Mistrust Online Trees

When I came across this family group in FamilySearch, I was immediately suspicious. Here are two screenshots. The first is from FamilySearch (as of 29 August 2021), while the second is from RootsMagic after I imported the family. This shows the various birthplaces of the 14 children listed. Take a minute to look at the two images. Do you see anything glaringly obvious there?

Image of family in FamilySearch
The same family after importing into RootsMagic

So, what do you think? As for my red flags, here they are:

  • The children were born in 9 different places and in 5 different counties.
  • The parents were married in a 6th county.
  • The mother would have been 57 when giving birth to her last child.
  • They apparently didn’t just move from place to place, but often moved back to the same place. For example, children 2, 5, and 10 were apparently born in Welwyn, Hertfordshire.

None of this would be impossible, but it definitely made me want to investigate further. Looking at the family, it was almost as if a researcher had gone through the entire country to find christenings with Thomas Sallis and his wife Sarah as the parents and assumed that they were all from the same family. And then casting about to find the marriage of a Thomas Sallis and Sarah.

It seems logical to think that the Norfolk, Hertfordshire, Middlesex, and Yorkshire births are all to separate families. Which then leaves me looking at the Gloucestershire births since my interest in the family is because Elizabeth Sallis is my 3rd-great grandmother.

My research shows that even there they were for different families. Here is what my research shows, which is considerably different than what is shown in FamilySearch.

And for the purists, Beckford is in Worcestershire, but Geocoding places it in Gloucestershire. Also, Teddington and Toddington are separate places, while Beckford, Alderton and Teddington are about 3 miles away from each other, and form a rough equilateral triangle on the map.

Of course, I still have work to do to tidy this all up. I am still looking at the christening of Robert Sallis as this took place just 8 months before that of Thomas, which also calls into question whether the Joseph in 1814 (also christened in Alderton) belongs. Additionally, I have to separate out the Beckford births from the FamilySearch family, and leave a polite note there explaining what I am doing. After all, being kind is probably the best way of teaching others, and is also the way I would like to be treated if/when I make an error.

All of which is a salutary lesson demonstrating the dangers of accepting online data.

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