TSGS Cruiser Blog

Saturday, March 14, 2009

"Poeny Flatt"

The cry of warning for the last several years has been to beware of the Internet because so much of the data does not have any documentation. To many who are worried about beginners losing there way, this is the biggest genealogical crisis of our day. It is important to have the source of your information listed with your data. This allows others to check your findings and to be able to determine the weight of the source as to its probable reliability. What about other media that publish genealogical data like books and newspapers? Much of it is also undocumented and sometimes not accurate. Often there are errors in books that are published transcriptions of original records. There are the obvious “human errors” of typo errors, skipped data, transposing letters or the ever tempting error of correcting the spelling or errors in the records. And, of course, there are errors in original documents – some are falsified records for whatever reasons. I think the biggest error is interpreting handwriting over the ages in addition to the faded or stained condition of the records.

I have an example of a reliable transcriber who has published many genealogical research books. This one is about “Poeny” Flatt. The Flatt families were heavily concentrated in New Jersey in the 1700's. They began migrating together with the oldest seeming to be three brothers: John, Henry and the oldest Benjamin. Location and record after another these three and others could be found as they migrated from place to place. One time though it appeared that Old Benjamin must have died as he was not listed with the others. There were several “new” Flatt men that must have come of age during this time and one had an odd name that the transcriber just mentioned decided that the name was clearly spelled “Poeny” Flatt. Later in another location Old Benjamin shows up again, he did not die afterall. I suspected that he was just missed in the transcribing from the original record. So, I got the microfilm of it and went through it... I did not find a Benjamin either. I took a close look at the name “Poeny” and became suspicious of the beginning of his name and I found another man with the first name that almost looked like “Poeny” except the first letters looked kind of like it could be one letter a “B.” Then I found a family “Butler” that had a similar “B” that could pass for “Po” if you were not careful. I went back to the Poeny Flatt and noticed that the “y” looked more like a “j” to me. I thought about this for a few seconds and realized that the letters were actually “B-e-n-j” WOW it was the abbreviation of Benj. Mystery solved. I sent this around to everyone that I could find that had “Poeny” Flatt. Amazing that now we see Benjamin as having a nickname of “Poeny” which many has insisted is a spelling error for the nickname of “Poney” or “Pony” with at least two insisting that he was named after the flower “Peony.”

- Submitted by JGWest

NOTE: The Benjamin "Poeny" Flatt that has been transformed into "Poney" is a transcription error for the name "Benj." I have seen the microfilmed copy of the records that list old Benjamin as "Poeny" - the "P" & "o" combine to form the capital letter "B" and the "y" is the letter "j" which all put together is "B+en+j" = "Benj." the common abbreviation for the name "Benjamin". This is my favorite example I use in my "Old Handwriting" sessions I present at our genealogical library and for members of my genealogical society and to the 4-H kids I help in their genealogy projects. JGW

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