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

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Your family line on the FamilySearch Family Tree might be at an end and you don't know it

You might be impressed with your extended lines on the Family Tree, but the fact that there are names extending off into the distant past has absolutely not guarantee that you are really related to all these "ancestors." Fortunately, FamilySearch has added the caution icons that graphically show difficulties with the data. This Morgan line goes back to about the 800s AD but then it starts over again with a parent born 200 years later in about 1000 AD. Here is a screenshot of that portion of the Family Tree.

You could get really excited to see all these names go on and on. But there is a serious issue here. Here is where the problems arise. This is a screenshot of John Morgan, supposedly born in Shepardtown, Berkley, Virginia in "abt 1734." 

The initial problem is rather simple. Here is a quote about the history of Shepherdstown, now in West Virginia:
Colonial settlers began their migration into the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley in the early 18th century. Many crossed the Potomac River at Pack Horse Ford, about one mile (2 km) down river from the site of Shepherdstown. The Colony of Virginia began issuing Valley land grants in the 1730s. In 1734, Thomas Shepherd (1705-1776) was granted 222 acres (898,000 m²) on the south side of the Potomac (then called the Potowmack), along the Falling Spring Branch (now known as the Town Run). From that tract he selected 50 acres (202,000 m²) and laid out a town. Naming his town Mecklenburg, he petitioned the Virginia General Assembly for a charter, which was granted in 1762. Thomas Shepherd was the sole trustee, owning the town and being responsible for its government. A second charter, which allowed for self-government, was granted by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1794. In 1798, the corporate limits were extended and the name was changed to Shepherd's Town. After the American Civil War, the town's name was officially contracted to Shepherdstown.
John Morgan, b. abt 1734, could not have been born in Shepherdstown, Virginia. In addition, by consulting with the Newberry Atlas of Historical County Boundaries, we can learn that Berkeley County was created by Virginia from Frederick County in 1772, many years after John Morgan's approximate birth date. In 1734, there were no counties in the area now known as Shepherdstown. Note that the spelling of both the town and county on the Family Tree is wrong.

Of course, there is no death date for this "John Morgan" and there are only two sources listed. Both of the listed sources are extracted IGI records.

There is nothing in this record or any source connecting this John Morgan to my family line other than the fact that the Family Tree shows the connection. As a matter of fact, my own research is considerably different than what is shown in the Family Tree and my research did not extend past this person named John Morgan, neither have I been able to identify him accurately. This is not an indictment of the Family Tree so much as an indication that close examination of any of the extended family lines on the Family Tree are highly suspect unless completely sourced and documented.

If you take the time to follow your lines back on the Family Tree, you must realize that the first ancestor without verifiable sources is basically unsupported and could easily be fictitious. All of the programs that derive their data from the Family Tree (see FamilySearch Apps Gallery) are subject to this lack of verifiable accuracy. Think about it.

1 comment:

  1. Not to mention another problem, too - hijacked and grafted persons who don't belong. Just few days ago I delinked one grafted person and sent message to 3 different persons explaining the problem and the source of the problem.