Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Who was Ralph Carum Tanner? And why do I care?

In my last post, I related some of the problems found in an Family Tree containing information supposedly about my Great-grandfather, Henry Martin Tanner. Primary in those problems was the addition of three extra children to the Henry Martin/Eliza Ellen Tanner Family including one "Ralph Carum Tanner." In searching the Web and in New FamilySearch, I find a number of instances of family tree submissions containing the elusive Ralph Carum Tanner as a child in the Henry Tanner family.

Looking at the entry in New, I find Ralph listed as born 6 Apr 1904 in Snowflake, Navajo, Arizona with no death date. He has some 4 combined records, all showing him as a child of Henry and Eliza and all certain about his birth in 1904. So, do I really have a long lost uncle missed by all of the other family records including U.S. Census records from 1880 to 1930? Let's search the Arizona Department of Health Services, Arizona Genealogy Birth and Death Certificates site and see if he shows up. Just to make sure, I search the Arizona records by the last name "Tanner." Eager to see if I can connect with a new near relative who apparently eluded all of his siblings and their writings also.

It turns out that the Arizona Website is a bit cranky today and doesn't want to respond. Perhaps its budget has been cut to support the crackdown on illegal aliens or the closing of the State Mineral Collection. Oh, there it is, the list of all the Tanners in Arizona who were born or died during the time period covered by the records, some 260 Tanner entries. Hummm! Guess what? There is only one Ralph T. Tanner listed and he was born in 1938 in Lowell, Cochise County, almost the entire state away from the Henry Tanner home in Navajo County. (Arizona is a really big state and Lowell is about 432 miles from Joseph City and the Henry and Eliza Tanner home.

Using some of the accumulated knowledge gained studying genealogy during the past twenty to thirty years, I make an educated guess that Ralph T. Tanner the son of William D. Tanner and Frances Cienfuegas is not the son of Henry and Eliza. But there is still all of the "evidence" on New FamilySearch and (lacking, of course, even one source citation) claiming that Henry and Eliza had a son named Ralph. On to the research.

So far, it has taken me about ten minutes or less to determine that there is a serious issue with including a child named Ralph Carum in the Henry Tanner family but the superior wisdom of all of these other Tanner family members must mean something, after all he appears on any number of family trees?

Let's get on with the search again. How about the Social Security Death index, after all, Ralph was supposedly born in 1904 and would have had a long an illustrative career under Social Security. Well, there are about 200 or so Ralph Tanners in the SSDI. Sorry, no matches. How about the Ancestral File in Bingo. There he is and guess what? He is listed as a child of Henry Martin Tanner and Eliza Ellen Parkinson. The Ancestral File shows that he was submitted by someone in Laveen, Arizona. No sources, no notes, nothing to support the claimed relationship but he is claimed to be living at the time of the submission. How about the Arizona Obituary Index, nope, no Ralph C. Tanner, only a Ralph M. born about 1925.

Hmm, where else can I look. I figure that if he was born in 1904, then if were still alive, he would now be about 106 years old. I do another search online, this time The Sprague Project. Oh dear, that site also lists the elusive Ralph Carum Tanner as a child of Henry and Eliza and also has 15 children listed, rather than the actual 11. The source in Sprague is listed as a "Family Group Sheet." I don't know if my actual knowledge that Henry and Eliza never had a son named Ralph can hold up to this superior documentation! They do claim that he is dead however. On to the Tanner book,

Tanner, Maurice, and George C. Tanner. Descendants of John Tanner: Born August 15, 1778 at Hopkintown, R.I., Died April 15, 1850 at South Cottonwood, Salt Lake County, Utah. [s.l.]: Tanner Family Association, 1942.

Sorry, we strike out here too. There is no Ralph Carum Tanner listed at all. Not even any close.

Well, let's sum up the evidence so far. Nothing. Apparently, some one believed there was person named Ralph Carum Tanner and that he was in the Henry and Eliza Tanner family but no one has taken the time or made the effort to list any documentation. None of the Arizona sources show his existence, birth records, death records, obituaries, nothing.

Who is Ralph Carum Tanner? Interesting that all these online collections of names help to multiply and perpetuate his existence. Moral of this Story: Don't believe all that you find online especially in family trees.

1 comment:

  1. You have given us a nice example of what we historians might call "an incestuous narrative," that is, one in which a number of people have fed off of one "source," generally without inquiring any further as to that source.

    (Funny side note: one of the adverts that showed up on your site today is for "Best Sunless Tanner." I assume that, since you are in Arizona, that title does not refer to you!)