Correcting an error

Recently, I’ve started visiting the cemeteries of my ancestors. Fortunately, most of my maternal ancestors stayed in the Boston area after immigrating, so it hasn’t been too difficult.

A few months ago, I visited St. Joseph’s Cemetery in West Roxbury in search of the headstone of my great-great-grandparents, John Henry and Anna K. (Ulrich) Hampe. After searching for some time, I finally came to the Hampe plot. Listed on the headstone are John and Anna, as well as their children Joseph M., Bernard J., Anna M., and B. Ernestine Hampe. Though I was happy to take a few pictures, I couldn’t help but feel a flicker of disappointment. With the exception of Joseph, the other Hampes buried at St. Joseph’s Cemetery only list their birth and death year, rather than the full dates of those events.

Anna K. (Ulrich) Hampe has been a bit of a puzzle for me. I knew a lot about Anna: her marriage and death dates, who her parents were, and that her father had come to Boston from Bavaria in Germany. However, I did not know when Anna was born. According to census records and her death certificate, she was born in Massachusetts in 1856. The headstone at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in West Roxbury also states that she was born in 1856, but I could not locate a birth record for her in Boston.

With the Catholic Records Project underway here at NEHGS, it seemed my luck had turned. One of the first sets of records that NEHGS scanned and digitized were the parish records for Holy Trinity Church. As I mentioned in a previous post, Holy Trinity was largely a German church, and the parish my Hampe ancestors attended. I searched through the baptism records for 1856, but was unable to locate the baptism record for Anna Ulrich.

In the 1900 U.S. Census, Anna’s birthday is listed as December 1860.[1] This census is the only record in which her birth year is not listed as 1856, so I didn’t think too much of it. However, I wondered if the birth month could at least be correct.

Click on image to expand it.

I again browsed through the December 1856 baptism records for Holy Trinity Church, but didn’t see Anna’s name. In searching one year before and after, I finally found the baptism (in Latin) for Annum Catharinam Ulrich, daughter of John Ulrich and Conradina Fichter, baptized on 28 December 1855. According to her baptism, she had been born the day before, on 27 December 1855. Her headstone was wrong!

In searching the baptism records for Anna, I was able to locate specific birthdates for Anna and her eight siblings. In addition to baptism, marriage, and death records, the digitized records for Holy Trinity Church also include an 1856 parish census which, in addition to listing the members of the church, recorded residences of parishioners living outside of Boston, as well as birthplaces in Germany.


[1] J. Henry Hampel Household, 1900 United States Federal Census, Year: 1900; Census Place: Boston Ward 17, Suffolk, Massachusetts; Roll: 684; Page: 15A; Enumeration District: 1411; FHL microfilm: 1240684.

About Katrina Fahy

Katrina, a native of Dedham, Massachusetts, earned a B.A. in History and Art History from St. Anselm College. Previously, she interned at the New Hampshire Historical Society, constructing biographies of New Hampshire quilt makers as well as transcribing a mid-nineteenth century New Hampshire diary and creating an educational program based on its contents. Katrina's research interests include New England and South East regions, as well as the American Revolution.

8 thoughts on “Correcting an error

  1. My grandfather’s entry on the family gravestone (in Brookdale Cemetery, Dedham) also has an error and there doesn’t seem to be any way to fix it (his is but one entry on a several-generations stone). In this case, as with yours, the stone is off by one year.

  2. A note could be left on a website such as with the correction. My own brother’s year of death is incorrect on the family stone erected almost 30 years after his death. I’ve considered a correction in the stone with filler and re-carving, but it wouldn’t be attractive and might not be long lasting.
    So even if it is written in stone,it can be wrong.

  3. I’ve found that Catholic records are a gold mine for identifying places. So many other sources list dates but not necessarily the places where life events happened.

  4. 27 December 1855 is very close to 1856 so, over the years as Anna Catherine’s life filled with milestones of her own making, the exact circumstances of her birth faded from memory. It’s great to have the Catholic records available through NEHGS.

    1. My mother-in-law’s gravestone is also off by a year. Everyone in the family knows it of course, but it is kind of an expensive “typo” to fix, so it will stay to confuse future generations.

  5. The date on the stone of one of my grandfathers is off by one year (he was born on 31st of Dec.) But the death record has the correct date, and so do the cemetery records, as well a other records such as his WWI draft registration. The error was the stonecutter’s, who may have known my grandfather enough to know his age, but not that it changed on the last day of the year.

  6. Interesting this shows up today. Yesterday I had the chance to visit with a family member in person to talk about correct or incorrect information. Turns out my sister remembered when my aunt died but I didn’t. So my cousin who had her information had it down as in the middle of my sisters & my date. We were both wrong. Ha, ha. The fact my sister was wrong made it worth it. Now I can find her obituary information. Only one I don’t have.

  7. I see on the Census record your family lived at 60 Yeoman Street. My g’grandparents lived at 42 and 32 Yeoman St. about that same time. I have a couple of photos taken of the area (long gone) from that time. While searching for my own family names in the Holy Trinity Church records 1886-1894 I’ve come across one of their children, Conradina, born 1 June 1890 on page 246.

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