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

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Stepping Off into the Family Tree Fire Swamp

My reference to the "Fire Swamp" obviously comes from The Princess Bride and I have used this analogy in previous posts. This conversation from the movie provides the backdrop for my comments on my recent experiences with the Family Tree.
[after Westley rescues her from the lightning quicksand] 
Buttercup: We'll never succeed. We may as well die here. 
Westley: No, no. We have already succeeded. I mean, what are the three terrors of the Fire Swamp? One, the flame spurt - no problem. There's a popping sound preceding each; we can avoid that. Two, the lightning sand, which you were clever enough to discover what that looks like, so in the future we can avoid that too. 
Buttercup: Westley, what about the R.O.U.S.'s? 
Westley: Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist.
[Immediately, an R.O.U.S. attacks him]
I do not think that there is any coincidence in the fact that multiple copies of individuals in the Family Tree are called Individuals of Unusual Size or IOUSs. Here is a screenshot of my present fire swamp situation:

I was examining one of the Family Tree branches that go well beyond my original research. I am reasonably sure I have never seen this surname in any of my own research before. I got to this section by following back into my supposed ancestors. Here is a more graphic example of the problems with this one family:

This is all in addition to the fact that there are multiple duplicates in layers. After making several merges, I noticed that the number of potential merges had increased rather than decreased.

Now, I tend to look at this mess more as an opportunity than a problem. It is evident that very little effort has gone into the research of this family when there are people designated as "Childrens Shoebridge."

This whole problem became evident when I went out my Bryant family line and started to look at some of the children (cousins). The first indication was a Jane Bryant (b. 1788, d. 1874) married to Thomas Shoobridge (b. 1784, d. 1863). He shows up as an only child in the list above with a mother named "Anne." The above list shows up as a result of looking at the descendancy of his father (maybe) Richard Shoebridge (b. 1737, d. 1820).

The Thomas Shoofridge (b. 1784, d. 1863) has a duplicate entry.

After merging these duplicate records, there were three more possible duplicates for his wife.

One of these was not a match, so I looked at the other two and merged them leaving the wife, Jane Bryant, with a birth date after her christening date. The merge also left her with duplicate children. At this point the duplicates just kept multiplying and spreading further and further.

The rule here is to start at the first place in the Family Tree where there is no controversy and work your way backward to the person of interest. What I did see is that despite the fact that this person could have been an IOUS, the mergers continued to world and made good progress in straightening out this problem. The key here is patience and knowing the rules of the fire swamp.


  1. Great Post James. We need to learn the rules of the fire swamp. Sometimes I just want to avoid it entirely; "We'll never succeed. We might as well die here." This is especially true for me when it comes to correcting what others have put into the tree.

  2. The good news is that once you work on these people and get the data better, it does tend to stay that way. You just need to start and sometimes it is pretty overwhelming.

  3. This shows the great sense of humor of the Family Tree engineers, doesn't it. ROUS and IOUS. One has to laugh!