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

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Looking at Some of the Really Common Errors in the FamilySearch Family Tree

With the advent of the red Data Problem icons in the Family Tree, the fact that the data in the Family Tree needs work has become abundantly obvious. The notice above is a clear indication that the dates of the events in the Family Tree are wrong but, what is more likely, the notices indicate that the people are wrongly connected. Of course, the problem could be a simple typographical error in entering a date, but usually, as I have found, there are more serious data issues.

Even though some of these serious data issues are prominently displayed and marked by red icons, that does not mean that the rest of the data in the Family Tree is at all accurate. There are still a huge number of duplicate entries. Every time I begin the process of researching a family and adding even one or two dates after finding sources for records, the results almost uniformly results in finding duplicate records. Merging those duplicate usually, adds more information to the individuals in the family and results in additional duplicates.

But just because you don't see any red icons does not mean that your portion of the Family Tree is error free. Since my immediate family has been intensively working on our portion of the Family Tree for a couple of years now, I am having a little bit of difficulty finding really bad examples to illustrate some of my posts. But, digging in a little will almost certainly disclose more egregious problems to be solved.

In my experience, the most challenging problems involve actual genealogical research issues. These are situations where there is a valid dispute as to the interpretation of the available records. Sometimes, records that could resolve these issues are yet to be found and there are understandable differences in opinion. Most of these situations deal with people who lived in the early 1700s or earlier. Some of these problems may not ever be satisfactorily resolved. But there are enough of the easily resolved problems to keep me busy for the rest of my life.

It is time to give some examples. Here is an example of a really common error.

Here, there are no red icons to give us immediate notice of the problem, but from my perspective, just looking at these entries without doing a speck of research raising immediate issues. Of course, my first step is to check the locations and the dates. All three of these individuals are recorded as born in West Darby, Lancashire, England. Here is the card for Thomas Glover, who is the supposed "end-of-the-line" in this example. To start to see the scope of the problem, I can simply click on the link to expand these entries one more generation.

At this point, I am ignoring the long list of red icons which, by the way, indicate that the children were born when the mother was supposedly 69 years old. What I see as the major problem is that there is an immediate duplicate issue. Margaret Bleasdale has been entered, at least, twice. both as the wife of John Glover born in 1714 and as the wife of William Glover born in 1739. If I collapse down the tree a little you can see the issue much easier.

You may have to click on some of these images to see them clearly. This is not a situation of a duplicate entry so a search for duplicates will not find this issue. This is a situation of where the error is not as easily determined. It looks like from this view that John Glover had two wives. But it is also apparent that William Glover born in 1739 is listed as a child with each of the two mothers.

But the real problem comes when we expand William Glover born in 1739 and discover that he apparently married his own mother.

In this case, why don't I just jump in and make all the corrections? The answer is quite simple, I don't believe any of this is correct. You might recall that I mention that Thomas Glover born in 1689 came from Lancashire. When I go back to the pedigree, I see the following:

Margaret Bleasdale is entered as the daughter of Edmund Bleasdale and "Mrs. Edmund Bleasdale" and was born when her mother was 6 years old and her father was two years old. She is also 27 years older than here husband William Glover.

A quick search for the Glover surname in's millions of records shows that in their records for the United Kingdom, there are over 550,000 records for the Glover surname. There are over 62,000 records for Glovers in Lancashire.

What is more interesting is that there are over 19,000 records for Bleasdales in Lancashire and there are 859 records for Bleasdales named Margaret. There are no records showing the marriage of a "Margaret Bleasdale" to a Glover of any name. So what is the problem here?

Now, back to the Family Tree. Margaret Bleasdale is shown to have 27 sources. Let's have a look at these sources. Perhaps there is something I missed that easily resolves all these issues.

The list of supposed birth names illustrates exactly what is going on here with these entries.

This long list of "Birth Name" entries indicates the number of combined entries for this person from family group sheets previously submitted for this person. The fact that none of these have been removed or resolved indicates that no one has done any work on this person since the Family Tree has been in existence. By the way, I find this to be all too common. There are almost a vanishingly small number of people who are actively correcting the information in the Family Tree using a calculator and doing some adequate research.

What about the sources? Here is part of the list in a screenshot.

What is the problem? Apparently, no one has looked at these sources. I won't go through every one of them to spare you the agony of seeing what is listed here.  But here are a couple of entries to give you an idea of what I found.

Is her name Margaret Brank or Margaret Branhall, and is she really Margaret Bleasdale? If Margaret Bleasdale was married in 1760 she was already 48 years old. Here is another copy of another source.

Which William Glover is married to Margaret Bramhall and is this the same person as Margaret Bleasdale? Not likely. Here is the Family Tree entry for our William Glover.

That's enough of a mess for one day. What is going on here? How do I resolve this mess short of simply starting over again? The answer is that I cannot solve this mess by working from the top down. I must come forward in my line to the place where the Glovers come into the pedigree and start by validating each and every link from that point back in time. As I do that, the issues will be resolved as I show that the entries are inaccurate and muddled.

This example does point out a really important fact about the Family Tree. The program works. The date is the problem. I could clean up this entire mess and probably will when I get back to it. Right now, I am mired down with more recent messes.

Don't get discouraged. There are a few of us out here who are cleaning up the really bad parts of the Family Tree. But before you jump in and start using these lines to generate names to go to the temple, you might want to take some time to do what I just showed above and look to see if any of what you are looking at make any sense.


  1. You are so right on in this blog. And this is why the big push to get youth consultants Finding, Taking and Teaching is not necessarily a great situation and not the solution to undoing messes like those shown. Those of us who have had teenage children, as we did, and who taught teenagers in high school, as I did, know the limits of what they desire and can do with family history. The FT engineers know these things too and try to place impedances in the program to deter some of the messing up that can be done. But it seems that some decision makers at the top don't quite get this yet. I hope your blog is read widely and will eventually get to them. Keep at it!

  2. Thank you for your hard work and your observations. If only more people thought about the trees they produce and those that they copy. I was pleased also to find out more about my family (John Glover 1772-1848 was my 3g-grandfather: more information on Tribal Pages including his will and relevant DNA test results available if of interest).