Tombstone Errors: William Custard, Egypt Mills PA

Once again while browsing the images in Family Search's Pennsylvania Probate Records I happened upon an entry which surprised me:  William Custard's Last Will and Testament, Wayne Co Wills, Vol. I, No. 12, is clearly probated in 1806.  His tombstone, located at the Swartwood burying ground in Pike County Pennsylvania, bears a death date of 1826

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Heirs:  Son William, unnamed children, grandson Benjamin (son of William) and wife Sary

Witnessed by John Nyce and Barnardus Swartwood; John Brodhead, Register

A couple of possibilities come to mind - a well meaning descendant found and replaced a partially illegible stone or perhaps, based on family tradition, placed a new stone in the burying ground in memory of their ancestor.

The error exists in the 1933 transcription page of Cemeteries, Graveyards and Burying Grounds in Pike Co PA, on the State's 1935 Veteran Burial Card, on Find A Grave's website memorial for William, and in countless family trees. Multiple copies of my photo of the headstone (used without permission or credit) have appeared on spreading the erroneous date like a virus across the net.

It's a lovely tombstone, with a crisp inscription & not a lichen to be seen. I remember wondering at the time if it were a replacement.

Tombstone errors spawn questions:  Is a calculated birth date valid? Was the 1933 transcription the cause or merely a reflection of the error?  Is the matching tombstone of Sarah Swartwood, his wife, also harboring mistaken information?

Are Sarah and William actually buried here? I would venture the opinion that their remains very likely are buried here given the names and dates on the weathered headstones of relatives, friends and neighbors who do rest in peace in the old burying grounds.    

The similarities of material, shape, lettering & weathering of the following Custard tombstones leads me to believe that they are replacements, carved & placed at the same time as those of William Sr & Sarah. Further research is in order to confirm these dates:

Elizabeth Custard, d 1850
Margaretia, wife of Mason D Custard, d 18_?
William Custard, d 1862

The following well weathered Custard family tombstones appear to be original headstones placed at the time of burial:
Frances M d 1856
Ira D d 18__?
Rufus H, son of Cyrus & Francis, 1858

Swartwood is located off Rt 209 in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, between Dingmans Ferry and Bushkill PA. Watch for the sign for Mile Marker 4. Pull in to the semi-circle gravel parking area directly opposite the entrance to Valley View Group Campsites.

Park and walk back along the northern entrance drive, look for a footpath on the left which will open up to a woods road. Take the right fork of the woods road and follow to the top of the bluff overlooking the river valley.

View Minisink Valley Genealogy in a larger map

For readers unfamiliar with the probate process, the appearance in court of the witnesses to the signing of the Will determines its validity and is the first step in the administration of the estate.  

The court process by which a Will is proved valid or invalid. The legal process wherein the estate of a decedent is administered. 

When a person dies, his or her estate must go through probate, which is a process overseen by a probate court. If the decedent leaves a will directing how his or her property should be distributed after death, the probate court must determine if it should be admitted to probate and given legal effect.