Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Correcting my mistakes...Carpenter Family of colonial New England

One of the common complaints about online family trees (and blogs) without sources, or which use derivative sources such as published books and genealogy databases, is that the information is often incorrect. In some cases, this is true. In many cases, the information is accurate, having been obtained from original sources and primary information data. The challenge is sorting the wheat from the chaff.

The best advice for all researchers is to treat all sources of information with skepticism, and work to obtain original source material with primary information concerning names, dates, events and locations. We are all human and make mistakes of omission and commission, usually unintentionally in good faith, but sometimes with poor judgment or knowledge.

Yea, verily, I have put incorrect genealogical information on the Internet. Even though I have done my best to be accurate, I have relied, in many cases, on derivative sources and secondary information, especially in surname books and in online databases. These errors mainly crop up in my earliest work, where I was "collecting" names and families, entered it into my genealogy software, and didn't look critically at the information or the sources.

Over the past ten years, I created genealogy reports based on my "research" and posted them on my web site, called (rather creatively I thought) Randy Seaver's Ancestry and Family History. The reports are unsourced, and do not include research notes - only names, dates and places.

Several times each month I receive an email from other researchers requesting me to send them information about people in these reports, thanking me for posting helpful data, or telling me that my information is wrong. The latter ones are actually the most helpful for my own research, because usually they provide more authoritative information than I had previously.

Such is the case with the email I received last week from Gene Zubrinsky, who has performed authoritative research on the William Carpenter (1605-1659) who settled in Rehoboth, Massachusetts. Gene told me that my ancestor, Solomon Carpenter (1675-1750) was not the son of Abiah Carpenter (1643-1699) but of Abiah's brother, Samuel Carpenter (1638-1683), both sons of William Carpenter. He sent links to his Carpenter family research work to back up his assertions. The Carpenters' Encyclopedia of Carpenters has sketches, done in Great Migration style, for the early Carpenter families of Rehoboth MA. Gene has published much of this work in the New England Historic Genealogical Register and in The American Genealogist.

I spent a fun two hours today correcting my genealogy database getting Solomon into the right family, and filling in the family of Samuel and Sarah (Redway) Carpenter. I listed Gene's work as a resource in the notes for the families.

It's been four years since I've updated the genealogy reports on my web site. There have been other changes to my ancestral database as a result of my own research and the help from others, like Gene. I need to create new genealogy reports and post them on my web site.

I appreciate Gene taking the time to send the correction, and links to his material, to me and being willing to share his work with Carpenter descendants on the Internet. Take a look at his work, especially if you are a descendant of William Carpenter (1605-1659).

How many other mistakes are there in my ancestral database? I'm sure that there are many - that's one of the problems with over 2,000 ancestors in my database. Each of us needs to be open-minded when we are confronted with errors in our work. We need to investigate it, accept the correction if we judge it accurate, and apologize for misleading people with our faulty information.

One of my favorite sayings, which especially applies in issues like this, is "Pobody's Nerfect!" I've known this for a long time, of course, that I am, and my research work is, imperfect. Um, Angel Linda dear, where is that piece of humble pie?

I wish that we had more Gene Zubrinsky's in our genealogy world that creates excellent research and shares it. My goal is to do better on the research, analysis and writing parts of the task. It's why I've been pursuing deeds, probates and other original documents for my ancestral families. Maybe, before I leave this mortal coil, I'll be able to create research work as complete and well done as Gene's Carpenter work. There's a goal to shoot for! Thanks, Gene!

Updated 18 October 2013:  Corrected Gene Zubrinski's link to his Carpenter work.

Copyright (c) 2009, Randall J. Seaver


Evelyn Yvonne Theriault said...

Randy, I think you do a great service to family history researchers when you share your own process of continuous improvement.
In my "Desperately Seeking Elizabeth" series I'm sharing some of my earliest methods with family members just because I think it's great avoid giving beginners the impression that we spring out of the gate as fully-formed genealogists.
Evelyn in Montreal

Patti said...

Well done, Randy! I do have information added to my online database which I have also gleaned from possibly erroneous sources. However, there's enough out there to make me think that in large part it is correct, and it gives me the reference point with which to begin my research. Since I can't get to EVERYTHING, as much as I'd like to, it helps me for the future. But may I be like you, oh, wise one, and modify, correct, and properly source it when I do.