Genealogy is not without its challenges and puzzles. Indeed some instances are more challenging than others.
I was presented with the task of confirming the place of birth for Kennedy Kane McArthur, a postman from Dervock, County Antrim who represented South Africa at the 1912 Olympics and won gold in the marathon. I had a date of birth – 10th February 1881 – along with birth dates for five siblings called Agnes b. 26th May 1879, Sarah b. 12th October 1887, Robert b. 14th May 1890, Samuel b. 1st October 1894 - d. 3rd February 1900 of extensive burns and Albert b. 29th November 1896. All of the siblings could be accounted for, their father was called Robert McArthur and their mother was Mary Ann Johnston. I went to search for Kennedy Kane’s birth record and…there was nothing. Absolutely nothing. Now Robert McArthur and Mary Ann Johnston did have a child on 10thFebruary 1881 but he was called Robert. Normally in cases where couples have used the same name twice it can be an indication that one of the children has died. Searches of the death records did not reveal a Robert McArthur dying as an infant or child.
Several extensive searches and many hours later, there was still no birth record for a Kennedy Kane McArthur. A rather large brick wall was in front of me and there seemed to be no way in which to break it down. So far I was only finding the name Kennedy Kane McArthur on passenger lists, masonic lists and a register for post office employees.
I thought I would do one more general search of all the databases available on the particular site that I was using at the time. The search revealed a database called British Civil Service Evidence of Age and there was a record for a Kennedy Kane McArthur. Upon gaining access to the record, it revealed quite the revelation. I will let the sworn affidavit of Mary Ann McArthur tell you the rest:
I Mary Ann McArthur of Bally[ineligible] do solemnly and sincerely declare that I am the mother of Kennedy Kane McArthur who was born on the 10th day of February 1881 at Dervock in the County of Antrim. Before he was baptised and while his father, Robert McArthur, was about in Scotland, I went to Dr PG Camack, the Dispensary Doctor and Registrar of Births for Dervock Dispensary and registered the child as “Robert” after his father on the 20th day of February 1881. A few days afterwards his father returned home and asked that the child should be named “Kennedy Kane” after a friend of his own and he was baptised on the 20th day of March 1881; as will appear by the certificate of baptism accompanying and one which I have made my name at the time of signing this declaration.
I did not after the child’s baptism go and have the name [ineligible] with the Dispensary Registrar as I did not at the time think the matter was of any importance.
No importance!? From a genealogical point of view it is very much of great importance!