Ancestors Born in England or New England? Part 1

If you are researching ancestors in New England by using Ancestry.com, you may well be led astray on the birth places of many who were early arrivals to the New World. Here’s why.

We all have been told to beware of errors in family trees posted online. So we are. But if you use Ancestry.com for New England ancestors, you also must beware of all those records that seem to be “official,” called Family Data Collections, Millennium Files, American Genealogical-Biographical Index records and so on.

Over and over, I have found English ancestors listed as born in towns in New England with dates such as 1600, 1612, 1615 and so on. Clearly impossible as these dates were before the Great Migration of 1620-1640, starting with the arrival of the Mayflower in November 1620. And often before the date that the individual towns were founded.

Here are just a few examples:

[A] William Barstow, Parents:  John Barstow
Birth Place:  Hanover, MA, Birth Date: 1612
Marriage Date:  8 May 1638
Death Date:  1 Jan 1668, Death Place:  Scituate, MA
Source: Family Data Collection – Individual Records

William’s proposed 1612 birth date is before the 1620 arrival of the Mayflower, making a birth in New England highly unlikely. And Hanover, Massachusetts, was first settled by English settlers in 1649 when William Barstow, a farmer, built a bridge along the North River at what is now Washington Street. [Source: Wikipedia]. So this one of my ancestors played a key role in founding Hanover when he was about 37 years old. He clearly was not born there. Rather he was surely born in England.

[B] Mary Sims, Spouse: Robert Royce, Parents: John Sims Symes, Sarah Baker
Birth Place: CT, Birth Date: 1609
Marriage Place: Long Sutton, Parish, Marriage Date: 4 Jun 1634
Death Place: Wallingford, CT, Death Date: 1696
Source: Family Data Collection – Individual Records

If we believed this record, May Sims would have been born in Connecticut, returned to England for marriage and then came back to Connecticut. Of course that is erroneous. Other sources suggest she was born in Long Sutton, Somerset, England.

[C] Lucy Williams, Father: John Williams, Mother: Ann
Birth Date: 1620, City: Duxbury, County: Plymouth, State: MA, Country: USA
Sources: Family Data Collection – Individual Records and Family Data Collection – Births

While the Mayflower did arrive in late fall 1620, the town of Duxbury was not settled until about 1624, although some sources say 1627. So Lucy was not born in Duxbury in 1620, but more likely in England.

These records at Ancestry.com – that we will discuss in more detail in a future posting – have other kinds of problems with accuracy. For example:

[D] Mabel Yeomans, Birth Date: 25 Feb 1698
Birth Place: Stonington, N-Lndn, Connecticut, USA
Death Date: 29 May 1714
Father: John Yeomans, Mother: Millicent Utter
Spouse: Beriah Garnsey, Children: Mary GurnseyGarnsey
Source: Millennium File

The problem here? Mabel Yeomans married Beriah Garnsey on 18 Oct 1738 in Stonington, Connecticut, according to The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records: 1719-1850 and they had at least eight children between 1740 and 1757, also included in the Connecticut Town Vital Records. So the death date is clearly incorrect.

If you read the small type, you will see that Ancestry.com typically offers these files with no published sources or primary sources for the individual records, saying they are only “finding tools” for further research. The problem is that a high percentage of Ancestry users trust these records as accurate and merge the details into their trees.

At minimum, Ancestry should have more visible disclaimers on these files, perhaps the text about “use as finding tools only” in red. For credibility’s sake, Ancestry.com should find a way to alert users to the most obvious errors in the files. Perhaps the firm might offer webinars on using these records that appear to be so official. In the next post, we’ll share insights on the source of these records and why some of them are flawed.

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Thank you! And good researching!

Published in: on August 13, 2013 at 1:12 am  Comments (2)  
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