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

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Generation Compulsion

Which of us in the genealogy world can resist the generation compulsion? We always want to add just one more generation to our pedigrees. The same compulsion moved the pioneers across the United States. The country was apparently empty, except for the people who were living there already territory, and beckoning them to risk life and limb to explore. Those blank spaces in a fan chart format are irresistible. But unlike the early pioneers in America, we can jump over all the intervening territory and start with the search for the blank space. In some genealogists, the compulsion is so strong that they cannot control themselves and they add name after name to the pedigree chart with no research or sources at all. They just need to feed their compulsion with names. Any name will do and at the same time, why not add random dates and places?

Here is an example of this compulsion from the Family Tree:

Of course this Colgrove person has no sources. But it is even more interesting to look at his detail page (By the way, I am sure that Colgrove and his wife, Mrs., were very happy).

Apparently, his parents could not decide on a given name and simply called him "Colgrove." You can see that there are two entries confirming that this was his birth name. What is even more interesting about this person are his birth and death places. He was evidently born in "South Kingston, Washington, Rhode Island, United States" in 1630. 

Now that I think about it, this entry makes groundbreaking history. Not only was the United States around in 1630, but the town of South Kingston and Washington County were also there and as a bonus, we get the state of Rhode Island!!!

My, I did not know I had such remarkable ancestors. Just think of all the things I can learn from poking around in Family Tree.

Well, the last time I checked, the United States didn't actually come into existence until sometime after 1776. Most historians date the existence of the "United States of America" from the date of 1776, even though there are those that refer to the United States going all the way back to 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

As for Rhode Island, I would suggest that there is little controversy over the fact that Roger Williams was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1635 and established the first colony in the area we now call Rhode Island in 1636 on land "purchased" (???) from the Narragansett Indian Tribe. 

Unless South Kingston and Washington County pre-existed the settlement of the land in 1630, they did not exist either. I am wondering what a lone European White lady was doing wandering around in the Indian territory having a baby, but I guess it was entirely possible. 

Too bad we can't develop a vaccine against the generation compulsion. Wait, I assumed that Colgrove and his Mrs. were happy. I think I will revisit that conclusion. I think having a baby out there in the wilderness was not likely a very easy or happy event. Maybe I should go look for a photo of the lovely couple standing beside their rough hewn log cabin out there on the Atlantic coast in 1630. That is about as likely as finding a source for the claim. 


  1. You make a very good point. But I think you picked a poor example of what you are discussing. This family is not an example for what not to do in genealogy, but is instead an example of what to do in temple work, at least according to the old handbook, which would have been in force in 1992.

    “For a sealing to parents, you also need to know: The name of at least the father. You must provide at least his … surname.” “If you do not know a mother’s name, enter Mrs. in the given name field and the husband's last name…” “If you cannot find an exact date, you can approximate or calculate the date based on the best information you can find.” [Such as estimating a marriage date as one year before the birth of the oldest child. Estimated places were also acceptable.] “Whenever possible, parents should be sealed to each other before the children are sealed to the parents.” (New FamilySearch Website: User’s Guide, Appendix G :Policies for Preparing Names of Deceased Ancestors for Temple Work)

    Where you see someone with a compulsion to add one more generation, I see someone with a compulsion to get his last known ancestor sealed to his parents and someone who strictly followed the then current handbook in how to do this.

    1. These guidelines have changed. However, the document you quote says, "While it is possible to perform ordinances with minimal information, careful research for accurate and complete information before ordinance work will help prevent
      duplications." The entry is bogus not done after careful research. Whether or not it complies with any guidelines, it is poor genealogy. The existing rules were not "strictly followed" You cannot excuse poor genealogy by making up a place, a name and dates. The cited record is a long way from the "best information you can find." The entry is an attempt to circumvent the rules, not follow them.

    2. If this was acceptable genealogy according to any guideline, we could have our tree riddled with surnames and the missus and not give it a second thought. Why take the time to find such specifics as birth and death dates when estimations will do? We could create a whole tree with estimations. What we are really after, is "a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation."

      This post by the way, is mixed with great evidence of James Tanner's sense of humor!