The Science & Art of family trees in today’s world

As I wonder through other peoples research looking for tidbits of info, I see a variety of methods employed by previous researchers that they found helpful before the advent of computing. Some of those have endured through to this very day.

I’m very particular about how the data appears in my database and wanted to share a little insight to help everyone improve their search results. First off, it is very important to realize that are not just working in your family tree. You are preparing a database and the old adage of “Garbage In, Garbage Out” really applies here.

The file I started on last night is for the Staffordshire Babbs and it typifies these outdated approaches that actually stand in your way of finding the right records to prove your family tree. Here are some hints on how to be more successful in your searches.

Rose by Any other name:
Your Great-Aunt Rose married a Fitzpatrick, though no one wants to be reminded and they forget his first name. Entering his name as “Unknown Fitzpatrick” or “<no name>” only hinders your ability to locate their marriage license. This happens because the actual record doesn’t say that. If you instead leave the first name blank and only enter “Fitzpatrick” you have a chance that your record search will turn up the real record. But as there is no Unknown Fitzpatrick listed in their database you might not locate the match. I use Family Tree Maker and, which does a much better job of suggesting records these days than in the past. You must always look at those with a critical eye, particularly on common names. But at times they can really help you break through the wall.

Another variety of this is the word “Living” having been substituted in place of the first name to indicate that the person is still alive. The problem is that the database you are looking at could have been last updated 30 years ago and Living is no longer the case. But you will never know because you don’t have the correct name.

My best practice is to strip out any references to “Unknown”, “<no name>” and “Living”. I enter the first and last name only for those born after 1940 (The most recently available US Census) or who I am aware have already passed. If their birth record has become publicly available there is no hiding from it. Different places do this completely differently. In Texas your birth certificate is opened to the public after 50 years. But in Alaska it is 100 years. Alaska hasn’t been in the US that long, so has never released a birth certificate. If it appears from your file that the person may still be alive, Ancestry will automatically restrict access to this information. It keys on the death date.

Where on the map is GRATWICH (Baptized 9-1-1842)?
I found a wide variety of this type of entry in this file. It’s a practice I hadn’t seen Ian use previously, which means he may have gotten this data from another researcher. Always be aware of what information you are entering into your file and be very careful with any sweeping file merges. Often researchers did a lot of shorthand when writing trees out by hand and what you see above is a great example. I happen to know Gratwich

is a city in Staffordshire, but most others would be hard pressed to come up with it. What if, for example the entry just said London, Middlesex? Would you assume this is London, England? That is logical, until you find out that the family had moved from England, to Canada and located in the City of London, which is in the district of Middlesex in Ontario, Canada. Now everything is in doubt and room has been left for misinterpretation.

In the Gratwich example, the researcher has left us a tidbit of info that isn’t usable in the map field. It is necessary to add a fact for Baptism and relocate the data to that field.

My best practice is to always complete the full place name in a consistent predictable order. I’m no Elizabeth Shown Mills, but here are a few tips on how to enter the place name.

  • Always use Commas between each level as that is how the mapping software knows how to break it down. Semi-colons and periods just mess the whole thing up.
  • Always enter the full location as presented in the source document: City, County, State, USA
  • For Church documents, or to list the hospital or cemetery name it is best to include those in the accompanying Description Field. The hospital will often not come up on the map, but the City will.
  • Don’t use abbreviations or leave out part of the full place name. Any acronym you think makes sense, may not to a fellow researcher. This is especially true of sources. The researcher needs to be able to relocate the same information using your source info. Your goal is to make your research repeatable should someone need to retrace your steps.
  • Your birth and your baptism are two different events. Enter them separately and don’t mix the dates up.
  • Your death and burial are also two different events. If you have both records record them accurately. There are many periods in history where the church record stood in place of a Civil document. This is fine, but if you only have a record of the Church Burial on  11 Oct 1906, you can enter that in the Burial Fact and the Death fact is “About 11 Oct 1906”. Same goes with the Birth and Baptism.
  • While I’m on the topic of dates, never leave a date open for interpretation. 10-11-1906 could either be Oct 11th or November 10th depending on where in the world the entry came from. The Genealogical Standard is to remove all doubt and record it as 11 Oct 1906. By spelling out the month you remove the possibility of misinterpretation.
  • Finally, church locations can be tricky, especially in English records. I see lots of places where the map location is the name of the City, Church, County, Country. The problem is that this isn’t a place on a map and the mapping software can only reconcile it to the Country level, which isn’t very helpful. Reversing the Church location into the first spot is more technically correct and allows the mapping software to bring your records to the city level and gives you a better chance of making a connection with other branches in the area.

If it isn’t apparent by now, I’m a little Obsessive Compulsive about the way I keep my tree. With 20,700 people and 4,000 place names, I’ve had lots of practice and time to perfect my approach. It takes more time to go and do it the right way, but I feel it is extremely important in helping to make the connections and bring our full tree into view. It is a blend of Art and Science that will help you break through on those tough to find ancestors.



The Somerset Dragons (of Somerset, England)

The DNA waiting game ended today, with an early Christmas present from Family Tree DNA. The results on our test candidate whose lineage originates in Somerset came back and matched on 36 of 37 Genetic Markers. This is exactly what you would expect to see of two 5th Cousins taking this test. This becomes our 4th DNA Proven lineage of Babbs.

What it represents is the first time that I’ve been able to accurately predict the line that someone belonged using the knowledge gained over the last few months. Combining these test results with the research available, I’ve been able to collapse 4 Pedigrees from Somerset County (Shire) into 1! But maybe not in the way you would think.


Here is how it worked:
Our two test takers are from the lines formerly known as Somerset Pedigree 01 and Somerset Pedigree 02. We had suspected a connection through John Babb and Ann Parsons, but were unable to say with certainty that the connection was concrete. While there might still be slight changes, today’s results greatly increased our odds, throwing the balance to the connection we had already suspected.


So, what about the other two lines?
new-babb-crest-somerset-dragons-2016_s-copyWe have united the first 3 Pedigrees into a single line that we lovingly call the Somerset Dragons. The Somerset Dragons are one of the oldest and largest lineages of Babbs in England originating in the Pitminster & Trull area of Somerset County (Shire).

The Crest used to represent this great house of Babbs is NOT historic, but a modern interpretation of what a crest for this family might look like. It draws upon the mascot of the County of Somerset, which is the Dragon and uses a similar color scheme to their current flag. Using mascots will help everyone to remember which lineage they are a part of. Only lines proven via DNA have a mascot and crest.
There are a total of 6 distinct (unrelated) lines of Babbs from England that we have documented with DNA thus far. I’ll continue to introduce them as I progress through the remainder of this project.

The 4th and final Pedigree (Somerset Pedigree 04) turned out to be a duplicate of Gloucestershire Pedigree 01, which is just across the County Line. William Babb who married Margaret Clark in Bristol on 16 May 1836 is also the son of John Babb (b 1794), who is the father of Gloucestershire Pedigree 01. So, I’ve merged the two lines into one.

So, without further delay, let me introduce you to the Somerset Dragons!

I wish you all a merriest of holiday seasons, whichever event you celebrate!



The Babbs of London, England

ian-henry-babbLondon is an ancient city, founded almost 2,000 years ago by the Romans. It is the Capital and most populous city in England. It has grown continually over the years and now encompasses an enormous urban area, known as Greater London containing 8.6 Million people. Place names have changed greatly as time has proceeded, so you will note the records can be found in a variety of places. But it all comes back to a portion of this great city. Note that many of the locations are now simply part of London

We find 4 Pedigrees of Babbs in this town. There were 3 accompanying Lettered trees, but they were redundant to the main pedigrees and I have eliminated them. Due to the great urbanization of London, there is little likelihood that these 4 families knew each other or came from the same place. They could be from any other part of the country.

Follow the links below to review the Descendants of each line:

Next up is the very large county of Somerset the 4 Pedigrees of Somerset contain more than 1100 people, so it will likely take me some time to get through those. I have already done some work on this region, so hopefully I’ll be able to leverage that to speed the process.


The Babbs of Lincolnshire, England

ian-henry-babbIt’s Thursday, so this must be Lincolnshire, England. As I trod along the path laid out by Ian Babb, I come to Lincolnshire, which is a county along the east coast of England and neighbors Leicestershire and is not far from Staffordshire and is also a part of the region known as the East Midlands. It lies roughly 100 miles (160 km) directly north of London.

Next up is the great town of London, which has lots of people who have migrated from other parts of the country. So this might be my last post for a few days while I get my head around their 7 Pedigrees. After that comes Somerset (home to one of the oldest Pedigrees on the island), Staffordshire, West Midlands & finally the great county of Devon (home to almost half of all the Pedigrees).

As for Lincolnshire. It is home to a single Pedigree from the town of Great Grimsby, which is also known as Grimsby. It is a large coastal town and seaport on the South Bank of the Humber Estuary (Where the Tide meets the stream). There are few if any male Babb descendants of this lineage. But there could be a number of females.

Follow the link below to review the Descendants of this line:



The Babbs of Leicestershire, England

ian-henry-babbNext up is the County of Leicestershire, England, which is named through what used to be its chief city, Leicester. Like Bristol, Leicester has now been made into it’s own County. But in the timeframe we are exploring they were one in the same place.

Leicestershire is a landlocked county in the English Midlands which borders Lincolnshire, Staffordshire and is near the county of West Midlands, which surrounds Birmingham, England. Any of those could figure prominently in connecting this tree and all will be coming up as I progress through the rest of Ian’s collection.

In Leicestershire we find a single Pedigree. Follow the link below to review the Descendants of this line:

That is it for tonight. Next up is Lincolnshire!

The Babbs of Hampshire, England

ian-henry-babbContinuing my review of the Pedigrees outlined by Ian Babb (pictured left), Hampshire was the home of a single Pedigree of Babbs, that appear to have terminated. The family originally from Portsmouth, Hampshire appear to have immediately moved to Kent in the Southeast corner of the country. Born to the family were 4 girls and a 1 boy. The sole male heir died at the age of 12. There may prove to be female descendants of this tree, but I don’t believe any male Babbs still exist from it. The mother of these children is from Devonport, Devon so they are possibly related to one of the Devon trees.

Note: Take caution not to confuse this with Portsmouth, New Hampshire in the US, or with Dartmouth, Devon where Phillip Babb of the Isles of Shoals is believed to come from. Hampshire is a county in the southern coast of England.

Follow the link below to review the Descendants of this line: