Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Follow-Up on Geni.com Collaborative Tree - Getting It Right

I posted Am I Really Benjamin Franklin's 5th Cousin 9 Times Removed? yesterday, and when I started writing the post I was really hoping that it was true (True confession:  I love being related to famous people).  The collaborative family tree on Geni.com provided the information.

However, when I did some online investigations, I found several serious flaws in the line shown on Geni.com from the early colonial and English Shermans to me, centered on the contention that Mary Sherman (1624-1699) was the wife of Thomas Fish (1619-1687), my ancestor.  

1)  I had an email from Amanda of Geni.com saying:

"Thanks for your post. One of the greatest strengths of collaborative genealogy is that everyone can work together to continuously improve information in tree. The more people we have working on our world family tree, the better it gets. We encourage everyone to start a dialog if they have found any information that seems questionable. There are many ways to do this on Geni. You can start a public discussion from the profile, send a message to the managers of the profile or contact a Geni Curator for help. A Curator may also add a Curator note at the top of a profile to bring any important information to the attention of users viewing the profile."

I appreciate Amanda's comment, and I agree with it - the problem is that very few contributors to Geni.com do any collaboration.  

I need to put my money where my mouth is and try to fix this issue in the Geni.com tree.  So I added this "Discussion" on Mary "Sherman" Fish's profile in Geni.com:

My comment says:

"I have seen no evidence that a Mary Sherman is the daughter of Samuel Sherman and Esther Burges, or that a Mary Sherman was married to Thomas fish of Portsmouth.
"The two Sherman surname books I've seen have the Samuel Sherman (1601-1643) son of Samuel Sherman and Phillipa Ward.
"1) The 1920 Sherman Genealogy book by Thomas Townsend Sherman is online athttps://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE9707... and Samuel Sherman is noted on page 93. It provides a daughter Mary with no birth date and no indication of marriage.
"2) The Sherman Genealogy 1433-1990s by Alonzo Sherman is athttps://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE6001.... Samuel Sherman born 1601 is mentioned on page 16 with a wife's name and no children listed.
"I also note that this profile lists Mary "Sherman" as being born in 1624 in Portsmouth, R.I. Of course, Portsmouth, R.I. was not founded until the 1630s, and that her purported parents were probably still in England in 1624, not to migrate until after 1635 (He's not in the Great Migration book series which covers up until 1635).
Until credible evidence of the birth of Mary, the wife of Thomas Fish, is provided, and credible evidence of the marriage of a Mary Sherman to Thomas Fish is provided, I think that this profile for Mary "Sherman" should be disconnected from the purported parents and the surname "Sherman" should be deleted."

I also added this information from the Notes in my RootsMagic databases to the Overview for this Mary --?-- (not Sherman!), wife of Thomas Fish:

I added:

"Here is what I have in my database about Mary --?-- the wife of Thomas Fish.

"She is probably not a Sherman - there is no credible evidence found to date that she is a Sherman.

"Mary, the wife of Thomas Fish, may have been an Ayres, daughter of a Portsmouth couple who deeded Thomas Fish property in return for maintaining them in their old age. However, it is possible that they were simply a childless couple needing care.

"Mary Fish, widow of Portsmouth, died testate, having written a will dated 9 September 1697, with a codicil dated 12 July 1699. The will was proved on 9 August 1699. The will mentions sons John Fish, Robert Fish, Thomas fish deceased and Daniel fish; daughters Mehitable Tripp, Mary Brayton and Alice Knowles; grandson Preserved Fish, son of son Thomas deceased; grandson Thomas Fish, son of Daniel Fish and granddaughters Comfort fish and Ruth Fish, daughters of son Daniel Fish; granddaughter Mary Fish under age 16, daughter of son John Fish; grandson Robert Fish, son of son Robert Fish (Source: "Portsmouth Town Council and Probate, Volume 2, 1697-1725," pages 170-171, abstracted by Nellie M.C. Beaman, "Abstracts of Portsmouth, R.I. Wills," in Rhode Island Genealogical Register, Volume 5, Number 1, July 1982)."

I haven't tried to edit the person profile, and I'm not sure that I can do that because I'm not a profile manager.  My preference is to wait and see if I get a response, if any, from the profile Curator or from the profile managers.

2)  I had an email from Israel Pickholtz discussing the issue of collaborative trees and the proliferation of erroneous information.  He has written several articles about this topic - see:

*  Genealogy as a Quilting Bee, published 15 December 2013 on the All My Foreparents blog.  Be sure to read his Avotaynu article.

*  Getting It Wrong, published 17 November 2013 on the All My Foreparents blog.  Be sure to read his Avotaynu article.

3)  I agree with Israel - the most important thing in genealogical research is getting the research right!!  

In the every case, Getting it Right requires finding evidence in original sources that can be analyzed so as to draw a conclusion about names, dates, places and relationships.  Derivative sources and authored works can be used to help find those original sources (which may be on paper in a repository or image copies on microfilm).  

Many researchers cannot travel, or have not taken the opportunity, to distant places to do research in original records, for whatever reason - cost, time, language problems, etc.  For those persons, the derivative sources (transcripts, abstracts, indexes, images) and authored works (published books, periodical articles, websites, family trees) are often used.

Whatever source is used, source citations should be crafted when information is used.  

In my own research, I have relied upon authored works and derivative sources that I consider authoritative because I respect the body of work produced by the authors and have confidence that they have done a reasonably exhaustive search and have found the best records available.  

Now I'm curious about what is on WikiTree, WeRelate and the FamilySearch Family Tree regarding Mary (--?--) Fish (1624?-1699).  I have my information on all three sites, which are collaborative family trees.  I'll report on that as time goes by.

copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver


Diane B said...

Randy, there has recently been a series of articles on the early Shermans in New England Historic Genealogical Register - see the most recent, Volume 168, Whole Number 669, January 2014 p. 16 for part 6. I haven't gone through them carefully yet to determine my Sherman background.

T said...

How does one go about publishing a family tree? I have researched so much of my family that no one else has and I've found errors in research done by others. One quote from a published book is wrong and I have the correct information. And once successfully published, how do I get it "out there" for others to use?

Ancestor Archaeology said...

Wow, quite a lot of effort, I hope Geni will take all your research into consideration. I have had nothing but trouble with them. Thank you for sharing Israel's posts, they helped me cope with my continued frustration with Geni and my inability to delete erroneous info and living people. Geni was hands-down my biggest newbie mistake and one I can't seem to recover from.