Seeing the wood for the trees

imagesCAM06RF8Or, what to do with ‘strays’ in your family tree.



By which I refer to  the names you’ve lovingly researched and then discovered that they are, in fact, no relation whatsoever.

It happens to all of us, no matter how much care we take.

Lovingly excise them, dear reader:  but keep a note of them somewhere, just in case they prove in the future to be some relation after all.

Avoiding Those Weeds


You can avoid too many ‘weeds’ by exercising a little care. 

Whatever resource you’re using, don’t stop as soon as you come to the first name that fits.  Check further back just to make sure that there isn’t another Jospeh and Mary Smith married in the same church a few weeks earlier.  Always check transcriptions against the original source.  Never assume that any information in someone else’s family tree is correct, no matter how tempting that information looks (according to one on-line tree, I am related to a completely fictitious King of Wessex.  A nice thought, but I’ll give that one a miss.) And if the information almost fits, stop and consider what it is that is raising alarm bells.  It’s possible that Little Henry’s mum died before the census, and Dad remarried – but always check.  It might be a different Little Henry entirely. If necessary, go forward and back to see if there’s any information which would disprove the fit.

Nurturing Saplings


My grandad always said that a weed was just a flower in the wrong place…

Quite often you will come across names in census reports which are in the same household as your family, but which don’t appear to be a relation.  Or you may wonder quite who those witnesses to the marriage were.

Sometimes these are relations, sometimes not. Remember that a census report is only a snapshot of that particular household on the night of the census, so a new name does not necessarily indicate that the person in question was resident there (I’m thinking particularly here of relatives such as ‘grandson/grandaughter’, ‘cousin’, ‘brother/sister’, parents and in-laws.)  Remember also until quite late in the Victorian period a ‘son-in-law’ (or daughter-in-law) might well refer to a step-son/daughter (which when you think about it is quite logical) and ‘cousin’ might be any sort of relative whatsover.  Sometimes there isn’t even a relationship stated:  one census return for my family includes “Enoch Megan, orphan” – I have no idea who this child is, and have been unable to find any other record of his existence at all.

When I come across these stray names, I note them on a file card, including the full details of where I found them,  and file them in alphabetical order.  Then every time I find a new name, I check the cards to see if there’s a match. I do this when I weed out those names that don’t fit, as well: just in case. 

Happy weeding.  Next week I’ll look at addding further detail to your tree.

About kate

Experienced genealogist but virgin blogger...
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