Thursday, January 21, 2016

Lazy Genealogists

Okay, when dancing with the ancestors, you're going to run across what I call, not too unkindly, lazy genealogists! To put it simply: lazy genealogists want to believe everything they find on the Internet is real! Bonjour!!

Seriously, people, do not rely on the research of others. Prove it for yourself!!!

Case in point: The two men named Greenberry Mitchell.

Now, it's bad enough that families passed their names back and forth, hither and thither, here, there and everywhere without a thought for future generations doing family research. In this instance, there is Greenberry1 and Greenberry2. For this post: Greenberry1 was born May 23, 1832 and died April 6, 1899. He is buried in Trousdale (Jacksboro) Cemetery in Warren County, Tennessee. Greenberry2 was born April 13, 1832 and died October 23, 1927. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Warren County, Tennessee.

In 1850, in Warren County, Tennessee, on the census recorded on August 22, we have the following . . .
  • William Mitchell
  • Darcus Mitchell
  • Mary Mitchell
  • Julia Mitchell
  • Greenberry Mitchell (age 19)
  • Celia Mitchell (age 14)
  • Matilda Mitchell
  • Darcas Mitchell
In 1850, in Warren County, Tennessee, on the census recorded on November 28, we have the following . . .
  • Robert Mitchell
  • Jane Mitchell
  • Greenberry Mitchell (age 18)
  • Squire J. Mitchell
  • Andrew J. Mitchell
  • Ruth Mitchell
  • John Mitchell
  • Susan Mitchell
  • Robert Mitchell
Note: Mitchell is transcribed as Mitchael on these records.

So, there exists two possibilities:
  1. It's the same Greenberry recorded on two different census records for 1850. It happens people, more than I care to express right now.
  2. There are two different men named Greenberry Mitchell
The reality: there are two different men named Greenberry Mitchell

One Greenberry (we'll call him Greenberry1) married Cynthia Brewer. The other Greenberry (we'll call him Greenberry2) married Sarah Dodson.

This is all fine and dandy expect . . . 99% of the trees on Ancestry link Greenberry1 and Greenberry2 as the son of Robert Mitchell and Jane Tate (more on the reasons for this in a bit).

So, back to 1850 Warren County, Tennessee, and William Mitchell and family. They are living next door to my 3 x Great Grandfather Allen Mitchell, his second wife Sarah and their children. 

Flash forward to 1900 Warren County, Tennessee and Celia Mitchell (single, age 65, meaning born in 1835) is listed on the Census Record with James Mitchell, his wife Hattie and their children and listed as his aunt! James' death record lists his parents as Greenberry Mitchell and Sarah Dodson. So, if his father is Greenberry, and his aunt is Celia, then going back to 1850, their parents would be William and Dorcas/Darcus Mitchell.

And yet . . . most people don't give poor William and Dorcas any credit as Greenberry1 or 2's parents! Shame on those lazy genealogists.

But, why is this, you're probably wondering? Okay, even if you're not, I'm going to tell you that it's all because of what happened in 1880 when the Census Taker arrived at Greenberry2's house and started taking down the information. He recorded the following . . .
  • G. Mitchell (Head)
  • Sarah Mitchell (Wife)
  • Tabitha Mitchell (daughter)
  • Murphy Mitchell (son)
  • Jas T. Mitchell (son)
  • Christie Mitchell (daughter)
  • Minnie Mitchell (daughter)
  • Dillard Mitchell (son)
  • Jane Dodson (mother)
So, any researcher that had ever come across Robert Mitchell and Jane Tate as the parents of Greenberry, in seeing this record, and the notation mother would automatically assume it was 100% correct: Jane Dodson is the mother of Greenberry Mitchell. 

The problem: Jane Tate-Mitchell died in 1874. So, unless she's a zombie who then married a Dodson, there's a bit of an impossibility here.

Further research by me, showed, in 1850, that Jane Dodson was living with her husband Eli, and their children Latitia, Sarah, Laura, and Meria. So, the Jane on the 1880 Census record is Sarah's mother and Greenberry's mother-in-law. 


So, this is an easy mistake to make. It's also an easy mistake to correct if a researcher takes a little bit of time to do, well, do some research and verify the results. 

Taking things at face value, when doing research, is never a good thing.

Relying 100% on the work of prior researchers, and assuming they are 100% correct, is NEVER a good thing. 

So, my take away from this is, that Greenberry1 who married Cynthia Brewer is the son of Robert Mitchell and Jane Tate. Greenberry2 who married Sarah Dodson is the son of William Mitchell and Darcus/Dorcas (Maiden Name Unknown, but possibly Coffee), sister of Celia, and father of James T. Mitchell (which is known for a fact based on his death record).

So, when dancing with the ancestors never assume what you are finding is 100% correct unless you have verified it for yourself. Sometimes, the face value is inaccurate. Sometimes, the mother is actually the mother-in-law and the census taker was, well, a bit lazy. 


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