Monday, February 24, 2014

Disappointment in Genealogy

Disappointment in Genealogy
Yes, doing serious family tree research can result in some disappointment.  I had one of those last night.  Readers of this blog may recall my three posts titled “We’re All Cousins” which talked about common ancestors I had found between the family trees of my Father, my Wife and my Mother.  I was particularly enthusiastic about finding a connection between my Dad’s and my Mom’s families ( since it had always felt, since I was a kid, that those families were so different from each other and that a crossover between their family lines was unlikely. 

Well, at least for now, I have to grudgingly accept that the lines leading to the common ancestor I’d found for my Mom and Dad have turned out to be incorrect.  As background, I have recently become a convert to the methods of, specifically that every person in my family tree should have one and only one WikiTree profile and that each profile should contain sources for the dates, locations and family relationships they contain.  If I find no profile on the WikiTree One World Tree for my ancestor or relative, I add one.  If I do find one there, I update it with sources if it isn’t already updated (and many of them need updating).  The site is a Wiki, so I can do that and I’ve gotten a LOT better at sourcing and updating in the three months I’ve been on the site. 

Naturally, one of my research projects was to reproduce on WikiTree the family lines I had previously found to cross over.  I have successfully updated and sourced the connection between my Dad’s tree and my Wife’s tree ( so that both of our WikiTree family trees trace back to Richard Warren and Elizabeth Walker of the Mayflower.  Last night I started down the track of verifying my Mom’s line back to Timothy Wheeler and Rebecca Sayre (I’d already completed the path on my Dad’s side).

I decided to start at Timothy and Rebecca and work down since some of the profiles were already on WikiTree and just needed to be sourced and the relationships linked.  It didn’t take long to work down to Joseph Dutton (, his wife Rebecca Merriam ( and their daughter Rebecca Dutton.  My process now is to do my research through my family tree on (where I can take advantage of Ancestry’s very useful hints and search functions), and supplement through, and searches.  I was in the middle of putting together the WikiTree profile for Rebecca Dutton when I started noticing some worrying signs.  The first and most obvious was that the town marriage record for Joseph Dutton/Rebecca Merriam was dated 1685 while the birth date I had for Rebecca Dutton was in 1679.  Next came the finding that the town birth record for Rebecca Dutton born in 1679 showed her father as Thomas Dutton Jr., not Joseph.  Okay, so maybe the data I had was wrong and my Rebecca was the one born in 1686.  I didn't initially find the town birth record, just a “Millennium File” record, known in WikiTree circles to be unreliable.  I was getting very nervous, though and feeling like a lot more research might be necessary to establish the connection.  Then I remembered that I had referenced the record for Joseph Dutton ( to confirm his death date.  On the Findagrave profile was a biography.  I tend not to give a lot of weight to these biographies, because so often they are unsourced, and this one was no exception, at least for the first half.  But the second half referred to Joseph Dutton’s will, and within the will, importantly, to his daughter Rebeckah Gates.  It also included a link to the Findagrave memorial of Rebeckah (Dutton) Gates 1686-1749.  All the pieces fell together, and it wasn’t good news: Rebecca (Dutton) Millard (profile:, born in 1679, my ancestor, belonged on a different family tree line than I had been led to believe.  Her parents were Thomas Dutton Jr. and his wife Rebeckah, not Joseph Dutton and Rebecca Merriam.  I've included a note on both profiles at WikiTree in the hope that no one else gets tripped up the same way.  Rebecca (Dutton) Gates is here: (

Naturally, I’m disappointed to find that my earlier “research” was wrong.  But a little more background that I didn’t tell you was how I had found Rebecca Dutton Millard in the first place.  Well, it’s pretty simple, I found her by piggy-backing on the family trees of other researchers that I found at makes it soooooo easy to do this.  With the press of just a couple of buttons, you can add the family trees from other researchers right into your own, pulling in names, relationships, dates and locations as you go.  Eventually, I realized the error of my ways in taking advantage of this method of expanding my trees, but obviously not soon enough to avoid this kind of mistake.  And while I am sad about this “lost” connection, it helps to cement the thoughts and feelings I’ve been having lately ( that the genealogy methods I’ve committed to on WikiTree are the ones that will help me avoid this kind of error in the future, both for myself and for others who might rely upon my work. 

Alas, I’m going to have to re-establish my “We’re All Cousins” link between my Mom’s and my Dad’s family trees along some other family line.  Looking on the bright side, though, I did do some digging into the Millards and found that it’s pretty likely my Mom is a cousin to President Millard Fillmore.  I’m not going to say for sure, though, until I’ve documented and sourced all the profiles in between, though!


Genemonkey said...

Hello Kyle, I too love the wikitree concept. Far too many people fall into the trap you describe on ancestry. It is clearly very important to check original resources but many just import trees resulting in a range of different and often unsourced ancestries for one person. The great thing about wikitree is that it forces collaboration where there are potential differences. I also love the DNA reporting on wikitree. I am very keen on genetic genealogy to 'validate" my paper research!


RNorman said...

Another great source that I like to use is It is free and includes many of the US censuses and other databases that are great sources.

clairz said...

I am so glad to read this, because it makes me feel as though I am on the right track. Sometimes, when entering information into WikiTree, I think longingly of that simple and very tempting "click and add" method on Your post reminds me that the easier way is not necessarily the better way.

Thanks for this post. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

Rachael Rifkin said...

I'd like to be added to your family tree blogger's pinterest board. This is me:


Pandababy said...

Hi Kyle, Sincere congratulations on finding the error in your tree. I have pruned three promising branches off my tree because of 'inconvenient' facts pointing to the lack of connection. I work in much same way as you do, between WikiTree and Ancestry, with some help from Find a Grave. Two resources I have come to depend on greatly this year are the New England Historical and Genealogical Society, better known as NEHGS, the best investment I ever made for my colonial ancestors, and the four volume "Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families by Douglas Richardson, which ties certain colonial families to the Magna Carta barons. Next I plan to do the DNA testing, and appreciate people on WikiTree who are ahead of me on that path. I enjoyed visiting your blog today - very informative. I'll be back for more.