Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mislinked relatives and headaches

I've had a headache for almost 10 years, and it's due to a mislinked relative. Someone has my great grandmother listed as the daughter of her uncle, and it's causing all sorts of problems in online family trees.

There are two first cousins, both female, with similar names. Martha was born around 1836 to Stephen and Jane. Stephen's brother, Jacob, and his wife, Mary Ann, have a daughter they name Martha Elmina in 1841.

Jacob died in a sawmill accident in 1844, leaving his wife Mary Ann and their two small daughters, Martha Elmina (1841) and Emily Elvira.

Martha Elmina (1841) and Emily are listed with Mary Ann in the 1850 census. Stephen, Jane, and Martha (1836) are listed together in the 1850 census.

By the 1860 census, Martha Elmina (1841) has married William and is listed with him. Martha (1836) is not listed with her parents in the 1860 census, and we have found no marriage or death records for her. After the 1850 census, we find no records for Martha (1836).

Martha Elmina (1841), her husband William, sister Emily, brother-in-law James and mother Mary Ann are all listed by name and relationship in a probate document for Jacob, father of Martha Elmina (1841). Martha Elmina (1841) is listed as Jacob's daughter, not as his niece.

An enterprising family history researcher has listed Martha (1836) and Martha Elmina (1841) as the daughters of Stephen and Jane for about 10 years. And for the last 10 years, I've tried to correct this misinformation, giving chapter and verse complete with documentation. Martha Elmina (1841) should to be linked to her parents, and not to her aunt and uncle.

Another website copied the information. After I contacted them and sent in the documentation proving that Martha Elmina (1841) is Jacob's daughter and not Stephen's, they removed Martha Elmina's (1841) marriage, husband, and children, and called it a day. They left the copy of Martha Elmina's (1841) death certificate with Martha Elmina's (1841) married name, the wrong name for her father (Sam - a misinterpretation of Jacob's middle name, Beachum) and the nickname (Annie) for Martha Elmina's (1841) mother, Mary Ann. Along come more family history researchers who accept her information as valid, and the misinformation is spread further.

Once or twice a year, I go through and contact the new researchers to alert them to the error. Few respond, and even fewer make the correction. Every few years, I send another correction request to the family history researcher who originated the error.

Great-grandmother Elmina, I'm attempting to get your records corrected on those trees. I feel like I'm beating my head against a brick wall and it's giving me a splitting headache. I will continue the crusade to correct your branch of the family tree. Let's just hope I can get it done before I'm just a leaf on the tree myself.

And Cousin Martha Perry, daughter of Stephen and Jane Perry, I hope to find out what happened to you. Did you marry? Did you die young? Did you move to help out another family member? What happened to you? Perhaps a visit to the county courthouse and to the church where your parents are buried might uncover your fate. I'm going to give it a shot.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a few more new researchers to contact before I go back to trying to uproot the family tree.

Happy digging!