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

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Contradictions in genealogical research

Here is an interesting observation. I did a search for my Great-grandfather, Henry Martin Tanner, on This is not an observation about as such, but more about the legions of people who post their family records online. When I look at the entries for Henry Tanner, I find what I already know, that he had two wives (and at the same time also). But that is not the issue, one of the contributors to has Henry Tanner listed with his two wives, Eliza Ellen Parkinson and Emma Ellen Stapley. Eliza is listed as having 14 children and Emma is listed with 4.

Now, here is the interesting part. Right in the heading to the Family Tree listing, there is a link to the Utah Pioneers and Prominent Men which has this exact entry:
TANNER, HENRY M. (son of Sidney Tanner and Julia Ann Shepherd). Born June 11, 1852, San Bernardino, Cal. Married Eliza Parkinson Jan. 25, 1877, St. George, Utah (daughter of Thomas Parkinson and Mary Ann Bryant of Beaver, pioneers 1858). She was born Sept. 8, 1857. Their children: Martin Ray b. Jan. 22, 1878, m. Prudence Miller; Thomas William b. Jan. 25, 1880, m. Marian Miller; Julia Alice b. March 4, 1882, m. John L. Fish; Mary Ida b. Feb. 25, 1884, m. Jesse H. Rogers; Rollin C. b. Feb. 9, 1886, m. Anna Harbracht; Hazel b. Aug. 5, 1888, m. Harbert Cooper; Marion Lyman b. Aug. 7, 1890; Arthur b. Sept. 19, 1892; Leroy Shepherd b. Jan. 12, 1895; George Parkinson b. Jan. 26, 1897; Donnette b. March 31, 1899. Married Emma E. Stapley March 24, 1886, St. George, Utah (daughter of Charles Stapley of Toquerville, Utah, pioneer 1858). She was born Nov. 30, 1862. Their children: Eva b. Oct. 29, 1891; Horace b. Aug. 2, 1894; Clifford b. Sept. 23, 1896; Golden J. b. Dec. 29, 1899; Charles Stapley b. Jan. 10, 1890, d. March 14, 1896; Francis Sidney b. May 23, 1904. Families resided St. Joseph, Ariz. Missionary to England 1888-90; superintendent of Sunday schools, Arizona, 1889-97; member bishopric of St. Joseph ward since 1878.
I realize it may tax anyone's patience, but this information is only partially correct, because my Grandfather, LeRoy Parkinson Tanner is identified as Leroy Shepherd and my uncle George Shepherd Tanner is identified as George Parkinson Tanner. There are also several misspellings But none the less, this record, which was incorporated into the Family Tree data shows the right number of children, eleven. The Family Tree listing has three extra children. Likewise, for the listing of the children of Emma, she is listed in the Family Tree with four children and as shown by the history above and in reality she had six children.

The obvious question, didn't the person submitting the Family Tree read the history he also submitted? Apparently not. If he did read the history, where did he get the three additional children? Let's take one of them for an example. One of the children listed is Ralph Carum Tanner. Who is he? He is not one of Henry Martin Tanner's children by either wife, but he is listed repeatedly in various submitted genealogies as a child. Kindred Konnections MyTrees, lists 15 children for Henry and Eliza, including the elusive Ralph Carum Tanner. There are several Google listings for "Ralph Carum Tanner" all in association with the Henry Martin Tanner family.

As I get into this issue, I find that the topic is more complex than I originally realized. My next project is to determine who is Ralph Carum Tanner and why is he repeatedly listed as a child of my Great-grandfather. Tune in for the next installment.

The point I am making here is that there is a lot of inaccurate and obviously inaccurate information in the submitted family trees whether they be in or New FamilySearch or whatever.


  1. One of my connections has the Tanner surname. I forget if it is Verl Matthews at ancestry with same as my tree, or if it is Robert Stein who carries my interest in Saucke, Schroeder, Kanning// His area is Lemont and Joliet of Illinois. I shall have to check.

    My second to last post had errors mentioned cause the church only parroted what I asked. Only further research corrects this or finding others.
    Good Job in seeing it all for what it is.

  2. I agree with you about the hugh inaccuracies to be found in the family trees on Ancestry. My ancestor Jacob Wise born 1771 and died 1845 is almost always listed with Mary Rucker as his spouse. That is so completely wrong. Mary Rucker married his son Jacob Wise Jr. It used to be the trees were at least a place to perhaps get some hints about a brick wall but now IMO they are pretty useless. There are no sources and just get copied from one tree to another. Good job with your detective work and trying to find out who the elusive children are.

  3. Welcome to the real world. It appears most genealogists today are not researchers, just collectors, whether the info is correct or not. I have found as much as a 90% error rate in posted genealogies on some of my families.