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

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Solving a Complex Genealogical Challenge -- Charles Parkinson -- Part One

The idea of solving any complex genealogical challenge is compelling and from my perspective, the Family Tree has recently become an open invitation to research. In the methodology I am outlining with this series of posts, my own ancestral lines as shown in the Family Tree extend a few unsourced generations past my own research. The challenge presented by these unverified, unsourced and sometimes illogical entries is to either verify or correct the information now shown in the Family Tree. What makes the challenge even more interesting is that from time to time other possible family members add or "correct" the information thereby adding insight or frustration to the process.

My fourth Great-grandfather, Charles Parkinson, b. 1766, d. 1846 was married to Hephzibah Newton, b. 1773, d. 1856. I inherited the basic information about the Parkinson line of my family from my early early, year's long survey of the Family Group Records in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. My paternal Grandfather's name is LeRoy Parkinson Tanner and his mother, Eliza Ellen Parkinson my Great-grandmother, were my Parkinson connection. After I had been researching for a number of years, most of the rest of the information I had about the Parkinson Family came from a book I have mentioned in previous posts.

Parkinson, Diane, and John Parkinson. James Parkinson of Ramsey: His Roots and His Branches : England, Australia, America : A Biographical History and Genealogical Record of the Family of James and Elizabeth Chattle Parkinson. Austin, Tex.: Published for the James Parkinson Family Association by Historical Publications, 1987.

As I have also mentioned previously, this particular book is almost completely bereft of specific source citations. Some months ago, when I started a vigorous investigation of the Parkinson line, I found that documentation for the birth, death and marriage dates for the names of the people I had accumulated and that were shown in the Family Tree, were conspicuously missing. So, my supposed link to Charles Parkinson was as follows:

My Father
LeRoy Parkinson Tanner, b. 12 January 1895, St. Joseph, Apache, Arizona Territory, United States, d. 5 November 1944, Grants, Valencia, New Mexico, United States
Eliza Ellen Parkinson, b. 8 September 1857, San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California, United States
Thomas Parkinson, b. 12 December 1830, Farcet (Farcett), Huntingdonshire, England, United Kingdom (??), d. 3 March 1906, Beaver, Beaver, Utah, United States
James Parkinson, b. 22 October 1808, Ramsey, Huntingdonshire, England, United Kingdom (??), d. 2 September 1870, Dungog, New South Wales, Australia
Charles Parkinson, b. ?, Christened, 12 May 1772, Great Raveley, Huntingdonshire, England, United Kingdom,  d. 26 April 1846 Ramsey, Huntingdonshire, England, United Kingdom (??).

As you can see, my Parkinson line left England and moved to Australia and then immigrated to the United States. Thomas Parkinson was married in the United States and all his children were born in the United States. James Parkinson was born in England and died in Australia. One of his four children died in Australia, two in the United States and one in England (??).

The challenges started when I began the process of researching documentation to substantiate the birth, death and marriage dates. If this seems strange, I should explain that I have been extensively documenting and correcting my ancestral lines generation by generation for a very long time. I have documented almost all of the individuals back to the 5th generation and have been focusing on the 6th generation. I count generations beginning with myself as the 1st generation, so Thomas Parkinson is in the 5th generation and his father, James Parkinson, is in the 6th. Thomas Parkinson had extensive source information concerning his life in the United States, but as I examined the Family Tree and my own records closely, none of these ancestors' birth dates or places had been verified. My observation was that when we assume that the information we have been "handed" by our relatives and even our ancestors is correct, we may become blinded to the lack of any real supporting documentation.

Historically, among those who accumulated family history or genealogical information, recording detailed source information was not a priority. In fact, it was not my own priority for many years when I first began accumulating information. Pre-computers, I spent well over 15 years merely surveying what had already been recorded by my predecessors. I have made this observation a number of times in past posts, because it is crucial to recognize that much of what has been accumulated, especially as recorded in the Family Tree, lacks substantiation. This lack of substantial verification extends to many paper and online family trees. In this, I believe that we must proceed from a position of doubt absent verifiable and reliable sources. As an aside, as I have written extensively, any allusions to "proof" in a genealogical context are ill advised. The next document you find may call into question all of your prior conclusions.

It was also interesting to me that all of these Parkinson lines, both male and female, seemed to end in the 1700s when many of the records in Huntingdonshire go back to the 1500s. The complex genealogical challenge was the fact that all of these families had antecedents in Huntingdonshire, England. As I examined what was in the Family Tree I found the following list of surnames associated with this family line, beginning with Thomas Parkinson. I am excluding Thomas Parkinson's wife, Mary Ann Bryant, because he married her in the United States and she did not come from Huntingdonshire. But every other member of this ancestral line, including all the wive's families, appear to come from that same historical county. Right or wrong, the information I had in my own file and that on the Family Tree needed to be verified. As a matter of fact, my own files did not contain any substantiated individuals further back than the 6th generation and so many of the names in the Family Tree were not in my file and not surprisingly, they were unsupported by any documentation or sources. Some of the lines in the Family Tree went back a few generations further than my own files but all of them ended, more or less, in the 1700s.

So, the challenge is that someone has connected all of these individuals to my family line without any supporting sources. It could be that they are all substantially correct. I can just as easily be that some or all of the extensions cannot be verified and the relationships deleted.

I find myself in the position of being told, by the content of the Family Tree, that these ancestral lines extend. If I am to believe this, I must do my own research. Some months ago, I wrote a series for my Rejoice, and be exceeding glad... blog (which I mis-numbered and never finished) using the Parkinson family as an example. But here, I am using the same family to show the methodology of solving a complex family situation. If I can keep the numbering straight, I will continue this series from time to time as my actual research progresses.


  1. Looks like you got your work cut out for you. I too want to delve into and correct (with sources) the FamilySearch tree as it pertains to me. That is one of my goals for 2016. I look forward to your future posts.

  2. Hey cousin, I own the Parkinson book as well and I also lack documention. I look forward to any additional posts.