We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about our pasts.
Yet sometimes records have anomalies.
Some are amusing or humorous.
Some are interesting or weird.
Some are peculiar or suspicious.
Some are infuriating, even downright laughable.
Yes, “Records Say the Darnedest Things.”
Records Say the Darnedest Things: Married to Herself
Here’s an interesting entry in FamilySearch Family Tree: Barbara Defty married herself and had a child when she was eight years old.
This introduces an interesting conundrum. Do you fix it?
The answer is not as simple as you might think.
- In 2009 Kelly Hildebrandt married Kelly Hildebrandt. (They have since split.)
- There are cases of women having children at age eight, or younger. (Listed in Wikipedia, some of these cases appear dubious to me. However, I didn’t check the sources myself. And I didn’t check the reputation of the cited periodicals, which include the British Medical Journal. Snopes.com weighs in on a well documented case, declaring it credible. When you think about it, a misfiring pituitary gland is the only thing required to make the possibility possible.)
- Gender-specific names don’t always guarantee gender. David Rencher’s father was named “Joy” (see “Darned Gender-Specific Names”) and David tells me that there’s an area of Arizona with several men of that name.
- Changing entries in the tree without proof is a no-no. Some “helpful” person “fixed” the entry of his father, Joy Rencher, son of Jay Rencher. Obvious typo? The birth certificate plainly shows otherwise.
- Given that you should have proof before making changes, proving a negative is very difficult. This particular alignment is possible, no matter how unlikely.
- Consulting the source might easily show the thinking of the contributor. However, FamilySearch doesn’t require sources and in this particular case the contributor did not specify any.
- Information about Barbara might make it possible to find the source yourself. However, the contributor specified no specific birth date (“before 1765”), no specific birthplace (“England”), no specific death date (“deceased”), no credible relationships, and nothing else (besides the name).
- FamilySearch doesn’t require contributors to make public any contact information and many don’t. Even when the contact information is known, FamilySearch.org doesn’t always display it, as happened while I wrote this article.)
- If the source for the contribution had been legacy Ancestral File or Pedigree Resource File, then you would not be able to discover who the contributor was, let alone contact them or their descendants. FamilySearch refuses to disclose the contributors’ contact information, even though the submission agreement explicitly gave FamilySearch rights to do so. In fact, the old FamilySearch.org website did disclose contributors’ name and contact information. Why FamilySearch refuses to do so now is… well, I can’t think of a way to end that sentence without getting myself in big trouble.
- Information from Family Tree will persist in other family trees, online and off, forever. One man’s conclusion is another man’s source. There may be information in Family Tree provided by eye witnesses that is available nowhere else. In some situations it can be used as a credible source. (I’d like to request that once a contributor is deceased, FamilySearch publicly associate the username with their entry in the tree. That would help researchers understand the strength of evidence supplied by that informant.)
Darned FamilySearch. Some of its policies and procedures are making it difficult to create an accurate Family Tree.