We recently got a strong reminder that sometimes family recollections of birth and death dates are not the end-all and be-all.
One of our clients came to us with just a few pieces of information to start with. He knew a reasonable amount about his mother's side of the family, including some auspicious family legends that he wanted to learn the truth about. The thing he didn't know about was his father.
See, his father left the family when he was 10, in about 1963 and died at the age of 45 when he was 16... or so he thought.
We spent hours looking for someone named Lee Gray in the right city, who was born in 1918. We found nothing beyond one 1960 directory that offered us no new information, aside from confirming that he was a real person. So we extended the search to include surrounding towns and still found nothing. Around this time we became concerned that something was wrong. Had he changed his name perhaps? Was he not actually from our client's home town at all?
That was when we decided to try expanding the range of birth and death dates. We had been told he was born in 1918 and died in 1963, but perhaps our client was wrong.
That turned out to be the right thing to do. As soon as we expanded the dates, we found Lee Gray, who was born not in 1918, but in 1927, and who did not die until 1977. Once we had broken through this brick wall, following Lee Gray's family line back through time turned out to be much easier than expected.
All of this served as a good reminder that sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes our memories turn out to be fallible after all and then it's best to use a little creativity. So next time you are stuck in a search, consider expanding the range of dates, even if you think you are completely certain about the dates you have.