“Constant vigilance!” — J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Mad Eye Moody’s advice to the Hogwarts students was essential for them and remains apt for anyone doing historical research. Whether working on a large history project or a modest family tree, constant vigilance is needed to avoid bad information. Fortunately, the historian or genealogist’s dementors are not deadly wraiths ready to suck the life force from us, but more mundane creatures such as typos, inaccessible or hard-to-read documents, and—most vexingly—mystery data.
For some reason, in my database I had recorded that Jonathan and Mary Clark’s sixth child, daughter Laura, had a middle name of “Mandlena.” This—unless I’ve overlooked some important but now lost evidence—was nonsense. It’s the sort of mistake that creeps into historical writing via random error; I don’t know how I managed to make this particular honker. So for the record, the Clark’s sixth child was Laura Marcelleau Clark.
I’ve also seen her middle name spelled “Marcellean” in a record or index or two, but in my opinion, these are derivative, mis-read or mis-transcribed records. The images I’ve seen of contemporary records—for example, Laura’s 1872 marriage record with Benjamin Bleyer—has “Marcelleau” written pretty clearly, but perhaps the cursive can be mis-read by an indexer as “Marcellean” (see line 7 on the image; click to open larger image in new window):
I’m convinced, from this record and others, that Marcelleau is correct. Now, you may ask, where does “Marcelleau” come from? Beats me, but I’m working on it…