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Sunday, June 26, 2011

What Me Worry? Who needs evidence?

One of my friends came to me with a photocopy of sheet he got from his sister. The sheet showed an ancestral line going back to two of the passengers on the Mayflower. He wanted to know about the line and so we looked at what was on Let's just say that was not a positive experience. One of the first things we ran into was the common problem of showing a child in the family of a grandparent. In other words, skipping a generation. I could go on with a tirade about the Mayflower descendants but that should probably be saved for another time when I am not worked up on the subject.

I also have a Mayflower line and that was one of the very early issues that I dealt with when I was just beginning genealogy. I have a lot of company, I commonly read that somewhere around 10% of the entire population of U.S. can trace one or more lines back to the Mayflower passengers. Now what about going back further? Let me give you an example. My ancestor, Francis Cooke. This is the simple statement about his own ancestral line: "Francis Cooke was born about 1583.  His origins have not been discovered, but it is probable he was born in England, perhaps from the Canterbury or Norwich areas." See for Francis Cooke. OK, then what about another of my Mayflower ancestors, Richard Warren from the same website:
Richard Warren's English origins and ancestry have been the subject of much speculation, and countless different ancestries have been published for him, without a shred of evidence to support them.  Luckily in December 2002, Edward Davies discovered the missing piece of the puzzle.  Researchers had long known of the marriage of Richard Warren to Elizabeth Walker on 14 April 1610 at Great Amwell, Hertford.  Since we know the Mayflower passenger had a wife named Elizabeth, and a first child born about 1610, this was a promising record.  But no children were found for this couple in the parish registers, and no further evidence beyond the names and timing, until the will of Augustine Walker was discovered.  In the will of Augustine Walker, dated April 1613, he mentions "my daughter Elizabeth Warren wife of Richard Warren", and "her three children Mary, Ann and Sarah."  We know that the Mayflower passenger's first three children were named Mary, Ann, and Sarah (in that birth order).  See Richard Warren.
As a matter of fact, very few of the Mayflower passengers have verified ancestry. So, what does this have to do with evidence? Let's go to the Genealogical Proof Standard. The very first element is that of a reasonably exhaustive search. I think that means that you should look around and see if there is anything out there about your family before you come to a conclusion. The explanatory note for this element assumes an examination of a wide range of high quality sources."

Now, I could go out and take a survey of a few dozen or so genealogists and see if they agree that you should look at "a wide range of high quality sources" but I really don't need to do that. People, even genealogists, vote with their feet. In other words, their work is an indication of both their beliefs and understanding about the need to search before coming to a conclusion. OK, I did a search on the Internet about my ancestors Richard Warren and Francis Cooke. What now? I am going to look at a random sample of people who have "researched" those same individuals. Guess where I am going to look? Yes, you guessed it. where all of my combined relatives have their efforts open to at least a small part of the world, to see.

Hmm. Let's see, I go back through my Tanner line to the Tefts, then to the Brownells, Tabers and finally Cookes. John Cooke married Sarah Warren, so I am related to both Francis Cooke and Richard Warren. Wait! There is an arrow pointing out beyond Francis Cooke! Can it be that the combined research of the professional genealogists for the past 300 years have wasted their time? All they really needed to do was go on New FamilySearch!!!!

There are parents for both Francis Cooke and his wife Hester Le Mahieu and the line goes on. In fact, the line goes on for about 18 more generations. What a gold mine. Just think of all the time those Mayflower genealogists have wasted.  Oh, no. There is a warning sign in New FamilySearch, after going back almost 30 generations, I see that the program says: "Duplication found in the pedigree." The program won't let me go back any further. Too bad there wasn't a warning message clear back there with Francis Cooke saying anything beyond this point is pure speculation and probably false.

By the way, the line ends with Lord Pagunus De Villiers Pain I but the date on the entry in NFS is off by about 100 years, so who cares anyway, What Me Worry? Who needs evidence?

I will keep on with evidence in the future since I didn't make much headway in this post.

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