My Pet Peeve – Undocumented Family Trees That Make No Sense!

I really don’t have many pet peeves when it comes to genealogy. Sure, I wish the village had earlier church books  or that the county courthouse didn’t burn down – twice – or that I could find a photograph of great granny.

However, I do have one big pet peeve – undocumented family trees online that make no sense! The key word here isn’t undocumented, either. I realize that many people see undocumented online trees as worthless. NOT me!

I love to find online trees in any format relating to my current ancestral line of interest. What makes me crazy is finding online trees with incorrect information so EASY to correct that I know the tree owner is a copy and paste person who does no research in any type of actual records.

Furthermore, these trees not only multiply like rabbits, they also morph into beings who never existed, as far as I can tell.

Here are a couple of examples. John Hash, who died in 1784 in Montgomery County, Virginia is my husband’s ancestor. Nathaniel Barnard, who died in 1718 in Nantucket, Massachusetts is mine.

There are a few facts known about John Hash. His exact year of birth is NOT known. He did marry at least twice, as his 1784 will clearly names my son John by my first wife and my son John by my second wife.

I have not found any evidence as to the names of John’s parents or documentation of the names of his wives. This situation makes for online tree hunting a possibly fruitful exercise if new hints and clues can be gleaned.

First, we have a tree for one John Hashe, who died in Virginia in 1784. Right guy and the Hashe spelling probably was given to him by someone who read that he was a French Huguenot whose name was originally Hache. I can overlook that:

Online Family Tree

His wife is said to be Elizabeth Stogdill and it’s possible, but unproven family lore that she was his first wife. His parents are shown as John Hashe Sr. and Elender Osborne.

Some of his descendants eventually lived in Grayson County, Virginia, which was formed in 1793. I tried looking for Hash family members in trees that included Grayson County.

Look at four trees that popped up:

I’ve never seen any mention of a Darby Hash in Virginia records. First, he reportedly died in Grayson County  – 69 years before it came into existence. Or, he died in Philadelphia in 1724.

Here is one more tree that includes the elusive Darby Hash:

He was born in July 1656 in England – why do I doubt this statement? – married in Virginia in 1719 to Dorothy Juda Iscar and died four years later.

The first set of trees, above, gives a marriage date of 27 April 1703 in Kent County, Maryland. It is evident that this is a transcription of either the original record or someone else’s earlier transcription:

Notice that the transcriber may have repeated the word and. Look what happened in the index:

Did you notice the crop of the third online tree in the first image? Darby has become Anderson John Darby Hash!!! I haven’t a clue how Anderson came into the picture.

Here is another tree:

Here is a look at the actual page:

Notice anything odd? His father was 164 years old when his son was born (and he died 26 years before his son was born!!!)  and his mother, Eleander Osborne, was born 42 years AFTER her son.

As an aside, look again at the first image in this post of John Hash. His mother is supposed to be Eleander Osborne – the same name as his “grandmother” married to Thomas Hache. Sometimes that really does happen, but I strongly doubt it here.

Lastly, we have an entirely new set of parents for Darby:

Jonathan Hatch & Sarah Rowley, Supposed Parents of John Darby Hash

The worst part is that ALL of these trees have terrific documentation:

Garbage in, garbage out!

This tree isn’t nearly as outlandish, but there is no proof of much of it, either:

For example, no proof of marriage in Orange County, Virginia in 1763, at age 39 since Elizabeth is said to be his first wife who died soon. Nor is there proof of his birth in Spotsylvania County, or anywhere else. No proof either that his son William had any middle name AND John’s will clearly names his two sons both called John. Only one is listed here.

I think this has been hashed out enough – pun intended.

My second example is much shorter – Nathaniel Barnard.

There were (at least) two Nathaniel Barnards living in Massachusetts in the mid-to-late 1600s. However, many have turned one man into my ancestor who married Mary Barnard, his cousin, c1666.

Find-a-Grave has a memorial for my ancestors. His parents, siblings and children are mostly correct.

Take a look at his wife – Mary Lugg, 1642-1718. The OTHER Nathaniel Barnard married Mary Lugg, date unknown. !

Source: AmericanAncestors

There is also one other super important detail that Torrey included in this entry. Note Nathaniel’s birth year (not stated) and DATE of DEATH. He died by 1659 in Boston!!! Mary Lugg married (2) James Inglis? on 11 February 1658/59. My Nathaniel was an “elderly” 15 years and one month old when his “wife” REMARRIED! Plus, this Nathaniel Barnard has an estate administration in 1659. He clearly isn’t the man who died in Nantucket in 1718.

Final example, again for Nathaniel Barnard:

This one is mostly correct, except it shows Nathaniel with two wives – Mary Barnard and Sarah Barnard.

Nathaniel only married once to cousin Mary Barnard. Clicking on Sarah brings up this box:

Nathaniel Barnard’s sister, Martha, married William Rogers.

Source: AmericanAncestors

I have no idea who Sarah Strong is. No one close to this description is found on AmericanAncestors.

You probably can’t tell from this post that I really do like online family trees. Also, I’m not picking on any one site. I purposely shared samples from multiple websites.

I’d bet my life on the fact that any large tree online will have some errors – typos or a few assumptions that might later prove untrue. Today’s rant is not about those trees. It’s about all the ridiculous items out there – like the Hash family history – and the trees that could be corrected so easily if the owner did the tiniest bit of research to verify their data.

Everyone should view online trees as potential good information, but to maintain a very discerning eye and verify any new so-called facts found on them.

Rant finished!



4 thoughts on “My Pet Peeve – Undocumented Family Trees That Make No Sense!”

  1. This is a peeve of mine as well. I once had someone contact me to tell me my Great Grandfather (who I spent many summers with) wasn’t the parent of my grandmother! Oh the joys of interacting with people who don’t do research!

  2. I do think there is a combination of issues. Not all unsourced trees did not have some semblance of research by the owner.
    Copy/Pasting trees is the excuse we often assume.
    It could also be:
    Incorrectly interpreting documents.
    Same name confusion with or without research.
    Improper or mistaken use of the website functions.
    Misplaced Confidence of the known facts.
    Misplaced confidence in hints or suggestions
    Just to name a few. It would be nice to know why people have made the links they created. I don’t like it when the sources provided do not support the facts posted.

    I found my dad married to my grandmother and listed as their child in one online tree. When I contacted the tree owner she said she didn’t know how the link had happened and didn’t know how to fix it.

    Also on one of the shared Global trees there is some debate on whether one of my colonial ancestors was married to an Indian Princess and whether that gives that line Native American ancestry. My weekly watch report shows as many as 20 changes per week to the individuals in question with additions, subtractions, and changes to the husband, wife, and child. I stay totally out of the fray although I am of the opinion that an English wife is my ancestor and the Native American might have been a concubine that did not produce any offspring. …and yes I know that the concept of a Native American Princess is not a real thing.

  3. Garbage in, garbage out is so true! Your post really captures the frustration I feel so often when I find a family tree online and then realize it makes….no….sense! The ones that drive me crazy are those that list duplicate children (with alternate spellings, like a John born in 1920 and a Jon born in 1920) and those that attribute the 1st wife’s children to the 2nd wife. Arrrgh!

  4. I can clear one thing up… a number of years ago I spent time looking at the magnified letters in the Darby Hashand entry, and I proposed to another Hash researcher that it wasn’t D. Iscar, but actually D. Judar. That was just my theory, and I think it is correct. Amazing that it has now lead to posts that combine the names! Pure B.S.! I can tell you for sure that Old John was descended from a small group of people with the I2a-iles DNA that were living near Cork Ireland. I do believe that the D. Hashand and D. Judar entry was supposed to be D. Hash and D. Judar, and the transcriber made an error. Given all that, Darby sounds like an Irish name, so all we really know is that IF the transcriber made an error, Darby Hash might be an ancestor of Old John.

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