Friday, 4 February 2011

A Grave mistake

I was recently attaching a document to the name of Mary McIlhagga (1860-1940) of Belfast in my Computer Family History Programme. This was an extract from the Will Calendars at PRONI (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland). It gave the dates of her death and of the grant of probate and also the value of her effects in the following extract, "McIlhagga Mary of Newmarket Villas Whiteabbey county Antrim spinster died 25 May 1940 Probate Belfast 19 July 1940 to Robert McIlhagga coal merchant and Rebecca Kennett widow Effects £293. 18s. 7d".

Robert and Rebecca were two of Mary's siblings. Now my record already had a date of death recorded for Mary, 14th October 1940, which I had noted from the Memorial Inscription on a headstone in Kirkhill Cemetery, Connor, which had been erected by Mary's brother, Robert. I think we can take it that the extract from the Will Calendar is correct. If the probate had been granted in July Mary could not have died in October. Clearly the Memorial Inscription is wrong. It shows how careful you have to be to check what you assume to be facts. Either Robert had forgotten when his sister died, which is somewhat unlikely, or else the stone mason had made a mistake. I think the latter is very likely as the date of 14th October is a repetition of the date he had carved two lines up, the date on which Robert's uncle, Robert McCullough died.

I wrote about the Kirkhill headstone in my blog of 2nd February 2009, headed 'Two Johns'. If someone would like to photograph this gravestone and email me a copy, I would be most grateful. I have to say that my information about the details on the stone come from a third party, and of course the mistake might be his, and not that of the stone mason after all!

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