Identifying Tree Errors – A New Approach

My online family tree is aging and just like we humans need as we get older, regular check ups are important to maintain its vigor.  I think I just discovered a different approach to identify errors to keep my tree robust.

My first computerized tree was done on a TI99 home computer.  I had to insert a cartridge to view the genealogical program (which is now in my attic). In 1995,we had switched over to a desktop system and we were online thanks to AOL.  I downloaded PAF from FamilySearch.org and spent a few weekends transferring my info from the old software to the new.  I’ve been transferring that same tree as it grew ever since.

Around 1997, I created a tree on Rootsweb (now owned by Ancestry.com).  My old tree is frozen in cyberspace and I cringe at some of the errors I’m not able to correct.  I believe that’s the only tree I’ve got stuck in time.

Over the years I’ve transferred the root tree to various online sites – Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage.com, FindMyPast.com, Geneanet.com, WikiTree.com, and AmericanAncestors.  I’ve used Legacy Family Tree, RootsMagic, and Family Tree Maker software to help identify and correct errors.  Last weekend I found another source to fix mistakes in lines I haven’t looked at in years.

Geneanet.com allows you to view tree statistics, whether you’re a member or not.  Simply click the down arrow next to your tree’s name which accesses the menu.  Under the heading Family History, click Family Tree Statistics.  Although the number of people in your tree with the same first name is interesting, it’s not going to fix errors.  (As an aside, the largest number of my peeps are named John and Mary, just like my grandparents).  To find errors, click “The 20 who lived the longest.”  There I discovered I had an ancestor that lived over 500 years and he wasn’t named Methuselah.  Clearly, I had entered John Clark’s death date in error, typing 1918 for 1418. 

The next individual, Thomas Eaton, had lived for 311 years but not really.  He had been pruned once from his line so I deleted him.  He was just an unlinked soul lost in my tree. 

Now click “The 20 oldest persons still alive” and you’ll be able to identify folks you know have passed but you haven’t found their death date.  My oldest was Melba L. Jones born in 1899.  Using FindAGrave, I discovered she died 2 Jan 1993.  I like how this feature helps me keep my tree current on lines I don’t check often. 

I like that only 20 questionable individuals are provided at a time so it makes the task less onerous.  It’s still a pain to maintain trees at various sites so I’ve been keeping one current which is linked to my desktop and then every 6 months, update the others.  In the interim, when people find me at the other sites, I just redirect them to my always maintained tree.  

Now that I’ve Spring Cleaned my tree, I’m ready for more research.  Happy Hunting!

The U.S. – A Nation of Immigrants


Although my family lore claimed I had Native American blood, DNA has proven that the legend was not true. I seldom (well, have never) written about current political issues as that is not the point of my blog. That changes today.

If you reside in the United States, you have an ancestor who once emigrated here. You’re probably also a mutt like me – that great melting pot permitting people to marry due to love and not by ethnicity alone has created a wonderful mix of blended cultures, customs and genetics.

I’m blessed that my family has been here awhile. My most recent immigrants were my maternal grandparents, John and Mary Kos[s] who naturalized in the 1940’s. My grandmother visited the Old Country nearly 50 years after she had emigrated here with her parents and was so thankful they had made the difficult journey in her childhood, she promptly kissed the soil when she arrived back in the states. My grandfather had no desire to return, even for a short visit.

Because of my Great Grandparents dream for a better life, they left behind family, friends and belongings to start over. Learning a new language, back breaking work where ever they could find it and facing discrimination because of their ethnicity, religion and acceptance of diversity, my ancestors looked at the positive this country had to offer and steadfastly remained so that their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren could have a better life.

I understand why people from all over the world still attempt to come here. Think back to your family and I’m sure you’ll agree, your forefather’s efforts were worth it.

Due to the present government stance new arrivals have experienced not just a perilous crossing but a breakdown in family structure. I applaud MyHeritage.com for stepping up to help reunify children with their separated families. To my knowledge, no other company has come forward to assist. MyHeritage is providing up to 5,000 free DNA kits to insure that the correct child is returned to the right family. You can read more about their efforts here. Kudos, MyHeritage.com!

Another Duer Synchronocity!

I’ve written before about the odd experiences I’ve had when I research my Duer line (to read – type Duer in the search box on my website GenealogyAtHeart.com). I just had another one…

Earlier this month, someone found my Duer info that I’ve posted in numerous places online – my website, Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com, FamilySearch.org, FindMyPast.com, and emailed me as he is a descendant of John P and Susannah Miller Duer. We’ve been exchanging emails and he has been in contact with another distant cousin who has had DNA tested through Ancestry.com. She compiled a very nice DNA chart of the descendants of John and Susannah.

On Friday, I received an email from a third distant cousin who is trying to find info on one of John’s sons, Joseph, who has been rather elusive. At the same time she was emailing me asking about additional info, I received the email from the first cousin with the chart made by another cousin who just happens to be descended from this Joseph.

My goodness, that’s just weird!

My descendants have tested through Ancestry (I did 23andMe), so I logged on and just found another distant cousin who recently tested. I emailed her to include on my interested in Duer research list.

It wouldn’t be seem much of a coincidence since I’ve written extensively about the Duers and I have so many public trees out there in internetland. What makes this odd is after close to 200 years, I get 2 emails from descendants who haven’t been aware of each other on the same afternoon. I just love how technology has enabled us all to reconnect!

MyHeritage SuperSearch Update


For a number of years, Ancestry.com has provided users with the ability to add their input regarding incorrect info on record indexes. Recently, MyHeritage has devised a similar feature that will allow for corrections of spellings or transcription errors.

Simply click “Suggest Alternatives” and add your info. You’ll need to type the first and last name of the individual to be corrected, use the drop down menu to select the reason and add your two cents in the comments. If you’re like me, your ancestor’s names were never recorded the same as some of them were doozy’s to spell – Leininger, Bollenbacher, and even short ones like Duer seem to have been problematic for those enumerators.

Here’s an additional tip – keep a list of all the many, varied and unusual surname spellings that you find as that could help you in the future when you’re stuck. I add them to an Excel spreadsheet with tabs for my preferred spelling of the surname and a column where I found the name spelled differently. Happy Hunting!

Test Driving MyHeritage.com and Making an Amazing Find!

I had a free account with MyHeritage but I was never a subscriber until recently when a 50% discount offer was made for members of the National Genealogical Society.  I believe the discount is now offered for a limited time to everyone – check it out here.  I decided to give it a try and I immediately scaled a brick wall on my Duer line that I’ve recently been researching.  Here’s how I did it…

I downloaded my gedcom from Ancestry.com to my home computer and then uploaded to MyHeritage.  My tree is large so I received an email from MyHeritage once it had been loaded and was ready to go.  The following day I went on the site and it was easy to upload a site photo (I used my Genealogy At Heart logo that I keep jpg’d in Dropbox and my Google+ pic, added a blurb about what my research interests are and what I’m currently investigating.  I happened to write that my brick wall was to determine the link between John Duer and his purported son, Thomas.  Thomas died in 1829 intestate and John, in 1831, with a will that omitted Thomas, understandably since he was deceased, but did not include any of Thomas’ children.  That wouldn’t have been odd, however, John did include a grandson who lived out of the Trumbull County, Ohio area, who was the son of one of John’s deceased daughters.  Why include a grandson that lived in another state and not the grandchildren that lived next door?  Hmm.

I have researched probate, land and court records, cemetery records, tried to find Bible and church records, obituaries, collateral lines, biographies, area histories, and contacted area genealogical societies and libraries but found nothing. The census and tax lists just aren’t helpful since they do not show relationships that far back.

I put the research aside for a month but it’s been gnawing at me.  I originally made the connection of John and Thomas through the work of Edgar Duer Whitley, a gentleman who had found me on the internet 6 years ago from a Rootsweb posting I had made in the early 2000’s.  My tree proved lineage to Thomas but I couldn’t go farther back.  His tree showed lineage to Thomas’ son John who had a daughter, Maria, that I’m descended from. Edgar emailed me and kindly sent me an electronic copy of all his years of sleuthing.  He never had a citation, though, of how Thomas and John were related. Shortly after he emailed me he no longer responded to my emails.  He was quite up in age and I figured he was deceased.  Thus, I couldn’t know how he knew that Thomas was the son of John.

I would love to tell you that MyHeritage found the answer super quickly but that didn’t happen.  I actually didn’t receive any Record or Smart Matches from them.  I assume that’s because my uploaded tree is well sourced.

I decided to snoop around their Family Trees located under the Research category.  I entered birth and death location and death year info for Thomas Duer.  A number of trees popped up with displays similarly to Ancestry.com.  I clicked on the first one and didn’t find anything exciting.  The citations were all from Ancestry trees.  Ugh!

Then things got interesting – I clicked on Thomas’ wife Hannah as the tree owner had her listed as Hannah Preston.   I had her listed as Hannah Byrd.  When I went to Hannah’s page I discovered that she had remarried to a James Preston in September 1831 in Trumbull County, Ohio.  How had I missed that?  Interestingly, here’s how the marriage license is written:

 
“Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” database with images, Family Search (https://familysearch.org:  21 Nov 2016), Trumbull>Marriage licenses 1828-1839 vol 2>image 55 of 181; county courthouses, Ohio.

Notice the right side records Hannah’s surname as “Dewer” but in the body of the text as “Duer.”  The record is indexed by Dewer so I never found it.  The tree owner had found it because he was descended from James Preston.  Putting in “James Preston” in the FamilySearch.org search form would have brought it up.

How do I know that the Hannah Duer is the wife of Thomas.  There was only one other Hannah Duer living in the country in 1831 and she was 10 years old, residing in Pennsylvania.  My Hannah and James were both born in New Jersey in 1775.  James’ first wife died in 1829 in childbirth with twins shortly after Hannah’s husband, Thomas, died.  Both had young children in the home so it makes sense they would have blended their families.

I went back to Ancestry.com, Familysearch.org and Rootsweb’s World Connect Project, to see if other’s had this information.  Nope!  Only the one tree on MyHeritage.  For me, this was definitely worth the price.

It looks like the marriage didn’t last long which could explain why no one else has the information on their trees.  By 1840, James was living with the children from his first wife and Hannah was living with one of her children as the tick mark in the age category for a female most likely is for her.  That age tick mark is lacking on James’ record.  In 1850, the couple remained separated per the census records. Hannah’s tombstone notes her first husband’s name, Duer.  James lies next to his first wife.  It appears that this was a relationship that both sides wanted to forget.  This could also explain why Hannah’s first husband’s purported father, John, omitted her from his will written in 1830.  I’m now searching for a divorce record.  This story just gets more interesting with every find! I’m very happy to have found this information that quickly with MyHeritage’s site.  Once I’m done with my Duer’s I’ll be searching their site for other clues on additional lines.  Happy Hunting!