Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dear Randy: What Do You Do With Wrong Information?

I gave a presentation on "Searching Effectively" in January, and one of the attendees afterward emailed me with a question:

"What do you do with 'wrong information' that causes you to disconnect persons from others in your family tree?"

I think this refers to a comment I made that sometimes I find information that leads me to remove a person from a family in my tree.  This occurs occasionally with me when, while doing a reasonably exhaustive search, I find a record that indicates that a person is not the child of set of parents.

One example of this is Devier J. Smith (1839-1894), who I had put in the family of Ranslow and Mary (Bell) Smith of Henderson, Jefferson County, New York and Burnett, Dodge County, Wisconsin.  The Bible, family papers, census, and other records supported the relationship of Devier as a son of Ranslow and Mary.  I had extended Ranslow's ancestry back two more generations, and Mary's ancestry was New York Dutch and Scottish, and I had quite a bit of research done in the New York Dutch families.  Then I found the 1866 "Name Change" record and Ranslow Smith's 1866 will, both of which indicated that Devier J. Smith was the adopted son of Ranslow Smith, and that his original surname was Lamphier.  Oops.

So what did I do?

1)  In the RootsMagic program, I changed the relationship of Devier to Ranslow and Mary to be "Adopted" rather than "Biological."  I also renamed Devier James Smith to be Devier James Lamphier Smith in order to reflect both the birth name and the adoptive name.  I added information to the General and Research Notes for Devier J. Lamphier Smith and Ranslow Smith reflecting the changes made so that I recorded the information that I have.

2)  I kept all of the research information for the ancestry of Ranslow Smith and Mary Bell in my RootsMagic database.  I had done quite a bit of research trying to find the ancestral families, and didn't want to throw it away by deleting all of those persons.  I kept it all in my RootsMagic database because it might help other researchers looking for these families when they find my online trees on Ancestry, MyHeritage, Geni, FamilySearch, Mocavo, WikiTree, and other sites.  Hopefully, they will contact me.  Perhaps they will have more information than I have about Ranslow and Mary, or even information about Devier (I wish!!).

3)  I started research to determine candidates to be the biological parents of Devier J. Lamphier.  He was probably adopted in Jefferson County, New York before 1843, since the Smith family moved to Wisconsin in 1843 and Devier's birthplace is New York according to all of the available records.  To date, I have identified a number of potential families to be his ancestors in the area in the 1840 time period, but I have not identified a father or a mother for him.  I've added many Lamphier (and similar surnames) persons to a separate tree in an effort to organize what I've found concerning names, dates, places and relationships.

So, basically, I pruned the tree a bit in order to reflect what I think is the most accurate information I have.  I also planted a new tree to help me organize the information for the Lamphier line and any collateral surnames.  I will merge the Lamphier tree into my main tree when I find Devier's biological parents.  If I don't find them in a reasonable time period, then I may add the Lamphier data to my main tree so that my research can benefit other researchers.  I don't "have to" connect every person in my database to everybody else in my main tree.

Do you disconnect persons in your family tree software or online tree when you find an erroneous relationship?  What do you do with the information that you've collected?

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Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver


Jacqi Stevens said...

Randy, since I am currently immersed in a search keeping me up to my ears in data that may, in the end, turn out to be all wrong anyhow, your post's title today caught my eye.

While I certainly don't like to knowingly include what may turn out to be faulty information in my online records--in case anyone skims the entry and missing the nuanced howevers--these wild goose chases do involve a lot of steps and sources. I can't just trash all that research, just because I ruled out a hunch. I've got to keep track of that research path somewhere. Right now, I've been keeping a journal of such forays on my blog. I also keep a record embedded in the "notes" portion of my database program. Even if it turns out not to be an ancestor of mine, never know when it could be a usable resource for a fellow researcher.

bgwiehle said...

What happens in my tree depends on the extent of the material collected and, to some degree, why I went wrong.
If I think the individuals will eventually fit in somewhere else in my tree, they are left unconnected, with a ToDo item. Otherwise, the disconnected branch is exported and archived.
If this was a confusion due to individuals with similar names and ages, the correct details will be entered and an event will be created summarizing the other person. This will remind me to watch out for and avoid repeating the error. The details or a pointer text will be in the individual's notes.
Any relevant source images or text records are marked or annotated to reflect the new conclusions.

T said...

After a couple of false leads that made me go back through my tree and make changes, I now start a new tree with suspect individuals. If they pan out I combine them in the main tree. If they don't work out I just leave them in their own tree at ancestry. Maybe somebody sometime will need the research I've done.

Donna said...

I totally agree with your one change of biological to adoptive and leaving everything else as it had been. To illustrate another option/reason: I was searching for information on my sister-in-law's grandmother's family. She knew next to nothing and earlier generations were already deceased. I found a woman with the same name/birth location and started working that family relationship. Because I include several generations of siblings in my research process, I eventually discovered one of the woman's brothers living with her; however, this woman was married to a different person than my sister-in-law's grandfather - thus not the same person at all. By the way, a professional(?) genealogist came up with this same person and presented my sister-in-law with the research report that included this woman as her grandmother - totally erroneously. Once I knew this was not the correct person, I began with the oldest of her parents' grandparents and deleted all children/spouses, etc. until I could delete the parents so I could finally delete the person. To date, I have not found another candidate to research.

Unknown said...

Randy, I have an ancestor who was born in Parker, Texas in 1891. I know that she was adopted, but I don't know her biological surname. My question is where did you find the "name change document"?

Suzanne Lemon