Disclaimer: I am beginning a rant. Reading this rant implies that you are prepared for angry, insulted, disappointed or frustrated feelings to be aired and written down. This rant will not adhere to all the standard polite societal niceties. You have been warned.
I assume all of us at one time or another have discovered erroneous information about our ancestors floating around the Net, propagated from family tree to family tree on services like GenForum and Ancestry and the like. I've long been aware of the phenomenon and, while irritating, it was an understandable aspect of this ancestoring business. I was able to deal with it in that manner up until now but it's never really hit me like it hit me this weekend. It's been percolating for the last couple of days and I have to admit I'm a little hot under the collar.
What was different? It became personal. How, you say? Well, it wasn't someone else's random family -- it was mine. This time it was about my Samuel Browning and his wife Margaret Markee.
I've been researching Samuel and Margaret for over ten years now. About five years back I wrote a book about them entitled "The Leaves Do All Come Back: The Family and Descendants of Samuel and Margaret (Markee) Browning." It was a small run, self-published book on CD (I wasn't made of money, hah!) that only sold about 30 copies, mostly to cousins and any other family members interested in our lineage. I won't state unequivocally that I'm the foremost expert on this family just because I've published a book, but I can say that unless I'm mistaken I'm about as close as there can be to one.
One of my major goals for this family in the last decade has been establishing proof positive for the parentage of Samuel Browning. As I spoke about in my posts here and here, there's some amount of circumstantial evidence suggesting that Samuel's father may be the John Browning found in the Harrison County (OH) census in 1820. I've had other working theories and other ideas and possibilities bouncing around in my head but that's par for the course when you're trying to find something like this.
This weekend I happened to look at the Ancestry MemberConnect feature and found, to my utter surprise, that apparently MANY people now have Samuel's parents listed as (take your pick) Samuel Baker Browning and Rebecca Shipley, or alternately, Nancy Hobbs!
I looked all around for proof (initially excited that someone, somewhere, had found something I hadn't and I would finally solve my mystery) only to find a convoluted ring of OneTrees and WorldTrees and personal webpages that referred back to OneTrees and.....well, you get the picture. In other words, no actual documentation. Not a speck. Just an initial someone's assumption that Samuel fit somewhere in the Maryland Browning tree and then just throwing him in there and having that somehow became a "fact."
Now my cousin Pat (RIP) owned William N. Hurley's "Our Maryland Heritage, Book 12, The Browning Families," which is a great resource for those of us looking for Brownings. She scoured the book for any clues about families that our Samuel could fit into. We never once saw our Samuel's name in that book and I think sticking him into Samuel Baker Browning's family is presumptive barring documentation to the contrary. If Hurley didn't do it, why should anyone else? Just to say they have another generation back? Grrrr. Don't get me wrong; I do understand this sort of thing often propagates because a lot of people don't care to do the research or are collaterally connected at best. But lest we forget, it had to originate somewhere for it to be passed about like it has been.
All I'm saying is that people need to look and think before they place something like that down; even to the layperson unfamiliar with the Brownings, some of what I read obviously has holes I could drive a truck through. Take Samuel Baker Browning and Rebecca Shipley, for one. Even a cursory look would reveal that Samuel Baker Browning and Rebecca Shipley could almost certainly be eliminated because my Samuel was born around 1796 and this couple didn't even marry until 1807.
The second couple (Samuel Browning and Nancy Hobbs) is a better fit, I'll admit. I don't know where my Samuel was born (MD is all I know) but Samuel and Nancy were married in Maryland in 1792. It's possible. It's equally possible that Meshach Browning's uncle John (listed in Hurley's book, old enough, in the right state, and Hurley does not have any further information for him) could also be Samuel's father. The name is at least a fit for the mysterious John that actually was in Harrison County. In other words, all we really have right now is guesses.
I'd love to be able to go through the internet like the proverbial bloodhound, sniff out all the places where I see this being spread, and inoculate the carriers. I know I can't do that. What I can do, though, is present the information that I have on this family here on my blog and maybe someone doing some serious research will see it.
If anyone has located documentable proof that my Samuel is the son of either one of the couples I mentioned above (or even of an entirely new couple, I'm flexible!) I'd ask them to send it to me posthaste, after which they'd become my new hero and I'd hug them and kiss them and call them George! However, until that happens and such proof is located, these connections sound like a lot of assumption and not much more.
And we ALL know what it means to assume....
1 hour ago