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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

An Example of "Cleaning up the FamilySearch Family Tree"

In a recent blog post, I wrote about the need to clean up the Family Tree. I thought it would help to illustrate what I meant by cleaning up a deserving entry and showing my opinion of what needs to be done. Here is the raw entry from the Family Tree.

Here is a good example of an entry that has not been cleaned up yet.

Too see the full extent of the issues with this particular entry, I would need a longer screenshot. Here is a partial screenshot of the list of Alternate Birth Names. There are 27.

What was this person's name at the time of her birth? Why are all these names listed here? Do they all need to be preserved? Is there really that much controversy over her name? Where did these alternative names come from? How much time do I need to spend looking up these names?

Take into account that Roxalana Ray was born 25 June 1794 in Hubbardton, Rutland, Vermont United States. Also take into account that entries for this person have been submitted by hundreds of her descendants, many of whom did not know her "birth name." Granted, there are variations as to the spelling of her name but none of these belong in the category of "birth name." If birth name has any meaning, it should be the name that is on a birth record or the earliest mention of the person if no birth record exists. In the Family Tree program, the name that is in the Vital Information section should be where this "birth name" is recorded and when there are actual variations in the record, any additional copies should either be documented variants from actual records and designated as "Alternative Names" or they should be labeled as duplicative or incorrect and deleted. Too many users of the Family Tree program think that merely because all these names are listed, we are under some kind of obligation to keep them in the program. This is not the case. They are superfluous and misleading.

So what was Roxalana's birth name? Here is the information from the following record:

"Vermont, Vital Records, 1760-1954," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 28 April 2015), Samuel Shepherd and Roxy Ray, 04 Dec 1820, Marriage; State Capitol Building, Montpelier; FHL microfilm 27,684.

Here is the "original" record.

Guess what? This is an index card, not an original record. But here, her name is recorded as "Roxy L. Ray." My daughter, Amy, has done extensive research on this family. She explains in a blog post entitled, Tanner 9: Julia Ann Shepherd Tanner, the following:
Julia's mother was Roxalana Ray. Roxalana's name is a nod to classical history (the original Roxolana was the wife of the Sultan Suleiman the Lawgiver). Roxalana married Samuel in 1820 and they moved to Ohio in 1823. Samuel and Roxalana had eight children.
Amy's blog,,  has four articles on Roxalana Ray Shepherd with source citations. Here are her conclusions after extensive research for the couple:

b. 10 November 1788 Bennington, Bennington, Vermont
m. 4 December 1820 Castleton, Rutland, Vermont
d. 10 October 1877 San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California
b. San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California
Wives: (1) Roxalana Ray, (2) Charity Bates Swarthout, (3) Sarah Whitney Crandall
Father: David Shepherd; Mother: Diadema (Diana) Hopkins

b. 1794 Castleton, Rutland, Vermont
d. 11 November 1832 On a boat on the Mississippi River
Husband: Samuel Shepherd
Father: William Ray; Mother: Joanna Pond

I would refer you to TheAncestorFiles for considerable more information about this family. The point here is that careful research shows what her name was at birth and why. Do I need to search out the origin of each of the other listed variations? The simple answer is no. If you find variations listed in other records, such as the Vermont Index shown above, then they should be listed as "Alternative Names" rather than leaving a long list of misleading birth names. Very few users of the Family Tree seem to realize that the "Other Information" section had an +Add link to unlimited categories of information. 

What will I do about cleaning up this entry. I will first delete all of the different birth names with an explanation that they are inaccurate or duplicative. Next, I will edit the name of this person to reflect the research and include a source reference to Amy's research. 

This gets us through the first level of "cleaning up" the record.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for trusting my conclusion, but I’m not sure I’d trust it myself! I did that many years ago. Let me look at it.

    She would have been named after Suleiman’s wife Roxelana/Roxalana, either directly or indirectly, and in full or by the shorter Roxy, but I can’t swear as to how her parents would have spelled her name.

    I’m looking at Ancestry to find all instances of the name. The name was not uncommon during the 1790s and early 1800s, especially in New England, and Roxalana was the standard spelling. The name “Roxy” shows up in a variety of records as well.

    The records including later proxy temple records are fairly consistent that she went by “Roxy,” so it is possible that her parents named her Roxy Lana Ray. She and Sam named one of their children Marcus DeLafayette Shepherd (a tribute to the Revolutionary War hero, the Marquis de Lafayette), so there is precedent for creative naming in the family.

    Based on Sons of American Revolution membership applications it looks like her name has been consistenly listed in family records as Roxalana for the past century. Therefore, I would keep the spellings Roxalana and Roxy L. and discard all the other variations.