Friday, October 30, 2015

Darned Pitfalls in Records

Genealogy can be scarry.Tom Jones shared a quote in his NGS 2015 conference presentation that I liked and thought I would share. Helen Hinchliff said,

The reconstruction of families and ancestral lineages is an intellectual exercise far more complex than any inspired novice can imagine. … [There are] pitfalls into which the cautious can stumble and the more trusting can drown.

Source: Helen Hinchliff, “Pitfalls in Genealogical Research: Michael Mumper Reexamined,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 82 (March 1994): 50.


  1. Ancestry DNA plus a good-sized family tree can bring out some bizarre discrepancies in records. The family tree of one DNA contact showed the same 5th gg-mother as my family tree but a different 5th gg-father, which would mean that the 5th gg-mother had two entirely different and large sets of children born during the same time period. Clearly impossible. Turned out that the 16 Dec 1755 marriage was indexed twice, showing different grooms for the same bride. Evidently a very old error as both possibilities have accumulated a lot of adherents over the years.

    The gravestone of the 5th gg-mother gives her married surname, proving which marriage index is correct. It was then necessary to locate the true mother of the second set of children, a fact which had been obscured by decades of well-intentioned but faulty research. But once that individual had been found, everything fell into place.

    An interesting result is that the original Ancestry-calculated link between me and my DNA contact is entirely invalid - the 5th gg-mother is not my ancestor. Although the correct link is not presently known, we have a number of surnames in common during the same time period and in the same location, so routine research should give us the answer.

    (Note to Insider - not as dramatic as the case of Uncle Al and Albert Gerard, but still challenging.)

  2. Reminds me of a medical saying: if you hear hoof beats, don't first think ZEBRAS. (It's probably a horse.) So, yes, there are some perplexing puzzles. BUT most of the "attaching sources" work is just a series of clicks and if some get attached to the wrong place, they can easily be detached. We need to inspire and encourage lots of help! Saying you'll stumble or drown will probably prevent activity when we need more help. -just 2 cents


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