RootsTech 2015

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

Friday, June 17, 2011

Moving on down the trail with Ancestry.com

In my last post, I began an experiment to see if I could use Ancestry.com to find information about one of my end-of-line (EOL) ancestors. The try was inconclusive as far as I went because I never got to the target ancestor. I got bogged down trying to find some evidence along the way. Just to clarify, here is the series of ancestors I am working on, starting with my Great-grandfather Henry Martin Tanner:
  • Henry Martin Tanner, whose father was
  • Sidney Tanner, whose father was
  • John Tanner, whose wife was
  • Lydia Stewart, whose father was
  • William Stewart, born abt 1751, perhaps in Bolton, Warren, New York
William Stewart and his wife Amy Hulton (Hutton) are my current EOL couple. Just to give some perspective, John Tanner probably appears in thousands of people's pedigrees. A Google search on "John Tanner" + new york + genealogy returns 178,000 results. There are, of course, several different John Tanners. I did a post a year or so ago on Finding John Tanner which will also give you some perspective.

Enough introduction, let's just say I didn't choose the most obscure family in the world to test online searches. I told how I got to Sidney Tanner and did not find any primary source records in Ancestry.com. Well, I decided to check that out again and do a further search. I entered Sidney Tanner into the Ancestry.com search and immediately got him identified and the program automatically entered all of his information into the search fields. I expanded the search to include historical records, stories and publications, family trees, and photos and maps.

I immediately found a picture of Sidney's headstone, which was nice, but I had already gone to Beaver, Utah and taken my own picture years ago. I also found someone's Society of Mayflower Descendants decendancy line through John Tanner, which I discovered about 30 years ago. I even found a copy of a photo of Sidney Tanner's house, taken by my sister, which I posted online years ago. Another discovery was an English Royal Line Ancestors for the Tanner Family. I could go on and on, literally, there were 109,891 returns. I thought I had better limit my search, after all I was looking for documentation of Sidney Tanner's parents.

I took out the photos and maps since they were beginning to get very repetitious. I found a nice short history of Sidney written by my first cousin Pearl Tanner Jacobson for the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. I realize that most people who were looking for an ancestor would be turning cartwheels by this time, but this was almost all very predictable copied information. For example, here is the book about him:
De Brouwer, Elizabeth. Sidney Tanner, His Ancestors and Descendants: Pioneer Freighter of the West, 1809-1895. Salt Lake City, Utah (4545 S. 2760 E., Salt Lake City 84117): S. Tanner Family Organization, 1982.

Everything, so far, was simply copied from that or other books about Sidney Tanner or his family. Nice books but almost devoid of source documentation. For example, the Sidney Tanner book copies verbatim the history contained in the previously printed John Tanner Family 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. 1923.
And so forth and so forth.

So perhaps you can see why I chose to do my experiment with the Tanner family line. You just might expect that with all of Ancestry.com's 30,000 plus databases, one of them might have given a little bit more source information beyond the plethora of printed copied sources. In all those sources, by the way, there does not seem to be even the slightest interest expressed in Sidney's mother's line.

OK, this could go on forever and simply talk about copied and re-copied information. I went back to Ancestry.com now. Further searches could not penetrate the haze of copies. I could not find even one primary source record showing Sidney Tanner's parents. Everyone knows that Sidney's parents were John Tanner and Lydia Stewart, but no one has apparently bothered to show a contemporary source.  Does such a record exist? Can I trace my genealogy in a credible, acceptable manner back to the Stewarts? Am I just a cranky old codger out here muttering about sources?

For now, I will have to give up trying to find some source information, I am going to do what I have told hundreds of people not to do, that is jump some generations back to the Stewarts. Maybe, just maybe Ancestry.com can help me with his family if I skip all the copies in the Tanner line?

But I have to stop for today and work on my post for TechTips. See you in the next installment.

1 comment:

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