Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Seeking More Opinions/Advice

As long as I'm posing dilemmas and looking for advice, here's another one for you.

I've taken my family history back as far as the written records go. Take for instance the line I'm working on now. The records in this village began in 1794 for baptisms/births, marriages, and deaths. These early records are very brief and in the case of a death will only give the name of the person (no designation as daughter of or wife of), the name of the village, their house number and their age. For a marriage they will give the full name of the groom and first name of the bride, their ages, the house number of the groom, and the names of their witnesses. Again, there are no references to them being the son of or daughter of anyone. It isn't until about 1820 that they begin to give the name of the bride's father and later still before they give the name of the groom's father.

So once I bumped into "the end of time" (OK, the end of records) I'm left with individuals who lived in the same house and had the same surname but I don't know their relationship with the others living in the house. In other words, I don't know how to attach them to the family tree. I think it's pretty safe to assume that if they lived in the same house and had the same surname they are probably related. But do I just hazard a guess from their age or leave these individuals off the family tree because I don't have a document that actually references their relationship to anyone else?

What would you do?


  1. I'd hazard a guess based on the information you have, and in the notes/comments indicate how you made the decision so future generations know that the relationship is a 'best guess'.

  2. This is a difficult one and I'm in the same dilemma.

    Many times if my hunch is very educated, I will explain my approach in the Notes and then list the citation as Unsourced. This makes it easy to find all my Unsourced people later and work on documenting them and how they relate.

    If my hunch is not educated, I place them in an Excel file (or other spreadsheet/database program) list details and especially where I found the info. Then I can look at it later when working on that branch.

    I would not add the uneducated hunch people (sounds bizarre) automatically unless there is an Alternate Family Members function much like Ancestry's.

  3. As in the case of tinkering, save all the parts! You may later discover some other kind of record that will help put things together.

    In the past I have entered questionable people like this into my database at a low (like zero) level of certainty, but those levels of certainty don't show up in many printouts, giving a misleading impression of knowledge.

    So perhaps a more prudent approach would be to append a longish explanatory note under the last confirmed ancestor, just so that you or your great-grandchildren will at least have the chance to pick up where you had to leave off.

  4. Jasia:

    Again, if you are using Legacy, they address this question.

    Recording Relationships That Are Uncertain.

    Hope this helps.


  5. I would add the supposed parents to my database, but not connect them to their child, my earliest known ancestor from that line. I'd then record my hunches in the notes section for my ancestor and make sure to add this to my site as well.

    If working on a book or even just a brief report to email to someone, I'd again make sure to mention who I suspect as my ancestor's parents and if enough data is available, publish a separate chapter or report about this unconnected couple or individual (father or mother).

    Bottom line: don't attach them to the family tree until you are sure and would have no problems sharing that info with others. Because if you attach them and publish the information, someone, somewhere could misinterpret your hesitance for fact no matter how you qualify the relationship and your research in subsequent notes. It's a lot easier to take your time, make sure and connect the dots than to try and get everyone to make a correction later.

  6. I would add them and set the source as "Guess" or "Educated Guess" depending on how much nifo you have. In the notes I would explain the reasoning behind the guess.

  7. Jasia,

    I'd stick them willy nilly into my family tree and publish it on a web site like other folks do. Just kidding!!

    By the way, you dance really well!


  8. Wow sorry I bet that was confusing for you... here is the link I meant to place. Watch the video!


  9. Sorry I'm so late in saying thanks to you all. I really appreciate your feedback and suggestions. One of these days I'm going to sit down and draw up a map of the village and list the names of who lived in which house when and look for more likely relationships. I'll probably include all likely-related parties in my database and acknowledge my uncertainty of their relationship. I think I'd rather err on the side of including them with uncertainty than omitting them totally for lack of enough evidence. Your feedback was great! Thanks!