Monday, October 28, 2013

Dear Randy: Are We Cousins Through William White?

Sometimes my correspondents get me excited, hoping to find a cousin relationship, and sometimes we're disappointed that it doesn't work out.  I recently received an email from a society colleague that said (edited for brevity):

"I came across your name on-line while researching my White family lineage.  My great-great grandmother was Mary E. White daughter of Lemuel Davidson White and Elizabeth Blake.  I have been told by a distant cousin that we are related to Peregrine White (son of William White) through his son Sylvanus White and his son William White.  I am having problems trying to connect the generations between Lemuel Davidson White and William White (son of Sylvanus).  Would you be able to help me?  Any place I can go to reference?  I have the book: Mayflower Families Through Five Generations for William White. 

 "Here is a portion of my family tree if you need it:

" 1 Lemuel Davidson White=Elizabeth Blake
2  Mary E. White=George G Purdy

"I appreciate any help or leads you can provide!"

I did a little bit of checking in the FamilySearch Family Tree and Ancestry Member Trees in order to determine the time frame for the named persons, and checked the Mayflower Families Through Five Generations book for William White (I only have Volume 1 of the MFTFG books for William White), and then responded with:

"The Mayflower Families book is an excellent resource for you for those first five generations, but you need to connect your line to someone in the book.  I had the same problem 24 years ago! 

"Tell me more about Lemuel Davidson White.  Where and when was he born and married and died?  I would look for other White families in those places and time frames to find records for the parents and their children, and work my way back in time with those candidates.  There may be more than one or two candidates, and you may not know the right one until you find them.  My experience is that probate and land records often solve the problem but finding them is a challenge sometimes. 

"Have you looked for clues on Ancestry Member Trees, FamilySearch Family Trees and other online family trees? 

"There is an entry for Lemuel Davidson White in the FamilySearch Family Tree (you will have to register for free to use the tree) at  A pedigree for him (see gives only one more White generation - Samuel Morris White (1790 WV - 1827). 

"There are a number of ancestry Member Trees with Lemuel Davidson White.  Several Ancestry Member Tree go back one more generation to a Samuel Slack White born in Virginia.  

"Another Ancestry tree connects that Samuel White through several more generations to a William White, son of William and Hannah (Cadman) White, but I doubt its veracity.  That William White (#52i in the White section of the MFTFG book) married Abigail Thurston in Little Compton RI, and resided in Dartmouth MA, dying before 1780 with 5 children.  William and Abigail (Thurston) White are my ancestors, and their descendants are in several peer reviewed articles and in probate records. 

"Another Ancestry Member Tree leads back to a William White born in 1710 in Virginia, purported son of Jonathan Bassett White, a son of Peregrine and Sarah (Bassett) White.  Jonathan White (#9 in the White section of the MFTFG book)  lived his whole life in Massachusetts and didn't have a son named William according to the book.  That's another spurious link in the tree, I think. 

"My experience is that very few persons in 18th century colonial Virginia are connected to the early Massachusetts colonial families.  Based on just this 20 minutes of searching, my guess is that your White line is from Virginia and not Massachusetts.  I think that your distant cousin is wrong.

"As you can see, many online family trees have erroneous information.  This often occurs because of a "same name in the same place at the same time" situation, and the searcher does not do a thorough survey of published compiled genealogy literature or records, and draws an erroneous conclusion.  In the worst case, it's a "same name in a different place at the same time" and the searcher leaps to an erroneous conclusion without any checking of published literature or records.  Unfortunately, whoever did those Ancestry Member Trees, and your cousin, took the latter route."

In this case,  experience, analysis, and reviewing available information won out over just finding a link in someone else's online family tree and putting it in a database.  My correspondent was suspicious, as well she should have been.  She consulted an authoritative compiled genealogy which cited sources, and couldn't make the link.  So she asked for advice.  Good for her!  I'm just sorry that we couldn't make the connection to Peregrine White - that would have been fun to discuss at our next research group meeting.

Again, genealogy blogging, or message boarding, or using other social media, to find help on a genealogy problem works!  She probably did a Google search for the name of the Mayflower Whites and saw one of my Genea-Musings posts.

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Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver

1 comment:

Old Bones Search said...

I attempted to comment on my smartphone through Google+ on Flipbook....too much technology for me!! At any rate, I have an 8th great grand aunt, Sarah Bassett, who was married to Peregrine White. I also have a book published in 1895 "Genealogy of the White Family". It was not indexed when it was published. Somewhere along the way, someone typed up an index and placed it in a 3-ring binder. If I can help anyone with any data it may contain that will help, let me know.