Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Saga of Philip Taber -- Another Cautionary Tale of Woe

This is a woeful tale of genealogy run amuck. It is tale with an almost certain tragic end and one that should be a lesson to all those who tread the paths of uncertain and unsubstantiated research. The object of this saga is one of my distinguished ancestors, Philip Taber, b. Abt. 1644 and d. before 4 March 1692/3. The protagonists in this tragedy are unsuspecting family historians who are dutifully "correcting entries" in's Family Tree, without a single clue as to what they are doing. Let me give some basic facts about Philip Taber and his place in the Family Tree program that will begin to show how the plot of this saga will unravel with time.

Here is a screenshot of the subject, Philip Taber

Point No. 1
Philip Taber married Mary Cooke, the daughter of John Cooke and grand-daughter of Francis Cooke of the Mayflower passengers. If you need some reference here, you might start with the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, usually referred to as the Mayflower Society and their publications. There are few people better documented than the Mayflower passengers and their descendants for at least five generations.

Point No. 2
FamilySearch Family Tree has no less than 95 separate duplicate entries for Philip Taber, all of which have their own unique Person Identifier Number. He also has 5 entries marked "Not a Match." Most of these 95 entries show a marriage to Mary Cooke who has 29 possible duplicates and 2 Not a Match people. 

Point No. 3
People have been editing both Mary Cooke and Philip Taber. It would be tedious to look at all 95 entries for Philip Taber to see if any of them had sources attached, but it is certain that the current one being edited has no substantiating sources attached. There are two legacy "sources" that show the source as "individual or family possessions."

Point No. 4
Despite the attempts at correcting entries, the information is inaccurate. The Mayflower Society has been unable to determine a specific birth date. The entry for Philip Taber in the Mayflower Society books, see Wood, Ralph V. Francis Cooke of the Mayflower: The First Five Generations. Camden, Maine: Picton Press, 1996, shows that he was baptized 8 February 1646 and he died in Dartmouth before 4 March 1692/3. Apparently those who are making changes to Family Tree have no idea what is meant by the compound date. Because of the calendar change, genealogists are forced to account for ambiguous record dates for English and colonial records from 1 January through 24 March, in years prior to 1753. If you do not know how to account for this change, you should not be entering dates into Family Tree during this time period. 

Point No. 5
Philip Taber most certainly qualifies as an IOUS according to FamilySearch. There is no way of currently telling how many Philip Taber records were already combined in but all of the ones floating around in Family Tree are in excess of what was previously combined. 

Point No. 6
This particular Philip Taber entry has been sealed to his parents twice and to his spouse, at least, eleven times. I am not going go through all of the other 95 entries and figure out the total number of duplicates. But some occurred as recently as 2013. 

Point No. 7
According to FamilySearch in a blog post and in a Get Help Menu Item entitled " Will Be Turned Off on February 1, 2015" The following cannot take place until the (NFS) program is completely shut down sometime in 2016 or so. 
It is important to note that many highly desired features of FamilySearch Family Tree cannot begin to be developed until has reached the final milestone and is completely shut-off. Once that has happened, work can begin on features such as:
  1. Merging of gateway ancestors and other people with large records.
  2. Highlighting and fixing other data eccentricities, such as when a person appears to have been married before birth, a child appears older than a parent, a child appears to be the spouse of a parent or grandparent, and so on.
  3. The ability for users to change the gender of an ancestor.
  4. The ability to see a spouse’s ancestral line by default.
Note the reference to "Merging of gateway ancestors and other people with large records." This is a reference to their current way of referring to IOUS people from NFS.

So where the the tragedy? Simply put, these people are spending valuable time trying to correct something when they have no sources, no idea what is correct or incorrect, no concept of the problem inherent in the program that may not be fixed for more than a year and they are going to see everything they do change anyway because it is wrong.


  1. Hear, hear!
    The Descendancy View on Family Tree, with Indicators for our ancestor's descendants of possible source hints, data errors, Including Possible Duplicates on Green Temple Icons, and areas of further research, ... we really have enough to do within our first 7-8 generations to last a lifetime, finding cousins who have fairly decent records available. We should not be going further out on our lines.
    There has long been, (over 20 years) a group of missionaries and employees who are working on the records of the royal and famous, including Mayflower and other historical figures. The Historical Families Reconstitution Zone in the FH department, which was formerly known as the Medieval Zone, has been working on these kinds of records, using the best sources known to man, making the most correct records possible. Frequently these records are marked as Read-Only or Restricted, so others can only look, but not do anything. If perchance, a user is a direct descendant of one of these famous folks, and has some family treasure like a journal, letters, or whatever, they can contact FamilySearch and offer them to be added to the read-only record.
    But other than that, we need to leave these older records alone! It is a waste of time and energy. Eventually the duplicate records for these historical people will disappear, and we'll have only one "correct-as-can-be" record for them, done by knowledgeable researchers.

    1. If that is the case, then why is Philip Taber such a mess after three years of Family Tree?