, but aren't, copies.
    – bgwiehle
    Commented May 23, 2013 at 13:22
  • 1
    @bgwiehle - that's a good point, and based on what else I know about Nathaniel the elder (e.g. that he owned property in 1832), maybe he did learn to write later in life. But the general question still stands: how does one interpret information in an index transcribed from a Bishop's Transcript that is clearly not in the original Parish Register?
    – Verbeia
    Commented May 23, 2013 at 13:28
  • I've noticed on Family search that all their posts estimate a persons age based on what ever document you are reading. Any census I have read on their site has it on their default synopsis. Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 0:13

3 Answers 3


I was intrigued by your problem and the answer given, which is correct. I took a few minutes (<10) to look up the record. The FamilySearch entry came from film# 1469720, which is Archbishop of York's marriage bonds and allegations. There are actually 4 documents - the bond, the allegation, the license, and a supporting baptismal certificate for the bride. The documents are quite interesting. Thomas Unthank, schoolmaster of Guisely, states he could not locate the christening of Nathaniel Claughton, and he believes the said Claughton was not baptized according to the rites of the Church of England, but the said Claughton is of the full age of fifty years (written out). A baptismal certificate is attached for Sarah, daughter of John Oddy (Addy? Cady?) of Guiseley, was baptd Feb 9, 1766, attested by Joseph Pickly, curate of Guiseley, 13 Dec 1822.

The license is dated 13 Dec 1822, authorizing the minister of Guiseley to perform the marriage of Nathaniel Claughton of Guiseley, widower, and Sarah Smith of Guiseley, widow. and states "ye are respectively of the full age of fifty years." Again, the age is written out, not numerical.

The bond referred to Nathaniel Claughton of Guiseley as a scribbling miller by trade.

Although Sarah was christened 56 years and 10 months before the marriage, she is referred to as aged 50 three separate times.

I tried to post images, but I'm not allowed to do so.![Marriage Allegation][1]![Marriage Bond][2]![Marriage License][3]![christening certificate][4]

  • Thank you! You almost certainly have enough reputation points to post images now. You clearly have access to documents that I don't have - I've been waiting to build up enough of a list of "things to look up on origins.net" before I buy a 72-hour pass. By the way - you might want to pick a more memorable username, because I'm hoping you will stick around.
    – Verbeia
    Commented May 28, 2013 at 22:36
  • By the way, is it normal that all this extra information including a baptismal certificate is included with the marriage licence? That would make it much easier to trace from married couple to birth record.
    – Verbeia
    Commented May 29, 2013 at 12:36

As a general caution, the FamilySearch collection from which the later entry you refer to (marriage between Nathaniel Claughton and Sarah Smith) comes includes this in the description of the collection:

It is not necessarily intended to index any specific set of records. This index is not complete for any particular place or region. This collection may include information previously published in the International Genealogical Index or Vital Records Index collections.

It's therefore necessary to investigate exactly what the underlying source is for any entry you find in this database (via the source film number).

Searching the FHL catalog for the source film number in question leads to: https://familysearch.org/search/catalog/395276

So the extra data does not come from the Bishops Transcripts at all, but from the Marriage Bond. These are available online for a fee at origins.net -- you can buy 72 hours access for quite a reasonable sum.

I suspect the two Nathaniel's are the same person, who learned to write (or at least sign nis name) in the intervening period, but you could consult the Marriage Bonds to be certain.

The same process for the earlier entry reveals that that entry comes from the Bishops Transcripts for Guisely.


In response to your general question:

Is it common for FamilySearch.org indexes of marriages (and burials, I suppose) to have extraneous information added compared to the original parish register, and if so, how much weight should be put on that extra information if it conflicts with a scan of the parish register?

It is not uncommon for parish registers and bishop's transcripts to be different. There are two general types of differences - transcription or copying errors, and copying additions or corrections. In the first case, I can picture a clerk (or cleric) trying to copy the parish register (PR) and making the bishop's transcript (BT). After writing down part of the entry from the PR into the BT, he returns to the PR and picks up from the wrong line and accidentally puts the first half of one entry and the second half of the next entry as if it were one entry. You can usually pick up this type of error by comparing the PR and the BT. In some dioceses, there are also Archdeacon's transcripts (AT). The BTs were copies every March, and the ATs were copied every September, so there's an original and two separate nearly contemporary copies. I remember one entry in Norfolk where where the spelling and sex of a child vary--with three different versions of the same entry!

It is also not uncommon to see corrections or additions. I have several in my family where a mother's given name was different in the BT from the PR, and other evidence clearly shows it is the BT which was correct. I suspect this happens when two people were involved in making the copy (one reading and the other writing). I can picture the clerk or churchwarden writing down what the rector reads, and saying, "that isn't right. I know that family and the wife's name is Elizabeth, not Rebecca," and then writing the correct name in the BT.

It pays to check both (or all three) whenever there is any discrepancy with conclusions drawn from other records.

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