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

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Which items on the FamilySearch Memories are searchable by Google?


From time to time, it is important to be reminded of the relationship between the FamilySearch.org Memories program and the rest of the internet world. At the bottom of the web page shown above, there are the following links.


For most of us, these links fall into the category of the statements made on food containers and the fine print on guarantees. Interestingly, when I first began law school many years ago, I became acutely aware of all of these "fine print" documents. But over the intervening years, I have realized that if I want to buy the product or use the service, I am essentially stuck with whatever is there and so I, like most everyone else, tend to ignore almost all of these boilerplate type agreements.

But from a legal perspective, you have to realize that those statements are there because they are, in many cases, enforceable should a controversy arise. In any event, an argument over the application of these types of provisions can become extremely legalistic and even end up in court. Hmm. Then why do we put up with them? The simple answer is that we could only avoid them by living in a cave, never using any mechanical devices and not talking to anyone. Even then, we would probably be subject to the fine print on the use of the cave.

But every once in a while, it is a good idea to read the fine print, even if it makes you uncomfortable or irate.

Returning the to the bottom of the FamilySearch.org page, we find "FamilySearch Rights and Use Information (Updated 2/3/2015)" and the "Privacy Policy (Updated 3/18/2014)." So these provisions have been around in their current form and likely, you have used the program quite a few (maybe thousands of times) since the provisions were implemented. So what do they say?


Actually, this page is quite long. In essence, what this long statement says is that when you put anything on the Memories page (or anywhere else on the website) you are giving FamilySearch a license (permission) to use that content in any way they would like to do so. Of course, the wording goes on and on into a lot of other issues, restrictions, and obligations, but from the standpoint of the user (you) FamilySearch can do pretty much what they want with the content once you put it up on the website.

Most of us, perhaps almost all of us, are glad to give FamilySearch that opportunity. We realize that we do not own our ancestors or their historical records and so giving FamilySearch a license to use these old photos and documents is somewhat meaningless. So why is this provision included? For those instances when someone actually owns an interest, such as a copyright, and later decides that they made a mistake by putting it on the website and then decided to claim that FamilySearch was somehow at fault for their own negligence. There are probably quite a few other reasons I could come up with if I were addressing a specific instance where the fine print agreement might apply.

If you care to do so, I would suggest that you read through both the documents linked on the bottom of the pages and by the way realize that all of the items you put on the Memories pages are searchable by Google.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Web Indexing Goes Live on FamilySearch.org


Web Indexing on FamilySearch.org may still be rolling out in stages, but it now appears as a main menu selection under the Indexing tab when I log in. Apparently, both the local, downloaded Indexing program and the Web Indexing program are both still available.


 However, if I select Web Indexing from the menu, I go directly to the Web Indexing program.



My immediate reaction was to try to do indexing on my iPad.  After signing him on my iPad, I went directly to the Web Indexing program.  Since my iPad is an iPad Pro, I can use the external keyboard instead of the on-screen keyboard. If I were using the on-screen keyboard, the process would be measurably more difficult. However, with the external keyboard, I see no reason why I could not use my iPad Pro for indexing.

The issue here, of course, is that Indexing is a data-intensive activity. Not only are we trying to read the handwritten, historical documents, but we are also entering large amounts of information into the computer. Although having a web-based program facilitates the use of mobile devices, the existence of the program does not overcome the limitations of entering information using an on-screen virtual keyboard. The main limitation being the size of the screen and the amount of information that can be reviewed at the same time. The larger screen of the iPad Pro and the use of an external keyboard overcome most of those problems.

My wife, who is an experienced indexer, after trying the web-based program, returned to the desktop-based program because she said it was more efficient and faster for her. In a meeting held recently, discussing web-based indexing, several concerns were expressed about the difficulty in converting existing indexers who were used to using the desk-based program to a new web-based program. it remains to be seen whether or not adding a web-based program will attract new, younger indexers. It may certainly attract more affluent users who have access to tablets such as the iPad Pro and the Microsoft Surface.

One of the major advantages that I see to a web-based program for indexing is that I will have access to the program from any computer connected to the Internet. It will be interesting to see how developments progress as we get further into the web-based program.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Getting Started with Indexing Online with FamilySearch


After years of waiting, web-based indexing is finally getting started on FamilySearch.org. I am certain that developing this massive project was a very difficult challenge. I understand that the program is being rolled out in stages and it may still be a while before it appears as an option when you click on the indexing tab at the top of your FamilySearch.org startup screen. Apparently, the downloadable version is still being offered, but my wife had the experience of starting a batch in the downloaded program and then finding that she could not continue the same batch when she switched over to the web-based program. The instructions are clear and fairly simple.

When you click on My Indexing, you get to select a batch of records to index. I selected a batch of English records.


Here is what I saw when I opened the batch.


I suggest carefully reading through the instructions before jumping into the process, even if you have done a considerable amount of previous indexing.

Here is the entry page with the record showing.


This seemed much more efficient that the "old" program. I guess I am very much used to filling in forms online. I am sure I will have a lot of comments as I go along.

What's New with The Family History Guide


Some websites have a "What's New" section that never seems to be kept up-to-date. The Family History Guide is the exception. It's What's New section is very up-to-date and detailed. One of the latest additions to the website is the Online Tracker system for registered users of the website. The idea of the tracker system is to provide both the individuals using the website and those using the website to teach others with a way to "track" or record progress in working through the Projects, Goals and Choices in the program. Of course, the paper-based system using Microsoft Word forms is still available.

To begin, after you register and sign in, you are given a list of Projects to track. Let's suppose you are just starting out and click on the first Project. Here is a screenshot of the list:


If I select Project 1: Family Tree, this is the first online tracking sheet.


You can see a list of choices and a place to keep notes and mark the status of completion or mastery of the subject. The status slider gives four possible states: not started, started, good, and proficient.

By referring to the tracker sheets, an individual or instructor can immediately see both the progress of the individual or where they might need help.

From time to time, I have been asked about how this website will be kept up-to-date. I can assure all of the users that we diligently reviewing the program, but it is also a good idea to notice that there is a Contact link at the bottom of some of the pages. You can use this for suggestions, questions and comments about content that may have become unavailable for some reason.

Monday, March 20, 2017

How much technology is enough?


As I write this post, I am surrounded by technology. Very few things that I can see here on my desk would have been in existence when I was a teenager. Of course, pens, paper, eyeglasses, and a box of tissue would all be familiar to my teenage self, but the rest would have been pure speculative science fiction. This is especially true because I am sitting here talking to my computer and a program is transcribing my words onto my blog post.

What is even more interesting, that without the Internet and other worldwide developments in electronics, none of the items would've worked back then. So what do I have on my desk? What do I think is absolutely necessary to enable me to do genealogical research as I would like to do today? This turns out to be a serious question and one that is frequently raised by those I teach in classes.

Here is a list of the devices that I used on a daily basis.
  • Desktop computer
  • Laser printer
  • Smartphone
  • Laptop computer
  • Flatbed scanner
  • Sheetfed scanner
  • Various hard drives
  • IPad
  • Digital camera
  • External CD player
  • Bluetooth headset
  • Bluetooth speaker
  • Flash drives
  • A tangled mass of cables and accessories
Some things that are always present but not visible are the multitude of software programs and apps that I use every day. These represent a substantial cost.

I can assure you that every one of these items has been used and some have been upgraded and replaced many, many times. This what I have enough? The answer that question would be a tentative yes. It is tentative because some of the items are quite old and may need to be replaced or upgraded as new technology develops. Now let's suppose that you have never purchased any of these devices. First of all, that would put you in a small minority of the overall population of our country. But, for the purposes of illustration, I will start with a hypothetical situation where a person has no technology. What would they buy first?

For genealogists today, access to the Internet is indispensable. The first purchase should be a device that connects to the Internet. From my perspective, I need a keyboard. So, whatever device is selected, it must have a usable, full-size keyboard. Over the past few years, I have been debating whether it would be more economical to have a laptop computer that connects to a large monitor and an external keyboard, instead of purchasing both a laptop and a desktop computer. This is a decision that would have to be made by the individual. I talked to many people who find using their laptop connected to a large monitor and keyboard when at home to be sufficient. In my case, laptop computers still lack enough internal memory storage and connectivity to be a primary computer.

The next most important item is a printer. What about the difference between a laser printer and an inkjet printer. Although I am trying to eliminate printing altogether, I still find laser printers that use toner cartridges, are more economical than inkjet printers. Inkjet printers are practically free but the cost of the ink quickly makes up for the low initial purchase price.

Immediately upon addressing the issue of purchasing electronic equipment for genealogical purposes, the cost of the equipment becomes an issue. As I pointed out many times in the past, we will buy that we are interested in buying. I do find, however, that some people use the cost of the equipment as an excuse for not doing genealogy which is pretty silly from my perspective.

For genealogists, if they are using either a laptop or a desktop computer, they should be backing up all their data regularly to an external hard drive, a flash drive, or to online storage, or all three. Fortunately, the cost of buying external storage has dropped precipitously in the last few years and promises to drop even further in the near future. There is really no excuse for losing data because you failed to make a backup.

What would be next? For my own convenience and to increase my ability to do work while traveling away from home, I choose to have a laptop computer in addition to my desktop computer. For that reason, a laptop would be my next purchase.

Because I have been dealing with a lot of paper that includes records, documents, and other items that relate to my research or were inherited from my predecessors, I have always had a scanner. My first purchase would be a flatbed scanner. But because of the volume of the documents that I have a process, I've also chosen to purchase a sheetfed scanner. Both of these scanners are used frequently.

At this point, I should also point out that my wife and I run and manage a couple of businesses in addition to our genealogical pursuits. Some of the equipment is justified by reason of the fact that we work at a professional level. For example, I cannot imagine living without a camera. Over the years I purchased perhaps dozens of cameras. I actually have two main digital cameras that I use constantly. However, from a genealogical standpoint, I could use my smartphone, in my case, an Apple iPhone. Actually, I use all three. I would suggest that the utility of having a digital camera available to take notes, preserve documents, take pictures in cemeteries, and a multitude of other uses justifies the cost of having at least one of these devices.

Because we read a lot of books and like the portability and convenience of tablets, we have several iPads. One issue that is beginning to appear is the fact that tablet computers may replace laptops. As I have found out over the last two or three years, the issue now is software development. Tablet computers, unless they are actually laptops in disguise, do not yet have the complete software capability of the desktop or laptop computer.

My external CD player is necessary because none of my new computers have an internal CD drive and there is still a lot of media on CDs.

The Bluetooth headset, the Bluetooth speaker are both for convenience. I now use a Bluetooth headset and voice recognition software to write when I am pressed for time. The Bluetooth speaker is good for presenting a class when there is limited access to amplification systems.

Presently, flash drives do not have the capacity to act as primary backups. But they do provide the ability to transport larger files. In using computers and remote locations, I have moved from carrying a flash drive around to using online storage. I do use flash drives as a backup for my presentations, just in case Internet connectivity is not available.

How much does all this cost? A lot. But all of this electronic equipment is used for personal and business purposes that overlap into our genealogical pursuits. One thing I can say about the cost of this equipment is that it is a lot less expensive than it used to be just a few years ago.

A Place of Rest


One can only wonder how this turtle got up on that branch. However, this scene brings to my mind the fact that leisure and rest are highly overrated in our society today. I would rather work than rest anytime and leisure is a concept I've never been able to comprehend.We all have such a short time on this earth, I am often reminded of the words of that old hymn, "Click Your Shoulder to the Wheel."
The world has need of willing men
Who wear the worker’s seal.
Come, help the good work move along;
Put your shoulder to the wheel.
It seems to me that we all need to work more and worry less about leisure.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Finding Francis


Finding Francis is a very complex process. Francis Tanner is a remote ancestor of tens of thousands people including one of the largest families in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As you might suspect, there are a number of published books containing the purported pedigree of the Tanner family. The books focus on John Tanner (1778 – 1850), the first of the family to join the Church. Here is what constitutes, most likely, a partial list of the books that address John Tanner's pedigree was included in my previous post entitled, "The Francis Tanner conundrum – A FamilySearch Challenge." This previous post explains some of the difficulties in working with an individual who has become embedded in family tradition. The previous posts also focused on the problems raised by the existing surname books.

Unfortunately, for the genealogists of the family, no in-depth research has apparently been undertaken since the original book written in 1893. What interest there has been, has been centered on his father, Joshua Tanner (1757 – 1807) because of the connection of his wife to her Mayflower ancestors. Lamentably, most of the family members fall into the category of those who claim that their genealogy has been all done.

The purpose of writing this post is to address the issues that many people have with using a unified, online, family tree program such as that found on FamilySearch.org. After careful consideration, involving years of research, I decided it was time to tackle the identity of Francis Tanner's parents. As I expressed previously the existing link was to an individual named "William Tanner" but there was no substantiating documentation connecting those two individuals. In this situation, the Family Tree allows individual users to detach relationships. So, the process is quite simple, all I had to do was detach Francis Tanner's relationship as a child from the existing relationship to William Tanner. Of course, immediately individuals began reattaching the relationship without adding any justification in the form of a citation to some documentary evidence.

In this case and in all such cases on the Family Tree, I simply marked the watch button and each week FamilySearch will send me an update of any changes made to this individual. In addition, the program allows us to communicate directly with anyone making a change. I did get one or two inquiries as to why the change had been made. After the change had been in existence for some time, once again, someone added the unproven line back into the Family Tree. I detached the relationship and explained my actions the following comment:
Thank you for your involvement in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. However, there are no records showing the parents of Francis Tanner MTC6-5WW. The Tanner Book (Tanner, Maurice, and George C Tanner. Descendants of John Tanner: Born August 15, 1778 at Hopkinton, R.I., Died April 15, 1850 at South Cottonwood, Salt Lake County, Utah. Salem, MA: Higginson Book Company, 2007.} indicates that Francis Tanner MTC6-5WW was the son of William Tanner and Elizabeth Cottrill married in 1722 or 3, however the children are shown as born beginning with Francis Tanner MTC6-5WW born in 1708. There is no explanation for how Elizabeth Cottrill could be having children when she was too young to have children. There are more than two William Tanner's in this part of Rhode Island at this time. Even assuming that Francis Tanner MTC6-5WW's father was named William, there are no sources showing which William was his father. The Family Tree presently has no sources for William Tanner showing him as the father of Francis Tanner MTC6-5WW. In addition, the Family Tree shows William Tanner with a wife not shown as the mother of Francis Tanner in the Tanner book. If you have any sources please add them and if they show a father we can add in the correct father. Meanwhile, I will once again remove the person added a father.
I might mention that in spite of the fact that there are thousands of Tanner family members, there are only five people watching Francis Tanner including myself. The response was immediate and threatening.
I have attached a valid source. That I am pursuing. If the source is taken away I will have a difficult time finding out if he has different wife's, which could be his mother. If you take this down again while I try to prove who his parents are by valid sources I will contact FamilySearch and get them involved and investigate the matter. FamilySearch is a combined effort by lots of people to find their ancestors. It is a constant investigation of possible facts. if you do not pursue each one you lose the opportunity of finding ancestors you would never have found.
I responded as follows:
What is your valid source? You are welcome to go to FamilySearch with the issue. You will note what is there presently has William Tanner and Mary Babcock as parents, none of the sources show William Tanner and Mary Babcock as parents. A Sons of the American Revolution application is not a "source." It does not show where the information concerning the parentage of Francis Tanner comes from i.e. a historical document showing the relationship such as a birth record, will, etc. The information in the SAR application was merely copied from previous unreliable sources. In addition, your source citation does not contain a link to the document you are citing, so there is no way to view the document. I would suggest rather than threaten me, you take the time to do the research before adding the parents. I have been working on this family for over thirty years and have yet to find a source, I hope you do. We do not have to add unreliable information in the Family Tree. I will not take away the SAR application, even though it is not a source or unreliable. The problems with this line have been investigated for well over a hundred years and no one has yet found a connection even though family tradition and several books have listed a William Tanner as the father. I would suggest that you may wish to collaborate with me rather than fight. I have extensive resources and records. I have personally visited the William Tanner gravesite in Rhode Island and I am considering going to Rhode Island again to do research. I will remove William Tanner again. I suggest you keep your research off of the Family Tree until you find a valid source for adding it. I am a Church Service missionary at the BYU Family History Library and would be glad to help you in any way that I can, but I am determined to clean up the Tanner line with valid documentation. Thanks again for your interest. By the way, I have good working relationship with FamilySearch. To see what is meant by adequate documentation, you may wish to review our blog TheAncestorFiles.blogspot.com.
Even though I considered that there were no adequate sources by examining the only sources that had been added, a reference to FindAGrave.com and a Sons of American Revolution application. Both of these documents showed that they simply been copied from the existing online sources and added no new source information connecting Francis to his parents. In the case of the SAR application, there is no need to provide further documentation because Francis did participate in Revolutionary War.

Without further inquiry or discussion, the following was the response:
I have sent in an abuse report to FamilySearch. There should be no reason why I cannot add information to try to find a possible parent. With the current indexing that is going on information is constantly coming available to us. Not allowing someone to pursue a family member because you feel there is no more information available in inappropriate and being a bit of a bully. This is an open site for all to use and gather information. Not just one person or group of people. I have no problem with you messaging me about what I add but to remove it without consideration with what i am doing is very disrespectful to me and your ancestors. And the fact that I have to contact FamilySearch to get you to leave me alone and allow me to exercise my right as a patron on this sight is really wrong.
Apparently, this user wanted to use the Family Tree as his or her looking file. I guess my question is whether or not editing the family tree is going to be interpreted as bullying? What I did not realize was that I had not added enough sources to Francis Tanner,  so I began to add in summaries of all of my research. The underlying question here is whether we can make actual progress on the Family Tree if those making changes become immediately confrontational? In addition, even before any of this started, I had put a rather long explanation about the situation and Francis Tanner's life sketch.

This process is not complete. I am still looking for documentation substantiating the identity of Francis Tanner's parents. However, there is an avenue of research which has been heretofore ignored. Here is a summary of his background as I entered it in the life sketch:
The key to finding this family is to trace the members of the Seventh Day Baptists Church. They are Christian Baptists who observe seventh-day Sabbath. The Seventh Day Baptist World Federation today represents over 50,000 Baptists in 22 countries.

It is the oldest modern Sabbatarian denomination. The first recorded Seventh Day Baptist meeting was held at The Mill Yard Church in London in 1651[28] under the leadership of Peter Chamberlen the third.

The Seventh Day Baptist or Sabbitarian Records possibly show the father of Francis Tanner MTC6-5WW as Benjamin. The Tanner Book (Tanner, Maurice, and George C Tanner. Descendants of John Tanner: Born August 15, 1778 at Hopkintown, R.I., Died April 15, 1850 at South Cottonwood, Salt Lake County, Utah. Salem, MA: Higginson Book Company, 2007.} indicates that Francis Tanner MTC6-5WW was the son of William Tanner and Elizabeth Cottrill married in 1722 or 3, however the children are shown as born beginning with Francis Tanner MTC6-5WW born in 1708. There is no explanation for how Elizabeth Cottrill could be having children when she was too young to have children. There are more than two William Tanner's in this part of Rhode Island at this time. Even assuming that Francis Tanner MTC6-5WW's father was named William, there are no sources showing which William was his father. The Family Tree presently has no sources for William Tanner showing him as the father of Francis Tanner MTC6-5WW. In addition, the Family Tree shows William Tanner with a wife not shown as the mother of Francis Tanner in the Tanner book. If you have any sources please add them and if they show a father we can add in the correct father.
 Had the litigious user read this explanation before making changes, the outcome might have been different. This whole experience does point out the need to put explanations in when we make changes, particularly substantial changes.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Francis Tanner Conundrum – A FamilySearch Challenge


Francis Tanner was born in South Kingston, Kings, Colony of Rhode Island, British Colonial America on 3 July 1708. He died on 3 January 1777 in Hopkinton, Kings, Rhode Island, United States. There is very little information about his life and over 100 years of research has failed to accurately document his parents. He has possibly hundreds of thousands of descendants and many of them are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For members of the Church, he is most remembered as the grandfather of the prominent LDS pioneer, John Tanner. Francis Tanner's birth and death have widely been reported as occurring in Washington County, but Washington County was created from Providence Plantations in 1729 as Kings County. It was renamed Washington County was created on October 29, 1781, in honor of General and President Washington. See Wikipedia, Washington County, Rhode Island.

The crucial connection between Francis Tanner and his son, Joshua Tanner (John Tanner's father) born in Hopkinton, Hopkinton, Kings, Rhode Island, British Colonial America on 27 July 1757 was established by the discovery of Francis Tanner's will. See Abstract of Francis Tanner Will, 1775. However, the remaining enigma is the parentage of Francis Tanner.

The challenge here is the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. As I mentioned above, the Tanner family, identified as the descendants of John Tanner (1778 – 1850), has figured prominently in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many well-known leaders of the Church are descendants of this industrious ancestor. John Tanner’s conversion story and other incidents of his life have passed into the folklore of the Church. Despite this prominence in the history of the Church, apparently, very little effort has gone into researching the progenitors of John Tanner.

Despite this lack of documentary evidence, many generations of ancestors have been previously added to Francis Tanner. Since there is presently no substantiating documentary evidence extending the family line past Francis Tanner, the "real" end of the line is Francis. However, trying to establish a basis for extending the family line is constantly hampered by possibly well-meaning contributors adding back in a pedigree based on the "traditional" one. As long as the Family Tree shows a pedigree past Francis Tanner, there is no incentive or motivation to do additional research on the family. 

The published genealogies, which include reference to William Tanner, stretch back to 1893. They include the following volumes, in alphabetical order:
           
Tanner, Elias, Reverend, The Genealogy of the Descendants of Thomas Tanner, Sr. of Cornwall, Connecticut, with Brief Notes of Several Allied Families, also Short Sketches of Several Towns of their Early Residence. Lansing, Michigan, Darius D. Thorp, Printer and Binder, 1893.
Tanner, George C., Reverend, William Tanner of South Kingston and his Descendants, Faribault, Minnesota (Self Published, 1910).
Tanner, George C., Reverend, William Tanner of South Kingston and his Descendants, Faribault, Minnesota (Self Published, 1905).
Tanner, George Shepherd, John Tanner and his Family, Salt Lake City, Utah; The John Tanner Family Association; 1974.
Tanner, Maurice, Descendants of John Tanner, Born August 15, 1778, at Hopkintown, R. I. Died April 15, 1850 at South Cottonwood, Salt Lake County, Utah, The Tanner Family Association, 1942.
De Brouwer, Elizabeth, Compiler, Under the Direction of George Shepherd Tanner, Sidney Tanner, His Ancestors and Descendants, Pioneer Freighter of the West, 1809 – 1895, Sidney Tanner Family Organization, 4545 South 2760 East, Salt Lake City, Utah 84117, 1982.

At best, these volumes contain only very sketchy source citations. This lack of sources has resulted in a chaotic present day view of William Tanner and his family.  For example, the Ancestry.com “One World Tree™” (now abandoned by Ancestry.com) listings for William Tanner[1] showed submissions with references to nineteen entries for wives. Later searches of the same source have turned up more than thirty separate listings for William Tanner’s wives and families. This lack of agreement raises unanswered questions concerning the origin and marriage or marriages of William Tanner of Hopkinton, Rhode Island.

In the relatively recent compilation of the Sidney Tanner family genealogy, historian George Shepherd Tanner made the following statement:

The author has not attempted research into the towns of Hopkinton, Rhode Island, or Greenwich, New York. It was thought the time and effort required would outweigh the beneficial results. The Reverend George C. Tanner of Fairbault, Minnesota, has left some records of the Tanners in these two towns and the information may be seen in John Tanner Family.[2]
           
This lack of research, with a concurrent lack of source citations, has resulted in a virtually unsupportable pedigree for John Tanner, extending back to his assumed immigrant ancestor, William Tanner of Hopkinton, Rhode Island.
The conclusions of the Reverend George C. Tanner, dating from 1905,[3] are repeated, unchallenged, and almost verbatim, in all of the compiled genealogies, up to and including the De Brouwer book in 1982.[4]  However, Reverend Tanner acknowledges that “It would require more research than the writer has been able to give to connect the immigrant William Tanner with his English ancestor.”[5]

Reverend Tanner cites as the first reference to “William Tanner” his signature as a witness on a disclaimer deed signed 12 May 1682.[6] There are, in fact, two deeds recorded in the same year. In both cases, a William Tanner acts as a witness for the signature of Francis Houlding, the wife of Randall Houlding in making a disclaimer deed to her husband’s transfer of property. The real property, for both deeds, was located in “warrick”[7] described as in “Narrangansett countrey” and included “Fox Island.”[8] Fox Island is located in Narragansett Bay.[9] Subsequent references to William Tanner by the Reverend Tanner locate him in Westerly, Rhode Island, and specifically, in the town of Hopkinton, which was formerly part of Westerly.[10] Although by today’s standards the distances in Rhode Island are not great, there appears to be no consistent geographic location for William Tanner and his family. Of course, the different locations could indicate his move from one town to another but there is no evidence connecting the isolated references to a “William Tanner” either to the supposed ancestor or to each other.

In his 1905 book, the Reverend Tanner speculates that William Tanner came to America in 1682, in the year of witnessed deed, and with no further citation, states that “[t]he genealogical indications and indirect evidence all point to this conclusion.”[11] By 1910, Reverend Tanner adds a birth date, “about 1660” and speculation that William Tanner emigrated from England, coming to the Rhode Island colony in 1679 with the same Randall Houlding, for whom he witnessed two deeds.[12] Subsequent research has yet to yield much more information. There is no direct evidence connecting the witness, William Tanner, with any name on the emigrant list from England. There is, in fact, no evidence linking subsequent references to “William Tanner” to the witness to the two deeds. A search of the indexes to early immigrants shows the following:


Name                                       Date                 Destination

William Tanner                        1680                America
William Tanner                        1680                America
William Tanner                        1680                America
William Tanner                        1682                Pennsylvania
William Tanner                        1682                Pennsylvania
William Tanner                        1682                Pennsylvania
William Tanner                        1671                Barbados
William Elleson Tanner           1683-1684       East New Jersey
William Tanner                        1765                America
Christopher William Tanner    1765                America
Christopher William Tanner    1765                America
William Tanner                        1728                America
William Tanner                        1728                America
Christopher William Tanner    1765                Virginia
William Tanner                        1848                Philadelphia
William Tanner                        1855                Ohio
William Tanner                        1853                Philadelphia

It is unclear whether the three individuals listed as emigrating to America in 1680 are all the same person or three different people with the same name. Two different sources cited for the three entries. In one instance, the reference is to Peter Wilson Coldham’s book, The Complete Book of Emigrants[14] and in another to Coldham’s book, Bonded Passengers to America. In 9 volumes.[15] It is also possible that the William Tanner who witnessed the deeds in 1682 was native born. References by Reverend Tanner to William Tanner’s birth date in “about 1660” also seem to be based on the same level of speculation incident to his assumption that William emigrated in 1679. It is a possible coincidence that the English records show one or more “William Tanners” emigrating in this time period.

The Reverend Tanner mentions that William Tanner paid the “Andrus tax” in 1687. This may be a reference to a William Tanner found on the tax roll of the town of Rochester (Kingstown), under Governor Andrus, for 1687, where he is taxed for one pole, 1 1-2d. This reference, although cited and repeated, cannot now be verified as the source was not given.

Again Reverend Tanner cites an 1893 purchase of land by William Tanner from Henry Hall of Westerly “on the east side of the Usquepaugh River[16], about a mile below the present village of Usquepaugh, formerly known as Mumford’s mills, on which he lived and is buried.”[17] In one of his very few acknowledgments, Reverend Tanner cites “Early history of Narragansett” by Judge E. R. Potter, p. 226.[18] Reverend Tanner notes that on this property lie the graves of William Tanner, identified as “WT” and two of his wives, identified only as “MT” and “ET.”[19] There are also four small, unidentified graves. Two other marked graves on the site are for “JT” and “ST.” Reverend Tanner identifies these two graves as those of William Tanner’s son, John Tanner and John’s second wife, Susannah.[20]

Three wives are identified by Reverend Tanner for William Tanner; first, the daughter of Henry Tibbitts; second, Mary Babcock, daughter of Job Babcock of Westerly; third, Elizabeth Cottrill.[21]

The first of these wives listed by Reverend Tanner, the daughter of Henry Tibbitts, is the least likely. Osborne’s The Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island[22] lists the children of Henry Tibbitts, with Hannah Tibbitts as the eighth child. Hannah is shown as married to “William Tanner” with their first child born in 1712. The first born child of the immigrant, William Tanner, is identified by Reverend Tanner as being born before 1692. It is possible, that this son is the one who married Hannah Tibbits. He would have been the right age to marry and have a first child in 1712. It is very unlikely, that Hannah Tibbitts was the first wife of the immigrant William Tanner if the information about the Tibbitts family is accurate. It seems more probable that Hannah Tibbitts, the daughter of Henry, was the daughter-in-law, not the wife, of William Tanner, the immigrant.[23] If this analysis is correct, then this leaves two wives for William Tanner, Mary Babcock, and Elizabeth Cottrill, exactly matching the initials given for two wives in the family burial plot.

Another compendium, Frederick Adams Virkus’ The abridged compendium of American genealogy: first families of America: a genealogical encyclopedia of the United States,[24] refers to William Tanner. This seven-volume work contains references to William Tanner in Vol. III, page 368; Vol. V, page 666; and Vol. VI, page 192. In each case, the pedigree lists essentially the same information given in the books by Reverend Tanner. Since the Virkus book also fails to give any source information, it may be possible that the later book edited by Vikus relies on the information from Reverend Tanner. Therefore, the cumulative references to William Tanner add nothing to clarify the events in his life.

Mary Tanner is identified as the daughter of Job Babcock in his will of 26 March 1715, proved 7 April 1718[25] although her husband is not identified. The time period also leaves some doubt because the will, written in 1715, does not refer to Mary as deceased.

One hypothesis is that Mary Babcock was the first wife of William Tanner. She would also be the mother of the William Tanner who married Hannah Tibbitts. William and Hannah also had a son named William born in 1712.

By researching the town records for Hopkinton, Washington, Rhode Island, I was able to establish at least one wife for William, named Elizabeth from her signature on the disclaimer portion of the deed.[26]

Likewise, further research shows a will for Francis Tanner dated November 4, 1776 identifying all of his children and his wife.[27] This will names his son Joshua Tanner, who by some later search is shown in the birth records contained in the Town Records for Hopkinton, Rhode Island with all of his children who were born in Rhode Island listed.[28] The birth records for Joshua Tanner and his wife, Thankful Tefft, list John Tanner and his birth date.[29]

There is still a considerable amount of research that needs to be done and it is possible that with the increased availability of records, the parentage of Francis Tanner will be found. But currently, it is less than helpful to have the hoards of his descendants recopying the unsupported parentage into the Family Tree.


[1] Ancestry.com search for “William Tanner” consisting of 7 printed pages involving 207 user submitted trees.
[2] See Tanner, George Shepherd, John Tanner and his Family at page 25. The reference to the book “John Tanner Family” is to Tanner, Maurice, Descendants of John Tanner, Born August 15, 1778, at Hopkintown, R. I. Died April 15, 1850 at South Cottonwood, Salt Lake County, Utah, The Tanner Family Association, 1942
[3]Tanner, George C., Reverend, William Tanner of South Kingston and his Descendants, Faribault, Minnesota (Self Published, 1905).
[4] De Brouwer, Elizabeth, Compiler, Under the Direction of George Shepherd Tanner, Sidney Tanner, His Ancestors and Descendants, Pioneer Freighter of the West, 1809 – 1895, Sidney Tanner Family Organization, 4545 South 2760 East, Salt Lake City, Utah 84117, 1982, Page 10 et seq.
[5] Tanner, George C., Reverend, William Tanner of South Kingston and his Descendants, Faribault, Minnesota (Self Published, 1910) Page 5.
[6] Arnold, James N., Editor of the Narrangansett Historical Register, Compiler, The Records of the Proprietors of Narrangansett. Otherwise Called the Fones Record, Rhode Island Colonial Gleanings, n.d. Pages 79 and 108. As a matter of note, Reverend Tanner cites page 70, the incorrect page for the reference to William Tanner. He also fails to note the reference to the second deed on Page 108.
[7] Likely the modern Warwick, located just south of Providence, Rhode Island.
[8] Ibid Page 78.
[9] See American Indian Place Names In Rhode Island Database, http://www.rootsweb.com/~rigenweb/IndianPlaceNames8.html#_ftn89  Native American names associated with Fox Island include Sonanoxet , Sowananoxet, Azoiquoneset, Nonequasset, and Nanaquonset.
[10] See Farnham, Charles W. F.A.S.G., Rhode Island Genealogy, typed manuscript, n.d., Page 10.
[11] Tanner, William Tanner of South Kingston and his Descendants, 1905, Page 7. It is interesting to note that although Reverend Tanner acknowledges his lack of information on William Tanner’s origins, the lack does not prevent him from reaching his conclusion.
[12] Tanner, George C., Reverend, William Tanner of South Kingston and his Descendants, 1910, Pages 5 and 6.
[13] Gale Research. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: MyFamily.com, Inc., 2005. Original data: Filby, P. William, ed.. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s. Farmington Hills, MI, USA: Gale Research, 2005.
[14]Coldham, Peter Wilson, The Complete Book of Emigrants: A Comprehensive Listing Compiled from English Public Records of Those Who Took Ship to the Americas for Political, Religious, and Economic Reasons; of Those Who Were Deported for Vagrancy, Roguery, or Non-Conformity; and of Those Who Were Sold to Labour in the New Colonies, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. 1661-1699. 1990. 894p. Page: 359
[15] Coldham, Peter Wilson, Bonded Passengers to America. 9 vols. in 3. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1983. Vol. 6. Oxford Circuit, 1663-1775: Berkshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Monmouthshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, and Worcestershire. 95p. Page: 54
[16] Usquepaugh or Usquebaug River, or Osquepaug, or Wawaskepaug, is identified as the west boundary of South Kingstown [in Kingstown] , running from Exeter due South till it meets a stream coming from Warden's pond, and thence running to Shannock mills. The Indian word means “At the end of the pond.” See http://www.rootsweb.com/~rigenweb/IndianPlaceNames9.html
[17] Tanner, Maurice, Descendants of John Tanner, Born August 15, 1778, at Hopkintown, R. I. Died April 15, 1850 at South Cottonwood, Salt Lake County, Utah, The Tanner Family Association, 1942, Pages 8 and 9.
[18] See Potter, Elisha R., The early history of Narragansett : with an appendix of original documents, many of which are now for the first time published, Ann Arbor, Michigan : University Microfilms, 1987, [Microreproduction of original published: Providence : Marshall, Brown & Co., 1935. (Providence : Printed by E.A. Marshall). xix, 423].
[19] Tanner, George C., Reverend, William Tanner of South Kingston and his Descendants, 1905, Page 8.
[20] Ibid, Pages 8 and 9. This information likely came from See Potter, Elisha R., The early history of Narragansett : with an appendix of original documents, many of which are now for the first time published.
[21] Ibid, Page 11.
[22] Austin, John Osborne and Moriarty, G. Andrews, The Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island : comprising three generations of settlers who came before 1690 (with many families carried to the fourth generation (Albany, N.Y. : Joel Munsell's Sons, 1887. viii, 440 p. [With a new foreword by Albert T. Klyberg, librarian, The Rhode Island Historical Society, and the additions and corrections, Baltimore, Maryland Genealogical Publishing Inc., 1969], Page 202.
[23] Ibid, Page 202. None of the children of Henry Tibbitts are shown with identified birth dates.
[24] Virkus, Frederick Adams, The abridged compendium of American genealogy: first families of America : a genealogical encyclopedia of the United States, Baltimore, Maryland; Genealogical Publishing, 1968 [Chicago, Illinois, A. N. Marquis, Virkus Company and Institute of American Genealogy], 1925-1942, 7 v.
[25] Beaman, Alden G., Rhode Island Vital Records, New Series, Vol. 4, Washington County, Rhode Island Births from Probate Records, 1685 – 1860, Princeton, Mass. : [s.n.], c1978, Page 15.
[26] South Kingston, Rhode Island Town Clerk, Land Evidence 1696 – 1885, Salt Lake City, Utah Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1973. FHL US/CAN Film 932299. Deed from William Tanner to Benjamin Tanner, 1723.
[27] Hopkinton, Rhode Island Court of Probate, Probate Records, 1757—1920, Salt Lake City, Utah, Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1973, 1993. FHL US/CAN Film 931571. Will of Francis Tanner 1776.
[28] Hopkinton, Rhode Island,  Town Clerk, Town records Vol. 1-4 1757-1923, Salt Lake City, Utah : Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1973. FHL US/CAN Film 931576
[29] Ibid.