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

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Record Hints Require Accurate and Complete Entries

The searching functions of the online family history programs are only as accurate as the information entered into the search. This goes doubly for the entries used for the record hints. There is an old computer saying, garbage in, garbage out, that applies to the entries in each of the Partner Programs included in the LDS Account for I ran across a good example of this when someone matched a husband to my ancestor Ann Parkinson.

The entry in the Family Tree showed Ann Parkinson in Huntingdonshire, England, married and with several children. There were a number of sources all showing an "Ann" as the mother. The only problem was that when I looked for a marriage record, I found that the proposed husband lived 200 miles away with a wife named Mary. None of the many sources that had been found applied because the identity of the husband had been wrongly entered. My correction came from comparing the location identified as the birthplace of the husband with the birthplace of the named wife. It also helps to note that these people lived in early 1700s. If you focused only on the fact that there were several sources cited, you might overlook the problem.

This example points out two or more issues. First, there needed to be an initial evaluation of the reasonableness of the information. Was it reasonable that a person living in England in the early 18th Century would marry someone who lived 200 miles or more away? The answer is no, it is not reasonable. The second point is that the source entries, even though there were several of them, did not identify the wife's birthplace or even her surname. This brings up the next issue, to conclude that the wife's name was Ann, you at least need a record showing her name. In this case, as I pointed out, after finding the marriage record for the husband, it was clear that the wrong wife had been added. It is significant that once I had corrected the entries, I found the husband's wife using

This exercise left me with no husband listed for Ann Parkinson. According to the existing entries in the program she was born and christened as follows:

  • Birth, 8 March 1799 in Ramsey, Huntingdonshire, England
  • Christening, 7 January 1818 in Ramsey, Huntingdonshire, England

Parkinson is a very common name in England and in order to find additional information, these dates and places need to be correct or there is a chance that the wrong "Ann Parkinson" will be added to the program. Because of my discovery of the discrepancy with the proposed husband, there are now no sources left for Ann Parkinson, especially nothing showing an exact birth date and a christening date many years after the birth date. It is not impossible or even very unusual that a person might be christened years after birth, but it is unusual enough to raise an issue as to the accuracy of the entry absent any supporting sources. In this case, there are no Record Hints from which also raises an issue about the accuracy of the entry. Of course, this could be a situation where simply does not have any records, but I have been getting record hints for other family members.

The next step would be to do a search in each of the four programs. Fortunately, has provided convenient links to search in each of the programs. But remember, the programs will use the data that is present in the Family Tree and if this is wrong, the results will either not find the person at all or will suggest inappropriate matches.

As I made the searches in the four programs, I needed to rely on the birth place information. There were dozens of "Ann Parkinson" names to choose from. In order to do this properly, I had to know the names of the surrounding villages and towns. Any possible candidates for inclusion had to be from the small area surrounding the documented location of her parents.

In this particular case, none of the four programs found a corresponding record of my Ann Parkinson. This leads me to believe that the information recorded in the Family Tree is in doubt, but now I have to order the microfilm record of the parish in Ramsey, Huntingdonshire, England and examine what is recorded. The entry for Ann Parkinson is even more in doubt the more places I look without finding a confirming entry. All of this trouble could have been saved had the person recording the exact birth and christening dates added in a source for the information. An examination of the history of this entry shows that the original information came from "FamilySearch" which means that it was recorded in the records in without a source.

This example points out the need to question the entries in the Family Tree and add sources. Any entry without a source is questionable.

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