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  • Writer's pictureWendy Percival

Ancestry Anomalies

I don’t understand Ancestry – as in the online family tree builder, not the concept of discovering our ancestors. Perhaps I’ve just never learned how to use it properly, blissfully unaware all this time of how it actually works. Call me naïve, but I was under the impression that only I can add information to my family tree, unless I specifically give permission for someone else to do so. Which I haven’t. So why do I keep coming across people I don’t remember putting there? And that includes glaring errors!


Rogue information


Take a case in point. Having established who was the mystery aunt recently (see Propaganda and Mystery) I was curious to see if, however unlikely, the Annie Dean in question had any family connection to my grandfather’s first wife, Ada Dean (which would be intriguing, given we’re talking about completely opposite sides of my tree).


I’ve never, to my recollection, researched Ada’s family. As far as I’m aware, I’ve only ever looked at what happened to her beyond her marriage to my grandfather in 1895. So I was surprised to note that when I went to read her entry on my tree, listed there were her parents and thirteen siblings, some of whom were duplicates. But even more baffling was that she had two alleged fathers – Thomas Joseph Dean and Joseph Thomas Dean – along with two different entries for the 1871 census.



There is no way I’d have added such information, as I know perfectly well from the marriage records of Ada to my grandfather, that Ada’s father was called Thomas Joseph Dean and he was a commercial traveller, as stated in the first of the 1871 census entries.



Losing my mind or my memory?


So how did it get there? I’ve actually asked the question of Ancestry before now, when it's happened before, as well as on a family history forum but no one has ever come up with a satisfactory explanation. Did I inadvertently scoop up a bundle of incorrect data which was somehow inextricably linked to one small snippet of information that I did add? Or was it so long ago that I’ve forgotten I did add it way, way back, when I didn’t know what I was doing?


I’m seriously considering whether to start a brand-new tree, only harvesting and adding very specific data, making paper notes as I go along so I know exactly what should be there and shouldn’t be, and see if other stuff jumps on to it without me doing anything. Then I’ll know whether I’m going mad or not!


Meanwhile, if you do know what’s happening, please tell! I’d be forever grateful!


 

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9 Comments


Marlee Logan
Marlee Logan
Apr 10, 2021

This is funny to me, only because I have found myself scratching my head in the same fashion! I think mine were 1) what I call "rookie mistakes" in copying a hint or a tree with other information. And, 2) another "rookie mistake" in downloading a cousin's GEDCOM. Both big no no's now, but I didn't know any better when I first started out. 🙄 I'm forever cleaning up my tree. Have you ever used "FTAnalyzer?" It's great for sorting out errors. ~Marlee Logan

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Wendy Percival
Wendy Percival
Apr 16, 2021
Replying to

Sorry, Marlene - I missed seeing your comment! I’ve heard of the FTAnalyzer but I’ve never tried it out. It sounds like a really good idea! I shall investigate. 😉

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sheelinsgene
Apr 09, 2021

It is interesting how when you reach a certain age you can sometimes find your younger self very annoying!

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Wendy Percival
Wendy Percival
Apr 10, 2021
Replying to

So true! I was having a conversation on that very subject with my husband yesterday, about me burning my teenage diaries on the garden bonfire when I left home. Wouldn’t they have made a fascinating read! 😂

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maureenlister25
maureenlister25
Apr 09, 2021

I think that when you looked at a hint which comes from other peoples trees and decided that one of their records was correct for their ancestor, you probably clicked to copy that record. However, I have found that if you do this, you also sometimes manage to import other information on that person, some of which you don't agree with.

I always use my tree as a basis for information, but also keep a record sheet for each person, and also write a prose description of their life. The winter months are when I go through firstly all my direct ancestors (and later if I'm in the mood their siblings and descendants) and check what is new on ancestry…

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Wendy Percival
Wendy Percival
Apr 09, 2021
Replying to

I’m sure you’re right, Maureen - that may well be the explanation. It would have been before I adopted my policy of not taking information from trees, but using them purely as suggestions for a direction in which to search. It’s easy to forget how time flies and how long ago it was since certain branches were last visited! I do like your method of using the winter months to update a prose account of your ancestors. And I agree, sometimes those undecided hints suddenly come into their own when you have new information to match against them. It’s a bit like those scribbled notes in long forgotten (paper!) folders or an email conversation you had with someone which now…

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Carolyn Retallick
Carolyn Retallick
Apr 09, 2021

Goodness me! I am sure no one else can add to your tree unless you make them editor! I would check that, just to make sure you haven’t accidentally allowed someone to do that when you just wanted them to be a guest.


On the other hand I have all kinds of names in my tree which I don’t remember putting there! It’s a sign of getting old (or so I tell myself!) that one forgets these things. I read recently that we should make a note of everything we find during research and I have not done that, certainly. I was worried I would have piles of notes and forget to look at them. Do you think you add…

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Carolyn Retallick
Carolyn Retallick
Apr 09, 2021
Replying to

Wendy, I do understand about getting caught up in the moment! I keep telling myself to take it more slowly and take notes. Yes, must do better! Lol

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