The first obvious reason to record sibling names is to help find the family in census records. This is especially helpful when your ancestor has a common name, but their sibling doesn't. It's much easier to search for records for "Beulah" than "Anne". But here is a more unusual problem where siblings came in handy.
Mt 2x great grandmother is Marie Victorine FERGUSON. On 24 November 1874 she marries Jean MALLAIS. In the Drouin Collection on Ancestry for the area of Tracadie, New Brunswick it has their marriage. The entry is written in French, but it states that "...Marie Victorine Ferguson, fille majeur de David Ferguson et de defunte Charlotte Savoie...". This translates to Victorine is the daughter of David FERGUSON and the deceased Charlotte SAVOIE, and that she is at least 18 years old (the age of majority to marry). So what's the problem you ask? Seems pretty straight forward.
Well, the only marriage I can find for David is to a Julienne GAUTRAULT. This marriage takes place in the register for Caraquet in 1836. There is only one David Ferguson in the area at the time, so I know I have at least the right man. I cannot find a death for Julienne. I find a transcription for David's headstone on the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB). It says that he is the husband of Julienne GAUTREAU. I find David's burial in the Drouin. It states that he is the widower of Julienne GOTREAU. I look at a death certificate for Victorine and it states that the informant did not know who her parents were:
Next I take a look at census records for Victorine before she marries in 1874. In the 1871 census for Suamarez, Gloucester County, New Brunswick she is living with her widowed father and her younger brother Bernard. It states that she is born about 1851:
Unfortunately, the 1851 census records for Gloucester County have not survived, so that's the end of the trail by this route. But we now have the names of four siblings for Victorine. So I start to look at baptisms for the children in the Tracadie registers of the Drouin:
- Esther: baptized 5 December 1842 "...of the lawful marriage (of) David Ferguson and Julienne Gotreau..."
- William: "Guillaume" baptized 14 August 1843 "...de legitime marriage de David Ferguson, et de Julienne Gotreau..."
- Christina: none found
- Marie Victorine: none found
- Bernard: baptized 15 December 1850 "...de legitime marriage de David Ferguson et de Julienne Gotreau..."
In the process I also find baptisms for three more siblings that are older than Esther:
- Anne: baptized 17 March 1838 "...fille legitime de David Ferguson et de Julienne Gaudrot..."
- Charlotte: baptized 11 January 1840 "...ne le 24 novembre de David Fergusson et de Julienne Gautrault..."
- Guillaume: baptized 7 March 1839 "...ne le 20 novembre de David Fergusson et de Julienne Gautrault..."
Ok. So all of Victorine's older siblings baptisms' that we could find say that Julienne is their mother. That doesn't really answer the question for us though, because Julienne we know has passed away. Charlotte Savoie could have entered the picture afterward, and very well be Victorine's mother. The one that we have to look at it is Bernard, Victorine's only younger sibling. According to his baptism, Julienne is his mother too. Add that to the information we also have about David, Victorine's father:
- His burial in 1877 says that he is the widower of Julienne.
- His headstone reads "husband of Julienne Gautreau".
- David is listed as a widower in the 1861 and 1871 censuses.
- We have found no corroborating marriage record between David and a Charlotte SAVOIE.
So based on all these facts, I would say that the priest in Victorine's marriage put Charlotte Savoie down in error. Julienne is actually Victorine's mother. How could that happen? Any number of reasons. We don't know if the priest wrote the entry in his book the day it happened, or a month later. He could have easily mixed up the names. I do know that the priest who baptized Bernard in 1850 was not the same one who married Victorine and Jean MALLAIS in 1874. The one who performed the marriage in 1874 probably wouldn't have known Julienne at all, as we know Julienne died sometime between 1850 (Bernard's baptism) and the 1861 census.
If I hadn't looked at the siblings of Victorine, I would not have realized what has likely happened with the mixing up of names. I would have spent countless hours trying to find a marriage between David and Charlotte that didn't exist. Now a baptism for Victorine may turn up. I hope it does, because this would either confirm or disprove my theory as it now stands.