Virginia Genealogy Ghosts…

The 2007 buzz word, which now appears in all the dictionary new word lists, is sub-prime(d). Markets down-turned. Sectors lost expectations. Consumers paid higher interest or less value. Lenders discounted losses on their balance sheets. All sub-primed!

In genealogy, well- meaning government clerks, book and index editors, and genealogists combine evidence in separate documents for persons of similar and “soundexed” names—creating a sub-primed genealogy. Even FamilySearch combines information in databases and puts a disclaimer that all those who submitted the data may not agree with the result—creating a disclaimed sub-prime.

Genealogy ghosts–that’s what they are. And you may innocently grab these ghosts in both original and transcribed records. Then, blissfully build new pedigrees that have no basis in reality. They simply appear real.

Let me give you some examples from my research experience:

  1. Duncan/Dungan. These are both separate surnames found in the same probate documents in Southwestern Pennsylvania. A well-meaning editor combined them into one index–which is rather common as genealogy indexes go. The index was a product of combining the will of John Dungan (an Englishman) with the probate accounts of the estate of John Duncan (a Sots-Irishman).  So, John Dungan, an unmarried man who left extensive real estate in PA and KY to his brother Joseph Dungan and “compensation” undefined to a relative Levi Dungan for taking care of John in his final illness–the real man, becomes a married man with a wife and seven children–a   And John Duncan, whose administration was documented, was lost forever. UNLESS you read the original documents and kept them separate in your own genealogy.
  2. Pool(e)/Pettypool.The county recorder indexed the Pools, Pooles, P’pools, and the Pettypools all together. Deeds. Marriages. Wills. I read and copied the index entries. Then I went to the original documents to separate them out so I could study each entry and match them for fit. Are the Pools and the Pettypools the same family?   In the printed Pettypool Genealogy, marriages were given in an alpha list in the Appendix. There were marriages there, that did not appear in the county records. WOW!  What to do? Took me a long time to find those marriages. They were recorded in the “Dinwoodey Distillery Accounts”–a business ledger now available at the Library of Virginia.
    Question: Why were they recorded in such a strange source? Answer: Business accounts are legal documents admissible in a court of law should there be any need to verify a date or document a transaction. Today the Pools and the Pettypools are related by both blood and marriage. Then the Pool family members were transplants into that county, they did not originate there nor were they related to the Pettypools. Soundexes are designed to find these anomalies by mixing the variants together, not to prove they are the same families. Do not mix them together!

Sub-primed! Both of these examples are not meant to mislead or to build a pedigree ghost.  The creators of the misread and merged ancestors were trying to make genealogy faster and easier. The user must treat them like any other evidence and determine where their ancestors belong. Your favorite Virginia Genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS How can we ensure that Genealogy Ghosts are prevented?

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