First draft of my FRASER family history is almost ready for an editing round ... that semi-satisfied feeling when you've drawn a line and said no more flailing around on the unsolved bits and write down what you know. We are not talking opus magnum here: a modest couple hundred pages max. Editing can be a pleasurable experience as you try to stand back and examine whether you actually said what you meant to say.
But editing is an onerous procedure when you work with a "camera ready" manuscript for print on demand. Adding a paragraph or a new sentence (sometimes even a word!) can throw the whole works out of kilter. Ditto for changing or reducing text. Each photograph or an illustration could need minor or major adjusting to keep its placement relevant to what it describes.
Now I find I must add a paragraph of specific caution about something we in the genealogy world know, but my family very likely does not. A paragraph to acknowledge and warn that "family trees" online ― that I rarely search ― can have serious flaws. And there you have the reason that I seldom search them. The corollary is that my family and descendants may not trust what a batty old lady has to say, preferring the graphic ease of online offerings.
As luck would have it, this week in an idle moment I threw care to the winds and entered a search engine. Lo and behold. Two contributors have conflated three or four Quebec JOHN FRASERs into one man. It's quite a stupendous achievement, especially with regard to the man born in 1776 who had a granddaughter born the same year. Two of the men are recognizably my John Frasers and one is likely a downriver (Saint Lawrence) stray from the 78th (Fraser) Highlanders. They have sourced a valid marriage, no question, but then turned the Argenteuil farmer into his son-in-law the blacksmith, awarded him three wives, and gave him a mega-passel of French-Canadian grandchildren. Both have given my female ancestor the spurious middle name of Marie.
I can't tell which, but one contributor probably followed the other's lead. Fellow bloggers and other genealogists regularly locate similar misappropriations and misattributions. It could be a full time job to keep up. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that the errors haven't been compounded in even more trees.
However. Deep breath. One of the "trees" has given me two pieces of new (but let's say third-hand) information. First is the name of a birthplace for this hybrid John Fraser. The other is the alleged marriage of a John Fraser to an Ann McDonell; while it's very much out of place, if the record exists, it could be useful in eliminating other John Frasers.
|Clan Fraser of Lovat hangouts, from the 16th century; Wikipedia.org|
Learning the parish of Scottish origin for my Inverness-shire farmer John Fraser has been the canyon wall I beat my head on. While I've been slightly favouring Kiltarlity as the birthplace, I'm willing to give this "new" parish information a shot ― a foothold in the rock? ― once again hauling out the dog-eared OPR sheets from ScotlandsPeople and the equally tattered copies of Inverness-shire Monumental Inscriptions (Scottish Genealogy Society) for the parent-who-ought-to-be-named Alexander or James.
Meanwhile, peer wisdom calls for contacting the contributors with a thoughtfully composed message. Will the source of the parish info be revealed? Will it have creds? Hopefully we will exchange pleasantries and further information on all sides. Corrections will ensue and possibly mutual discoveries will unfold. Right?
Almost ready, mais oui. Another line to be drawn.
© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman