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. !
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.
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.