Monday, August 4, 2014

How to Stop the Circulation of Bad Family Tree Data

When I first began into geneaology, I was astounded and delighted with the amount of information I found in already-created family trees online.  With the click of a few buttons, someone else's entire gedcom could be integrated with me.  Hundreds - or even thousands of years of ancestry scored in a matter of a few minutes!
Ancestry.com, ftdna.com and other similar genealogy research sites have made it easy to research, publish, share and copy family trees, even if you have zero genealogy research experience.  They have also made it terribly easy to amplify the errors of the inexperienced exponentially.

So, then came the part where I realized most of what I got from others was trash.  I spent days - nay, weeks, weeding out individuals and relationships that were not possible or were not borne out by proof. Amidst all my grumbling and complaining and kicking myself for ever having used them to begin with, I started to see some common threads between the inaccuracies.  I think much of it comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of what constitutes proof versus evidence, some of it is wishful thinking and some of it is just an honest mistake.

Whatever combination of these it is, some "genealogists" leap over impossible hurdles to make connections that are not there.  Mothers give birth to babies posthumously or at the age of two.  Father's father children years after their own death.  Mothers have children a mere two months apart.  Mothers and fathers live to a hundred to give birth to a baby.  There was a king or queen or famous person once, who lived in the same city and they had an unknown child when they were 205 years old who was my 32nd great grandfather.  What?

I have, in my own family, several examples of these myths becoming fact without any real logical foundation. One of them is the myth of Jordanus de Sheppey who is, 90% of the time, mistakenly reported to be the son of King Harold II.

The Norwood line can be traced fairly unerringly back to a man named Jordanus de Sheppey.  The myth in the Norwood clan (in short) is that during his life, Harold Godwinson (King Harold II) had a son who hid away on the Isle of Sheppey and changed his name to Jordanus, becoming Jordanus de Sheppey. There is absolutely nothing in the way of proof tying King Harold to the Norwood family and it is actually mathematically impossible that Harold's son is 'our' Jordanus.  [3]   But despite the story failing basic proof and logic tests, it continues to be propagated - and even argued - mostly because, I think, being related to a king is better than being related to a.... brick wall.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Norwood Heraldry

When I began my genealogical research, I began in Tennessee and South Carolina with Southern American folk.  I never imagined I'd run into anything quite like I did with the Norwood line, a well documented family of knights and English land owners that I became fascinated and fell in love with.  I trace my lineage to the Norwoods via my 5th great grandmother, Elizabeth Norwood.  She married George Yarbrough and they were the great grandparents of Alexander Yarbrough, my third great grandfather.

In researching this branch of my family, their heraldry factors prominently into the pieces of their history that still remain.  Eventually, I wanted to recreate an image of their heraldry and in doing so, began to research it more specifically.

Although I began researching the Norwood de Sheppey heraldry, I quickly ascertained that there is no such thing as a family coat of arms. [11]  Instead, each individual family member achieves their own heraldry that is specific to them and their accomplishments.  Thus, this wound up being a journey through the history of the Norwood Heraldry.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Using Evernote for Genealogy Research


Could I just say... I pretty much live in genealogy geek paradise.
  • I have covered 4,000 years of family history in my research.
  • I have squirreled away tens of thousands of pages of genealogy related books, photos research reports, newspaper articles, vital records and pages of notes in 700 documents
  • My research includes over 30 years of effort from my grandmother and me
.... and I can find absolutely any of it within seconds.  

I can cross reference the state of Tennessee with the name Yarbrough or find every note, photo or scrap of evidence related to my civil war ancestor, Drew Sinks with a few clicks or by typing a few words.  I can create entire research articles with full citations within hours or days instead of weeks.  I have access to entire digitized books on the history of Kent or North Carolina that mentions my ancestors.

I can do all of that with Evernote.  And it can be done for free!  Evernote is a note taking application that I use to organize pdfs, images, documents and research notes related to almost every aspect of my life - but more specifically, to this blog, my family tree stuff.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

John and Patience Turner


John Turner's mark
This is the story of my 5th great grandfather and grandmother, John and Patience Turner.  I first discovered them while researching my Hursey family.  There were smatterings here and there on the internet about it.  John was a slave and his freedom was purchased by his wife.  What?!  Surely, I would have heard about this from my grandmother, who was the family genealogist and our connection to the Hursey family.  But I hadn't.  So I assumed I must have made a mistake and I'd have to come back later to it to prove out my connection to this man - or disprove it.  I came back it early this year when a DNA test revealed Yoruban ancestry that would, in part, be explained by this connection.

Patience's father's name and date and place of birth are unknown.  Her mother was named Rachael Smith and was from Halifax Co., NC.  Rachael was of Irish descent and died while Patience was still a child.  [1][4]

By 1769, Patience's last name was Turner. [2]  Given the evidence I have regarding her maiden name, I believe that this is because she and John married before he was freed (see below) and she took his last name.

It's at this point that I should mention that although I did find some statements about Patience's racial identity being 'mulatto' while doing this research, I was not able to confirm that.  In fact, the evidence I've seen seems to indicate that she was not multiracial.  Although I can find one court record that said "Patience Turner passed and was received as a free white woman not having more than 1/4th negro blood" [6][13], and one could surmise that wouldn't need to be said if she was clearly white, 'less than 1/4th negro blood' could technically include no African heritage and the statement may have been made simply because she was married to a man of color so someone thought it needed to be on the record, so this statement is not evidence of African descent.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mattie Clark Sinks - My Family's Lewis and Clark Mystery

This post is one part biography and one part mystery.  Although I know some about Mattie from interviews with family, I have been unable to trace her family past her.  I've stuck with this one pretty tenaciously because there is a family story that we "are related to either Lewis or Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition" via my great grandmother, Mattie.  I'm hoping that by posting this information, someone who has some of my missing pieces will see it.

I started at both ends... by researching Mattie and also by researching William Clark and Meriweather Lewis.  What I was hoping is that by staring at both ends, I could try to narrow down the possible relation connections and/or find a link to Mattie via the known descendants of either man.  That didn't work out as well as I'd hoped.

My great grandmother, Mattie Clark, was born 2 Jun 1878 to Jam Clark and M Parmellia Lewis Clark in Tennessee.  [2][4][8]  She does not have an official birth record or a delayed birth record with the state of Tennessee.  As of the time of her death, she had the following half brothers and sisters : Ed Clark, Nashville, Mrs Myrtle Bateman and Mrs EJ Wyatt, Erin, TN and Mrs L O Rye, Birmingham, AL. John Clark, Tennessee Ridge, TN [2].  Being that the males have the last name Clark, these half siblings are likely her father's children with a different mother and are  most likely born after the 1880 census in which James appears with Mattie's mother.