Sunday, March 14, 2010

Blindly Following a Ghost Trail

In 1991, I received a large wall pedigree chart from a man who asked for help in his ancestral quest. He hoped I’d be able to help him topple a brick wall in his ancestry because of the extent of my research into my surname.

In subsequent visits to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, I poured through vital and town records hoping to find ‘the’ source that would extend his lineage back in time. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything in any of the records that helped.

Flash forward nineteen years. I opened the chart in the semi-annual ritual established in the first year I’d had it in my possession. As usual, no new information has surfaced other than a photo of his tombstone that has been posted on Find-a-grave and on a family tree in

There was never any doubt of his existence. The problem was the claims of his lineage.

The review of the current 113 family trees posted for him on Ancestry run true to form. All but a couple of them are wrong. Half boldly claim that his parents were one couple and the other half claim that they were another couple. The six that are correct are in that category because they don’t list his parents.

The trail of ants who have posted the wrong information need to be stopped in their tracks. None have sources. Apparently, none have done any original research. If they had, they would know that their claims were wrong. The town vital records prove that their claims are garbage. The four generations of Mayflower passenger books would puncture the rafts of baloney that they have cast on the waters. Even family history and less documented books would tell them to stop, backup and get their head in the correct orientation.

But alas, the team from Bug’s Life continues to pack their ‘nuggets’ while blindly following the south end of the ant in front of them. Because the nugget makes it an easy load to bear, others following them embrace it with gusto, spreading its false scent in ever widening circles.

A research note with today’s date is entered in my records (yet again), stating that regardless of the ‘new’ family trees being posted about this man, his lineage is still unknown. It will say where to find the photos of his headstone and where to find the records of his Revolutionary War service, but as much as I’d like it to, it won’t say who his parents were, where they lived or paint a lineage tree back to Adam and Eve.

Maybe the information will surface in six months during the next review of this record. I think I want to find his lineage as much as his descendants. I’ve been in the hunt for almost a score of years. Opening or closing the door in this quest would be a welcome event. Maybe, just maybe luck will be with us next time.

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NEOne said...

It's very frustrating to visit Ancestry and see the false info perpetuated there. I have been searching for parents of a particular ancestor for over 20 years, and every time a new 'parent' shows up for this ancestor on Ancestry I email the poster asking for source information, only to get a, "I'll check and get back with you" (they never do), or no response at all.

Why would one post things that haven't been checked out? Why would one say, "Oh! This man's name is John, and this older man's name is also John, so they must be father and son!"? I don't get it.

I shudder to think of all the newbies who sign up for Ancestry because they're watching "Who Do You Think You Are?" and, PRESTO!, they have an instant family tree, full of errors and unproven, unsubstantiated lineages. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

Back when I was first getting started in genealogy in the 1990s, I made some beginner errors. I was using FamilyTreeMaker and every so often it would ask me to submit my family tree to them. Being a stupid neophyte, I gave me research to them, which they published on their CDs for sale. Well, this early work was full of errors. Then it got sent to the LDS where the errors are not on their website. I have tried to make corrections where I can by commenting, but I guess that stuff is out there in virtual genealogyland forever. I am a much more savvy researcher now and my current work I post for free and share for free and if I make a booboo, I admit and make corrections. Don't trust a single family tree at the site that sells CDs. There are other sites just as bad. The LDS family trees submitted by members is also suspect unless verified. Be wary of DAR genealogies also. Some of the early ones submitted were filled with errors. I found one supposedly of an 80 year old marrying an 18 year old. The real husband of the 18 year old was about 20. Might have been a grandson of the same name. DAR requires substantial documentation for current membership. Be careful and document, document, document.

Linda said...

I agree very frustrating!!! I am related to Brian Hall b. in Raynham, MA in 1727. The Raynham vitals state that his parents are John Hall 3rd and Mary.

The Halls of New England (published genealogy) and all the other published geneologies tie him back to George Hall one of the Founders of Taunton, MA in the 1600's.

Although I can not find the John Hall to whom he is related, I am 99.99% certain that the published geneaologies have the wrong John Hall based on deeds, probate, vitals, records at the Taunton Historical Society and my brother's DNA.

There are 50-100 trees on that are unsourced but try to link Brian to George.

I recently applied to DAR and was contacted by another woman who descends through Brian Hall. We exchanged a number of emails until I sent her my information regarding the inaccuracies and never heard from her again!

It is VERY frustrating!!!!