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

Monday, March 16, 2015

Its All in the Details -- Genealogy for the Fastidious

Going back a few generations in my online pedigree in the Family Tree, I find that for three generations, on both the maternal and paternal grandparents, almost every woman listed is named "Elizabeth." Here is the list:
  • Elizabeth Smith (b. 1663 - Deceased)
  • Elizabeth Lacey (b. 1697 - Deceased)
  • Elizabeth Cruttenden (b. 1671- d. 1720)
  • Elizabeth Medhurst (b. 1665 - d. 1663)
  • Elizabeth (b. 1696 - Deceased)
  • Elizabeth (b. 1622 - Deceased)
  • Elizabeth Wilkenson (b. 1644 - Deceased)
  • Elizabeth Grene (b. 1615 - Deceased)
One of these lines goes back to James Smith (b. 1573 - Deceased) with a wife named "Mrs. James Smith (Deceased). If I keep following these lines back into the dim past, I find the following lovely couple, Mr. Joseph (b. 1366 - Deceased) with his wife, Mrs. Joseph (b. 1370 - Deceased). This couple was supposed to be born and married in Towcester, Northamptonshire, England. Here is another generation of ancestors from a close line:
  • William Burton (b. 1352 - Deceased) married to Mrs. William Burton (Deceased)
  • John Burton (b. 1327 - Deceased) married to Mrs. John Burton (Deceased)
Unfortunately, there is no birth place listed for this line. However, going back a generation, I find John Burden (b. 1354 - Deceased) born in Leicestershire, England. 

Not wishing to be over fastidious, I checked to see if any of these entries had yet been supported with some kind of source record. I was also interested to see that John Burden's wife's name was also Elizabeth. I also found another wife named Elizabeth married to Thomas Joseph (b. 1382 - d. 1470)

This is a lot to digest this early in the morning. I thought I might check to see where all this information came from. I find that parish registers for Northamptonshire date from the early 1500s. But the earliest records for Towcester, Northamptonshire in the FamilySearch Catalog date only back into the 1700s. 

In Leicestershire, England, the records do indeed go back into the 1500s, although I find it remarkable that my lines just happen to be in the surviving parish registers. Of course, since there are no source listings for any of these names, I am just guessing that the information came from parish registers. In fact, I have no idea where these names came from. The reason why I might be interested in all these additional names is that after 15 plus years of scouring the existing information in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, I had been unable to find anyone further back than George Stapley (b. 1696, buried 1740).

What am I to conclude? Do I automatically believe that there are a whole lot of ancestors on these lines? The simple answer is no. I am more inclined to disbelieve a list of names and dates with no substantiation and no way for me to find additional records especially when I find that there are no readily available records going back into the 1300s.

If you look carefully at the entries I have transcribed, you may also note that one of the Elizabeths died two years before she was born. Also, the individuals designated by the titles, Mr. Mrs. etc are bogus. These names are space holders and totally invalid. When you get back into the 1300s how do you know the father had the same surname as the son? Although it is entirely possible to find a wife's given name and not know her maiden name, this is always an open invitation to do more research.

What do I do with this type of information? I consider it to be a suggestion that there might be more information about these particular lines. Right now, I am concentrating on documenting the lines to the point where the records are difficult to find. My most current research is in Ireland in the early 1800s and late 1700s. So far, I have found no records at all about my immigrant family who came first to Canada and then to the United States in the 1800s.

As it stands right now, this type of additional information online is not too attractive to me because my initial investigations indicate that records to support these early dates probably came from compiled sources such as books and other records. In fact, the earliest ancestors I have in my own files on these lines dates from 1643, long after these early 1300s dates. 


  1. That is as bad an the citation listed as Ancestry Family Tree, that is quite irksome and no citation at all.

  2. While we're being fastidious, my pet dislike is the confusion of baptism with birth and burial with death. If it says "baptised" in the parish register, why enter it against "birth"? And if you do so, why expect me to respect your ability to read? (It's not that much of an issue with death / burial, but in more than a few cases, baptism is way after birth.)

    As for those chains of unsupported data going back into the mists of history - why? Just why do they do it?