Thursday 27 August 2020

Be Careful in Adding People to Your Tree


Sometimes we are tempted to add people to a family tree based on their name alone. Or when a name and birth date appear to match.

I received a comment recently about a blog post from Amy in which she indicated she thought we had a common ancestor. She had traced her family back to Devon, England, to two generations of men named Sampson Shepherd. The most recent had married Mary Ann Heard in 1813 in Revelstoke parish, Devon. He was shown as a sojourner in the parish. His presumed father, also Sampson Shepherd, married Elizabeth Kelly in 1789, also in Revelstoke.

Here is where it gets difficult to tell who the younger Sampson was and where he was from. Because he and Mary Ann Heard were married in Devon, one might assume he was from that county as well, and that he might have been born 20 to 30 years prior to the marriage date of 1813. Using the same logic, the older Sampson might have been born 20 to 30 years prior to 1789.

One that comes close is my 4th great-granduncle, born in Cornwood parish, Devon, in 1771. That would have made him only 18 years old at the time of the 1789 marriage which I think would be unusually young, especially to have already left home. This is the man that Amy latched on to as her ancestor and from there assumed my 5th great-grandparents were also her ancestors.

As it turns out, though, my Sampson married in Plymouth in 1797, aged 26, to a young lady from that town. They lived in Cornwood for the rest of their lives and had only daughters.

There was a Sampson Shepherd, son of Sampson and Elizabeth Shepherd, baptized in Newton Ferrers parish, Devon, in 1792. He would fit both the age bracket and sojourner status of the second marriage. He had a sister born there as well in 1790. The parents appear to fit with Amy’s information of Sampson Shepherd and Ellizabeth Kelly. These two Sampsons appear to fit better in Amy’s family tree. They are not easy to find, and it is not surprising that Amy did not discover them as possible candidates.

Another note about possible links to my family come from MyHeritage Smart Matches. I got a note from them that Janice had 10 people in her tree that matched with one of my lines. It began with a William James Hicks (1877-1963) who she thought might have been a son one of my 2nd cousins, 4 times removed, Amy Prideaux Shepheard Gray, who married William Hicks in Plympton St. Mary in 1863. All of Amy’s family and parents were linked in the MyHeritage Smart Matches.

My records show that, while the couple had a son named William, he was actually William Henry Hicks and born in 1864. Nowhere have I found a William James Hicks born in 1877. We have concluded that, this case the Smart Matches are not so smart and that we are dealing with two different families.

There are four other trees on MyHeritage which have members of the Hicks/Shepheard line. Someday I will probably have to look at them and see if their relationships can be confirmed. Mostly what I find is that when I contact these tree owners, on MyHeritage or other sites, few ever reply. I can only assume they are confident in their assessments and don’t want to talk about others’ opinions. Janice was an exception. Perhaps together we might find an answer to her query.

It can sometimes be too easy to add the names of people you think may be related. I have done it in the past and then found out they were the wrong family when I found a family for a Hugh and Isabel McKay and they turned out to be the wrong Hugh and Isabel and wrote about it another blog post.