Tag Archives: mistake

I don’t have time to correct everyone’s data, so what am I supposed to do?

31 Jan

Last night I ended up looking at some online family trees, shaking my head and tutting at the errors I was finding, and the errors that I was finding that were being replicated over and over again. I should say that I don’t claim to be perfect, I am only human after all.

Whilst I must confess to obtaining a certain satisfaction from finding fault and picking holes in other people’s work (which is no doubt why I spent so long working in quality assurance) I know that it is not a trait that I should be particularly proud of.

I am in the fortunate position of having local knowledge and reasonably easy access to original source documents for most of my ancestors, so I can’t be too hard on researchers hundreds of miles away from making mistakes, but what I can (and do) get annoyed about is people accepting the research of others at face value without  checking.

In one case the details I was seeing have circulated online for many years, as long as I have been researching. I was suspicious when I first saw it, and later proved quite conclusively to myself that it was incorrect, but that false information is still being perpetuated.

My dilemma is what to do about all this wrong information?

I have been largely ignoring it, but I feel guilty about this because I should be sharing my data and helping others, also making contact with distant cousins along the way. The problem I have is all the time and effort that this would take, perhaps selfishly I believe this time would be better spent doing new research and not going over old ground.

The other problem is whether it would actually achieve anything if I was able to convince all those people with online trees to update them. What about those people who have copied the data and are using it offline?

The bottom line is that it is all really too much effort, but as a responsible genealogist I feel I have a duty to set the record straight. There must be an easier solution, because I really don’t have the time to correct everyone else’s data.

Ellen NICHOLLS: in my defence

13 Apr

Last Saturday I had to admit that I had made a mistake in my family tree when I failed to spot that my 3x great-grandmother Ellen NICHOLLS wasn’t the person I thought she was, and had actually died as an infant.

When I looked at the entry for Ellen NICHOLLS in Family Historian I discovered that although I had linked Ellen to the wrong parents, I had actually left myself a rather obvious note, which indicated that I wasn’t happy with the situation at the time.

It is not certain that the Ellen NICHOLLS that is the daughter of Thomas and Martha NICHOLLS is the same Ellen NICHOLLS who was the partner of William GEERING. The place of birth and the spelling of her name is correct, but her date of birth is about five years too early from that given in the census.

So in my defence I would say that it was something I was aware of, and that anyone who looked at my tree would have seen, so it is not quite as bad as it seemed. At least that is what I keep telling myself.

Ellen NICHOLLS: a confession

10 Apr

I have written before about Ellen NICHOLLS and how she was causing problems in my research. In brief, the problem was that I had a baptism record for Ellen which was in the right place, with the correct spelling of her name, but the baptism was too early compared to other records. I had found no marriage record that would give me her father’s name.

I had accepted this baptism as the correct one, my justification was that her father died not long after her birth, and I have no idea where Ellen was in the 1851 or 1861 census, certainly not with her mother. I saw this as a good enough reason for Ellen not to know her exact age.

I have to confess that there was another reason why I accepted this baptism record as correct.

I wanted to have her father Thomas NICHOLLS as my 4x great-grandfather. His occupation was given as excavator, and to me this sounded like he was building the local railway. I wanted to be able to say that one of my ancestors helped build part of England’s railway network.

What is more he may have died whilst building the railway. That one of my ancestors lost his life helping to build part of England’s railway network was something that really appealed to me.

Of course this is not the way to build a family tree. We can’t pick and choose our ancestors, but in my defence I would say that the baptism was a pretty good match for my Ellen NICHOLLS.

What I discovered at the Centre for Kentish Studies today has left one branch of my tree looking decidedly unsafe. I was looking for a burial record for Thomas in the Chiddingstone parish registers, but what I found was a burial record for Ellen instead. The age was correct, she was just two years and nine months old, she was buried on the 7th February 1844.

I was gutted that I had made a fundamental mistake, I was feeling guilty and ashamed that I had been caught out. My desire to have a railway navvy in my family tree had lead me down the wrong route.

Fortunately I had not done any further research beyond trying to find out what had happened after Thomas’ death, so I haven’t wasted much time and effort on the wrong people.


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