Question of the Week: What is the craziest online genealogy "fact" (really fiction) that you've come across?

+30 votes
What is the craziest online genealogy "fact" (really fiction) that you've come across? Do you remember where you spotted it at?
in The Tree House by Deborah Collier G2G6 Mach 3 (38.0k points)
Someone on an Ancestry tree found George md to  Rachel in 1850. In 1860 she found William same age as George md to Rachel of same age, so she renamed the husband George William. Fact: Rachel was 2nd wife of George who died c1858 so she md George's first step-cousin, a widower, as 2nd spouse and the researcher created a George William - a man who never existed and has no record anywhere. Both Geo and Wm were well identified in 2 adjacent townships.
I had trouble sorting out my grand daughter's father's family because he wouldn't give us any help.  I found his mother in two households during one census (mother's and sister's) then she was born in two different decades.  After a lot of searching I finally found the death certificate of her aunt who had died as a teenager.  Turns out she was named for her aunt, but no one seemed to have remembered that little tidbit.
The craziest thing I have seen multiple times is people putting information out on a family where the mother of the children would appear to be 3 years old when she gave birth to her first child.
I noticed a woman on wikitree who "had a child" when she was 98 and other irregularities. I was on the trusted list and thought that I was OK to make the correction, providing supporting primary sources but I got a terse message from the PM asking me if I had been reading dodgy published genealogies and pointed me towards the one he uses. I pointed out that I never take my info from genealogies, I only use primary sources for all of my additions to wikitree but if I have done something in error, then I apologize as occasionally these things happen. I also asked had he tried the (then relatively new) error report? I got a message back thanking me for the heads up about the error report and apologizing as he found he'd made an error himself and had now corrected it.
I wish more people would run the error report.
I know what you mean.  I've had several issues with people posting wrong names, wrong marriages, changing what they believed to be nicknames to "more appropriate names" for my gr grandparents and grandparents.  I also only use legal documentation and our family Bibles passed down through generations.  Some people are very concientious and will correct things, others ignore you or refuse to acknowledge they made a mistake.  Had to prove to a cousin one time that he'd erroneously assumed a congressman was our relative.  It took 2 newspaper articles and a talk with the congressman's son to get the guy to give in and remove the information from our family tree.
My gr grandpa, Herman Prell's birth certificate and some censuses, too, have him born "at sea", or "Atlantic Ocean" as place of birth. I was always told he was born on the boat from Prussia in 1867, but now have true documents that state it. However, some records say New York, his port of entry. I felt so bad for his mom, expecting AND giving birth on such a long voyage!
I think this is why my great grandmother did not return to the US with her husband, not wanting to make the voyage while pregnant. They went back to Italy together, but she didn't make the trip back with him.
The craziest non-fact fact I’ve come across is this: My birth father (let’s call him “Leroy”) had an illegitimate daughter (let’s call her “Dorothy”) who, somehow, came to live with him during her teen years (she thought he was her uncle) and used his last name as her own. She introduced my mother to her “uncle” who was really her father, and my mother and this “uncle” got married a relatively short time after the introduction. I just came across several family trees on that had this young lady married to my birth father – these trees also showed his marriage to my mother. I cannot even imagine how anyone could come up with the idea that “Dorothy” was married to “Leroy.” Not only is “Leroy” the father of “Dorothy,” but he was married to my mother during the time he was shown to have been married to his daughter.
My 4th great grandfather had a daughter listed in 2 Census. Once finding her death certificate she was really the Grandaughter. Also, in the 1880 Census their was a Niece listed. My grandfather, 2nd & 3rd grandfather were male only childs. I traced the 2nd marriage wife to be the aunt.

Lori RandolphKing-13252 might be the same persona as Chockla King

54 Answers

+6 votes
Children born after the father died.  Fathers that had children at one year of age all on


James E Olson
by Anonymous Olson G2G Crew (380 points)
I actually have 2 legit instances in my family of children born after the father died, but the death dates do fall squarely within the time frame for conception. One was a nephew of my gg-grandmother, born a month after his father died, and named after his father. I stumbled on that by chance, while looking through Canadian records. As of yet, I have not found that family in anyone else's tree. I sourced that one to death.

The other was my grandmother's second son. My grandmother lost her 1st husband in the Battle of the Coral Sea while she was pregnant with her second child. I was able to look up when her husband's ship was last in port in the US, and the timing was spot on for him to have been the father.

The real reason I looked that up at all was because my mother liked to speculate about whether the brothers were full siblings, and not just because she speculated about her brothers, but because mom had a habit of speculating about the real fathers of other relatives, including her brother-in-law. That's not to say the brothers are for certain full siblings (grandma was quite friendly with the visiting sailors!), but it's not impossible either. We'll probably never know.
My second great grandmother was born in January 1850. Her father died of a fall from a barn in 1849 (exact date unknown).
+7 votes
Not as weird as some but here's mine --  A couple who lived and died in Adams County, Pennsylvania, who supposedly had the following children:  1 born 1695 Donegal Ireland; next born 1695 Londonderry, Ireland; next 1705 in Chester, PA; then 1715 Londonderry, Ireland; and finally 1744 in Adams Co., PA (when his mother would have been 66 years old).

While all but the last may be remotely possible, it seems very unlikely.  As for where I found it?  Right here on WikiTree.  :-(
by Nan Starjak G2G6 Pilot (259k points)
Implausible time frames for birth has been one of the places where I've found the DB Errors project really helpful.

Some profiles I manage have had everything look good except one lone child born 40 years after the rest. I haven't paid appropriate attention to how these errors came about -- imported tree versus typo, versus bad merge, etc. Mostly I'm just concerned with finding sources to answer the question of whether the last child should be disconnected.

Implausible location jumps are probably harder to detect automatically, but identifying them sure would help!
+8 votes
The craziest fact about my family tree came via a DNA check which a cousin who has the same family line had done on himself, which runs all the way to, get this...  Attila the Hun!  When I relayed the news to some of my nephews they 'freaked' out.
by Jeff Higdon G2G Crew (440 points)
+7 votes
That my father and all his descendants do not exist.  A local professional genealogist, who shall be nameless, published a family tree which included my father's parents and all his siblings, but not him.
Even after I contacted her and explained the situation, she did not change it.  The thing is she's closely related to a relative who's also closely related to me., so all the information is accessible if she needs it.

It's been at least five years now. It's still on line and we ( close to two hundred of us) still don't exist.
+7 votes
I have several brothers and sisters that named their children after each other, who then proceeded to do the same thing to the point where it's tricky matching the right generation to the right name and right line. Then there's the ones where the child was born before the parents. In a case just today I stumbled upon a child who was born 300 (yes, three hundred) years before the listed parent.
by Christopher Decker G2G1 (1.4k points)
+7 votes
A gentleman listed in his family tree that my father, James Otis R*** was the son of a James Otis R*** in Texas and was born in Texas.  Any rudimentary search would have found that my father was born in Washington State and that his father's name was Harry - but I was surprised to find that there was actually anyone else with the name James Otis R***!
+7 votes
John Alden Jr (son of John Alden from the Mayflower) was jailed in Salem for witchcraft and escaped.  I found this out on Wikipedia and it's regarded as fairly well-known.  Great story!
by Abbie Hill G2G Crew (410 points)
+6 votes
I think my greatest shock was to find may great grandfather murdered his son Thomas. A shock to my son Thomas. One of the witnesses was my grandfather who was visiting my future grand mother, so it's true there are skeletons in the cupboard. I came across the fact when I asked "Uncle Google" if he had heard of him, the family story was Thomas had choked on a bone!
+7 votes
There's one online tree that conflates my brother with one of my aunts. I've reached out to the owner, but no response.
by Chris Wagner G2G3 (3.5k points)
+8 votes
She died during childbirth.

The death certificate notes, "attempt to induce abortion, self inflicted, by injecting turpentine into uterus".
by Larry Snyder G2G2 (2.0k points)
+8 votes
in my maternal grandmother's family we have a number of children born to a man who died years before, immaculate conception apparently, lol
by anonymous G2G Crew (780 points)
+7 votes
Someone has posted my grandfather as having died in Scotland where he was born, when he actually died in Brisbane, Australia (after emigrating in the early 1900s) some decades later. I did notify the source. I think the question of a middle initial might have been at fault.
by Shirley Dunlop G2G Crew (860 points)
+6 votes
I have two:

1) The family were adamant that one of my great grandmothers was a 'Kenaway Bride'. These were girls fleeing Ireland to South Africa on board the ship the 'Kenaway'. She is not on the Kenaway passenger lists!

2) My great grandfather and his wife and children all appear in a family tree as immigrants to America. They did, in fact move to Africa and I cannot link them to the American 'connection'. They seem to be there to boost someone's numbers rather than provide any true meaning to their tree. The 'owner' of the tree does not respond to my emails!!
by Colin English G2G Crew (380 points)
+8 votes
I went to Bodenburg, Germany in 1990 to search for information on my great grandmother Minna Baesecke.  I had heard lots of family rumors that she had become pregnant by a wealthy aristocrat who was also Jewish.  My great grandfather was paid by this man to marry her and bring her and the child to America.  I was shocked at how small Bodenburg was and while walking around we came to a large castle like building.  A man standing there spoke English and told me about the family that lived there.  Von Cramm was the last name and he told me the family employed local girls as servants and that the men were playboys and often got the girls pregnant.  The whole story fit the narrative of my elderly aunts and uncles and when my dna came back I was 7% Jewish.
+7 votes
New York Times online archives reported the loss of the 'Ocean Queen' in 1856 as probably having struck an iceberg in the Atlantic. Several of my Shipton relatives were on her at the time but there were no reported survivors.

No doubt this made excellent news copy but some of her geniva (gin) barrel cargo was found floating near The Manacles rocks, off Cornwall, about a year later. I don't like to think what happened to the crew and passengers in those storm tossed waters and I pray she was not the victim of wreckers.
by John Shipton G2G6 Mach 1 (13.1k points)
+8 votes
I discovered that my maternal 2nd great-uncle had a son that no one in the family had ever mentioned.  (I asked my maternal grandmother, and - when asked directly - she verified that he did, indeed, have a son.)  As I was doing the research that led to the discovery of this "missing" son, I found that son listed with a different surname, and I learned that he's carried that surname into adulthood.  Continuing to research this odd genealogy situation, I then discovered that my father and my 2nd great-uncle's son worked for their entire careers at the same company and for over a decade in the same office. My dad knew him at work but, of course, had no idea who he was since no one in the family had mentioned him before!
My grandmother gave up a baby to be adopted by a close family friend who she visited often. The daughter had no idea the woman who she thought was her mother's friend was her biological mother.

My grandmother also had baby and toddler photos of this daughter, who looked very much like my mother, who was born 5 years later, and my mother thought those photos were photos of her, because no one ever mentioned she had an older sister. She may have actually met her at some point as the daughter or her mother's friend.  At some point my grandmother had to stop visiting, because the daughter looked so much like her mother, and my grandmother's friend felt like her daughter was  getting suspicious.

The weirdest thing about this though is when my mother was little, she had an imaginary friend she called "Jeannie", which was also the name of her sister.
Linda - That is fascinating!!  What a story!
+7 votes
I've found many crazy things in researching my 12,000+ person family tree. ONE is... the one I still can't solve - my great-grandpa, Ransom Nichols, went missing for 25 years, AND during that time period also changed his name to Robert "Roy" Doone. His own mother (Mary Teresa Shoemaker-Nichols-Roberts-Harvill-Heaton) and brothers thought he was dead. I found 2 newspaper articles from the 1920's that his mother placed, searching for him after he finished his service in the Canadian Army during WW1. He was NOT Canadian, he was born in Colorado, USA. Neither the Canadian Army, the British Army, nor the United States Army have any record of him, under either name, though he attained the rank of Sergeant. He was also supposed to be a foreman with the mounted police in Bristol, England after being injured in the war. (The Canadian Army would send their wounded to England to heal.) He told his wife and son that he had to change his name and age to enter the Canadian army because he was too young at the time the war began. This was also not true, he was 22 when WW1 started.
by Summer Seely G2G6 (9.4k points)
+7 votes
My great-great-grandmother, Mary Teresa Shoemaker, married my great-great-grandfather, Abner Jefferson Nichols, in 1884 in Colorado. She was 12 and he was 47  !!!!!! (Gross!) It was obviously her first marriage, it was his third marriage. They were married until his death in 1909, and had 12 children together. He had a total of 21 children.
by Summer Seely G2G6 (9.4k points)
+7 votes
In my family tree in the 18th and 19th centurys  there is a branch of the Clifford family that names one male child Wright Clifford in nearly every family. There are at least 14 male children named thus or with another given name as well.

One Mr Wright Clifford broke with tradition and named his first born son Wrong George Clifford. 4 years later he repented and named his second son John Wright, carrying on the tradition.
by Peter Jennings G2G1 (1.7k points)
+5 votes
Between my family tree and my husband's there are 3 Seely, Seeley and Seeley families! Though I have not connected any of them to each other!
by Summer Seely G2G6 (9.4k points)

Related questions

+18 votes
23 answers

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright