Do you keep your primary genealogy data in an online family tree?
My advice is: Don’t.
If you use an online family tree, you should use it only as a back-up for you main data, or as a way of contacting other researchers. It is best to keep your data in a reliable genealogy program, on your own computer (with back-ups, of course).
We’ve been looking at a lot of online family trees lately, especially in connection with the Ellwood family, where the discovery of a link to several generations has opened up a lot of possibilities for more research, and shown a lot of people interested in various branches of the same family.
But we have also discovered that a lot of the online trees are full of errors, and the people who run the sites make it easy to propagate the errors by encouraging you to copy faulty research to your own tree. It also seems that in the some cases online software actually creates and introduces errors that weren’t there in the first place. We’ve sent people GEDCOM files and when they’ve uploaded them to Ancestry.com, Geni.com, MyHeritage.com and other sites, they are full of errors that weren’t in the GEDCOM files we sent.
Here is an example where about 80% of the trees on Mundia/Ancestry were simply wrong.
There was a Jane Ellwood born about 1834/35 in Dufton, Westmorland, England.
She was the daughter of John Ellwood and Nancy Bell.
The majority of online family trees show her as married to Anthony Brunskill.
A much smaller number show her as married to John Ellison.
Since polygamy was illegal in England in that period, it is unlikely that she was married to both of them. So which is right?
You could take a majority vote, and say that since the majority of trees show she was married to Anthony Brunskill, that would be the correct conclusion, and the others must be wrong.
But that would be wrong.
A look at FreeBMD shows that Jane Ellwood married John Ellison in 1857.
And Jane Elwood married Anthony Brunskill in 1863.
So, logically, one should look at the 1861 census, when one Jane would be
married and the other wouldn’t.
But unfortunately in 1861 the unmarried Jane was not staying at home with her parents, but was staying with Robert Bellas Brunskill, and she is described as his sister-in-law, before she married his brother Anthony, who was also staying in the house.
That means that Robert Bellas Brunskill’s wife Bridget could be Jane’s sister, if we’re lucky.
Or, more remotely, that Robert had another sibling who married one of Jane’s other siblings.
It turns out that Bridget Brunskill’s maiden name was Ellwood, and she was
Their parents were John Ellwood and Ann Bellas.
Note that a marriage certificate would not have solved this problem, because the father of both Janes was John.
So two Brunskill brothers married two Ellwood sisters, and what is more they were first cousins on the Bellas side. That doesn’t affect the identification much, though it does help to confirm it.
What is more, in 1861 Jane was staying with Bridget, in 1871 Bridget was staying with Jane.
So the Jane Ellwood who married Anthony Brunskill was the daughter of John Ellwood and Ann Bellas, and NOT the daughter of John Ellwood and Nancy Bell. The daughter of John and Nancy married John Ellison, but only a minority of
online family trees showed that.
Do you have these Janes in your family tree?
Make sure you have them attached to the right parents and the right husbands!
And be very careful with what you copy from online family trees. Ask the person who posted the tree where they got the information, and that they didn’t just incritically copy it from somewhere else. Unfortunately one of the other problems with family tree host sites is that they make it difficult for you to contact other researchers. They encourage you to use their own internal messaging system rather than regular e-mail, and sometimes to contact other researchers you have to pay to join that site. That is why they recommend it, of course. They want to get you to pay. But if one researcher you want to contact uses one site, and another uses another site, and yet another uses a third site, it can become quite exorbitantly expensive and time wasting.
Filed under: family history, genealogical research, genealogy, online family trees | Tagged: Ancestry.com, Anthony Brunskill, Brunskill, Ellison, Ellwood, Ellwood family, Elwood, genealogy, Jane Ellwood, John Ellison, Mundia, online family trees, Westmorland | 3 Comments »
We’ve just made contact with a previously unknown (to us) Ellwood cousin, Genie Zappanti of Arizona, USA, which has led us to some research done by Bruce Morrison, also of the USA, which has added several generations to our Ellwood family tree all at once.
Val’s maternal grandmother was Martha (Mattie) Ellwood, who married William Pearson in Pinetown, Natal, in 1913, and lived at 315 Main Road, Escombe, Natal. They were both from Whitehaven, Cumberland, in England. After William Pearson died in 1956, Val’s gran went to live with them — they built on a granny flat, and she lived there for 12 years until she died in 1968. She wrote regularly to her brothers and sisters in Whitehaven, and they sent her the Whitehaven News, and so Val grew up hearing stories of the family in Whitehaven.
When we started our family history, therefore, the Ellwood side was quite easy, at least for a couple of generations back, because a lot of the material was at hand. But we were stuck with Val’s great great great grandparents, Robert and Martha Ellwood, and couldn’t get back any further than them.
One of the things genealogy text books tell you is that you should always get in touch with living relatives, and ask them what they know, and some of them may even be interested in family history. There’s no point in working hard to collect lots of information and draw up a family tree only to show it to a cousin who says, “Oh, Uncle George did all that years ago.”
But we started six years after Val’s grandmother died, and since she had died the family had not kept in touch with the Whitehaven relatives. So we wrote to the Whitehaven News, asking any Ellwood or Pearson relatives to get in touch.
Some did, and in some cases we remained in touch with them, especially some of Val’s mother’s double first cousins, Ralph and John Pearson. Their father, Ernest Pearson was the brother of William, and their mother was Margaret Ellwood, Mattie Ellwood’s sister. John Pearson’s wife, Norah, was an inveterate letter writer, and kept in touch for many years after John died, and we met her and her daughters Maxine Wincott and Zania McKenzie when we went to the UK in 2005. Ralph Pearson became interested in the family history after we had made contact with him, and collected a lot of information, especially on the Pearson side.
Our letter in the Whitehaven News also elicited a response from a cousin we had not previously heard of, Mrs Mary Ann Tumilty of Elk Grove Village, Illinois in the USA. She happened to be visiting Whitehaven in the week that our letter was published, and when she got back to the USA wrote to say that she had a family Bible that had the dates of birth and death of all the children of Val’s great great grandparents, John Ellwood (1819-1892) and Bridget Anderson (1819-1876). That also revealed that Val’s great grandfather, Thomas Ellwood (1845-1914), had been born at Wingate Grange in County Durham, which was why we had not been able to find his birth certificate. Now, with resources such as FreeBMD, finding such things is relatively easy, but back in 1975 it wasn’t.
And now, 37 years later, we’ve made contact with another cousin in the USA, Genie Zappanti, who is also interested in the family history.
And through her we have also made the link to Bruce Morrison’s Ellwood Genealogy web site, which traces the Ellwood family back to the village of Dufton in Westmorland where they were farmers for several generations until some became miners. At first they were lead miners in nearby Alston, and later coal miners in Whitehaven.
Filed under: family history, genealogical research, genealogy | Tagged: Cumberland, Dufton, Ellwood, Ellwood family history, Pearson family, Westmorland, Whitehaven, Whitehaven families | 4 Comments »
During our holiday earlier this month we visited lots of Hannan cousins, and here is a picture of their parents and grandparents at the beach, probably in the summer of 1925/26.
Betty Hannan, aged about 14, in the back row, married first John Fowler, and then Robert Stewart. Ella Growdon, aged about 15, in the back row, married Frank Hayes, and is the mother of Steve.
Janet Growdon (born Hannan), aged about 43, was the mother of Ella and Phyllis in the picture, and the aunt of all the other children. Agnes Hannan (born Irvine) was the mother of Betty and Nan (the baby in the picture). Nan was the mother of Peter Badcock-Walters.
Ivy Sharp, aged about 10, married Chris Vlok, and Arthur Vlok is their son. Phyllis, aged about 9, married Dennis Solomon in 1950, but they were divorced about two years later and had no children. Peggy Sharp, aged about 12, married Ted Gascoigne, and had a daughter Brenda.
Peggy and Ivy’s mother Emily Sharp (formerly Mould, born Hannan) is not in the picture.
The picture was probably taken at Durban beach, or at least some beach in Natal, and judging from the ages of the children, was probably taken in the summer of 1925/26.
Our holiday trip ended as it began, with Hannan cousins in Clarens, though my second cousin Peter Badcock Walters was away in Namibia this time, but his wife Toni, son Craig and half-sister Louise Philp were there, and it was the first time we had met Craig and Louise.
We went to Clarens brewery to sample the local brew, which was a considerable improvement on the fizzwater produced by SAB Miller, but not quite up to the standard of that we had tried at Nieu Bethesda. I don’t normally drink much beer; for one thing, I couldn’t afford it, and most beer produced by the SAB Miller near-monopoly tastes insipid. But when there’s a local brew I’m always willing to try it.
We talked late into the night. Louise is interested in family history too, so we swapped notes and stories, and Craig is a fan of Tolkien’s books, and so we talked about the similarities and differences between the creation stories in The Silmarillion and the Bible. I invited Craig to join our Internet discussion forum on the Inklings so that we can continue the interesting discussions we were having. It is the Neoinklings forum, and the aim is not merely to discuss the works of the Inklings (J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis & Co) but to write new work in the same kind of genres they wrote in, and to discuss our work as they did. Anyone else who is interested is welcome to join us.
Craig is also into juggling and street entertainment. and has his own blog under his stage name of Knot the Juggler. You can also “like” his Facebook page. He has also done some work in TV production. He has a daughter Leah, aged 16.
I’ve seen Peter Badcock Walters (Craig’s father, and Louise’s half-brother) at fairly long intervals, because we’ve always lived far apart. The first time I met him was on 7 June 1953.
I was at boarding school, and as it was a Sunday a friend, Michael Curtis, came home with me. I must have had a masochistic streak, because Michael was much bigger than me, and used to hit me for no reason at all, but his parents were away, and he would have had to spend the day at school alone, and probably being made to work in the school gardens by the headmaster. At that time we lived on a smallholding in Sunningdale, just outside Johannesburg. My mother’s cousin Betty Stewart (formerly Fowler, born Hannan) from Ndola in Northern Rhodesia had come to stay with us, bringing her nephew Peter Badcock, who was about 4 years old.
Another friend, Elizabeth Dods, who lived nearby in Sandringham, came with us, and the four of us went down to the Huddle Park golf course, alternately riding and walking with our two horses. There we saw some big concrete tanks with water covered with green slime. There was a sign that said “Contaminated water”, and none of us knew what it meant. When we got home I asked my mother, and she said I should write to ask my godfather, Tromp van Diggelen, who lived in Cape Town. It was a sneaky way of getting me to write him a letter. Michael Curtis kept threatening to hit Peter, and saying “Stephen’s little cousin is going to get hurt.”
I next met Peter when doing a moonlight flit to get away from the Security Police in South Africa. A Detective Sergeant van den Heever wanted to give me a banning order (I didn’t know it at the time, but discovered it many years later in my SB file). I drove through the night from Johannesburg to Beit Bridge, which we reached at dawn. John Davies, the Anglican chaplain at Wits University, accompanied me to take my mother’s car back. We crossed the Limpopo and went into the Rhodesian immigration hall — this on Wednesday 19 January 1966, two months after UDI. The Rhodesian immigration officer, looking very British in white shirt and shorts, asked us to fill in a form at the desk. We went to the desk, where there were about 15 cubicles for writing, each with a neatly framed notice: “Please do not allow your children to scribble on the blotting pads.” First impression of Rhodesia. John wanted to take one as a souvenir. We took the forms back to the immigration officer with white shirt, very different from his South African counterparts who were wearing dowdy grey suits or sports jackets. He questioned the amount of money John was bringing with him — he had only put down five pounds on the form, but the man let him pass when John showed him his building society book with 500 in it. Then we went to the customs, got third-party insurance for the car, a temporary importation permit, and a petrol ration slip. We expected to get only about five gallons, but they gave us fifteen, and obviously have not begun to take the oil sanctions seriously. Then we went out. It was now 7:30, and we drove through the gate with the Union Jack still fluttering above, an incongruous testimony to Harold Wilson’s exousia. Then to a hotel where we bought cold drinks, and saw a sign advertising petrol at Messina prices, indicating that here, at least, the petrol is brought by rail from South Africa. And when we paid for the cold drinks we were back in the land of pounds, shillings and pence.
My mother arranged a plane ticket to the UK, which I collected at a travel agent in Bulawayo, and late in the afternoon boarded an Air Rhodesia twin-turboprop Vickers Viscount. In just under an hour the plane landed in Salisbury, and at the airport I phoned Mum’s cousins after studying the instructions on how to work the telephone for ten minutes. It required the tickey to be dropped before dialling, and various buttons to be pushed. They came out to the airport to see me: Betty Stewart and Alex her brother and their mother Aunt Agnes and Peter Badcock. I asked how they were, and Betty looked grim and said “We’re determined to see this thing through,” which wasn’t what I meant. We talked a little, keeping off politics by mutual consent, except that Aunt Agnes said that soon we would be facing the same difficulties in South Africa, and Betty shushed her saying, “Stephen probably doesn’t agree.” And then I had to go through customs and into the transit lounge, where I bought a James Bond book to read on the plane — an Alitalia DC8, which took me to Rome, where I changed to a Caravelle, which took me to London.
Now a slight digression, to a different branch of the Hannan family. My mother had another cousin, Willie Hannan, who was a Scottish MP. Betty Stewart had written to my mother around the time of the Rhodesian UDI, when Harold Wilson’s Labour government in the UK was straight from the deepest pit of hell in the eyes of white Rhodesians. Betty described cousin Willie Hannan in her letter as a “one man one vote bastard and a sick leftist”, so I pictured him as some kind of heroic and romantic revolutionary Che Guevara figure, and was slightly disappointed to find that he was very mild, very conservative and the furthest thing imaginable from the wild radical of Betty’s description. Because of my precipitate departure I’d arrived about 9 months early for the UK academic year, and Willie had contacts who helped me to jump through the bureaucratic hoops necessary to get work when I had entered the country as a student. I worked for London Transport as a bus driver.
And there was yet another Rhodesian cousin, Willie’s sister Ria Reddick, whose husband and eldest child had died in Rhodesia. She didn’t like the idea of living under the Smith regime, and returned to the UK, and I went with Willie to meet her at the airport on 4 February 1966. Her plane was due to arrive at 12:20, and then she was going up to Glasgow with Willie at 3:00. On the way to the airport on the bus Willie told me about his family, and how he had met Tommy (Mum’s brother, who died 2 and a half years ago) when he was in the merchant navy during the war, and he said I looked like him. He also told me of his father, who during the First World War was a pacifist and a a socialist, and had spent two years in jail. I told him that Mum had said that my pacifism runs in the family, but did not enquire about the nature of the socialist Sunday School she had said her uncle (Willie’s father) had sent his children to. At the airport we found the plane with Ria, a South African Airways Boeing, would be late, and we sat having tea and sandwiches, and I told Willie something about the Liberal Party and its policies, and a little of the way in which our activities were hampered by Special Branch intimidation and so on. He said he was not a religious man himself, and I said I wouldn’t have expected it. “Oh, why do you say that?” he asked. “Because so few people are,” I replied. He said he admired John “Honest to God” Robinson, and thought he might be able to accept those views. I then told him how issues in South Africa were sufficiently clearcut to enable one to make a political speech using biblical texts, but that here it was not so. When the plane with Ria arrived at about 1:20 we had to go over to another building for them to get the plane to Glasgow (there were 3 terminal buildings at Heathrow — one internal, one European, and one intercontinental) and there we had tea and talked about Rhodesia. Ria said that she had had a Rhodesian passport and citizenship, and felt that she could not stay after UDI, so had got a British passport on the 9th of November, two days before Smith went mad. Two of Willie’s parliamentary colleagues joined us while we were waiting, and Ria showed us a letter she had had to get from the government giving her permission to resign from her job with Shell Oil. Then Willie and Ria and the children left. The kids were quite sweet — a boy of about 15, called Carson, and Heather, about 12. Both had dark hair, like their mother. There was another daughter, Fiona Reddick, but I didn’t meet her then.
End of digression. I returned to South Africa in 1968, and at the end of the year Peter Badcock, then 18, came to spend a few days with us. He came with two friends, Gary and Brian, who were wanting to buy musical instruments for their band, and were in search of a wah-wah pedal and a fuzz box, which were not available in Rhodesia, because of sanctions.
I didn’t see Peter again for another 22 years, when Val had to go to Durban in October 1990 to install a new computer for Rasco Fire Protection, where she was working. Peter was then married to Antoinette Willemse, and living in Kloof, and doing educational consulting after having been a book illustrator for a time (we have a copy of the works of Herman Charles Bosman that he illustrated). We were staying at the Fields Hotel in Kloof (now closed) and went to see them, and also met their younger son Ross.
We saw them again about three months later when they came to the Christmas service at our church, St Nicholas of Japan in Brixton, Johannesburg. Peter Badcock came with his wife Toni and sister Philippa, and said they had enjoyed the service. I hadn’t known he had a sister, and was even more surprised when he said he had four of them, and then added that he himself hadn’t known they were his sisters until he was 21, and he had also found out that the man he had thought was his father was not actually his father. It appears that when Betty discovered that her younger sister Nan was pregnant, she persuaded James Badcock to marry her. But Peter’s real father was William David Fanshawe Walters, who later married Elizabeth McKenzie and had four daughters, including Louise and Philippa. James Badcock had left Nan, and, without divorcing her, had married someone else and had several children, and Peter said he could say to them “I’m the only legitimate bastard among you.” So the Badcocks are no relations of any of us, but I suppose I could describe Louise as my step-cousin.
Peter and Toni moved to Clarens some years ago, and bought an old sheep shed, which they are converting into a house with a studio that Peter can use for his art, and several self-contained self-catering apartments that they can let out, or use as accommodation for family who come to visit.
Filed under: family history, family news, genealogy, Scotland | Tagged: Badcock, Badcock Walters, Betty Stewart, books, Clarens, Free State, Hannan family, Inklings, juggling, Knot the Juggler, Peter Badcock Walters, Willie Hannan | 1 Comment »
On our recent holiday trip we visited Steve’s second cousin once removed, Hamish Scott, and his wife Monica and their son Robbie at Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape.
Hamish is the son of Steve’s second cousin, Florence Scott, born Moors, and Florence’s grandmother was Christiana Jane (Jenny) Growdon, who married Daniel Moors at Bethulie in the Free State.
The Growdon family came to the Eastern Cape from Cornwall in the 1870s and William Matthew Growdon (my great grandfather and Hamish’s great great grandfather) was a platelayer on the Cape Government Railways, building the railway line from East London to the interior. He retired to Queenstown with his wife Elizabeth (born Greenaway), and they are buried in the cemetery there.
After leaving Stutterheim we went to Queenstown to look at their grave, which we had last seen in 1975. At first we could not find it, and thought it might have been vandalised, as many graves in Queenstown cemetery seemed to be, but eventually found it with the help of one of the caretakers. The stones were intact, but the railing around the graves had been removed, presumably by metal thieves, which was one reason we could not find the graves.
Filed under: family history, family news, genealogy, Growden family, Growdon family, holidays, South Africa, travel | Tagged: cousins, Eastern Cape, family visits, Scott family, Stutterheim, The Shire | 1 Comment »