Confusion between Kentucky and Kent England

+9 votes

I have noticed in various databases a number of references to events taking place in "Kentucky"  when I believe the person involved never left Kent, England.

For example I have a Timothy Jennings (1682 - 1729) who married Dorothy Waterman (1689 - 1755) after his death I believe she remarried James Williams "described as a 'Sojourner'" in 22 Sep 1732. All this taking place in High Halden Kent,

However there is a record in for a James William Sojourner which states " James William Sojourner married Dorothy Sojourner (born Waterman) on month day 1732, at marriage place, Kentucky. Dorothy was born Before October 22 1689, in High Halden, Kent, England." (the month and day of the marriage are obscured as I don't subscribe)

Sadly this type of error may be present even in WikiTree.

Has anyone else encountered this phenomenon?

[Moderator note: I removed the "data doctors challenge" tag because this isn't a declared challenge for that group.]

in The Tree House by Peter Jennings G2G1 (1.6k points)
edited by Ellen Smith

It would appear that Kentucky was originally part of Virginia, established in 1776 and became the 15 state in 1792 according to Wikipedia.

A glance at my ancestors above will show that Kentucky didn't exist when they were supposedly there.

Therefore I suggest that the data-doctors create a filter that highlights any mention of Kentucky before 1776 as highly suspicious. Of course this does not flag later errors,but there may be a way of weeding them out. For example Kent and Kentucky in the same profile.

Of course there may well be some genuine men of Kent (or Kentish men) who went to Kentucky and vice versa.

Yes, I just found this Kentucky error on my Heritage: William Walter Wallys, born in 1401 in Kentucky.  It is an obvious error because the USA didn't exist then. There is a world of difference between Kentucky and Kent.  I wonder how often this occurs?  I don't think there is a Kentucky in the British Isles.

You are correct, Jean. The derivation of the name is obscure, but it is suggested it comes from the Iroquoi and consequently has no connection to anywhere in the British Isles.

There are numerous US towns named after towns and villages in the UK, Boston in Lincolnshire dating back to Roman times for example. And there is the small village of Pennsylvania in Gloucestershire named after the American state smiley.

7 Answers

+4 votes
Best answer
Those are hard to find. Searching for

you get 500 profiles, that migrated from england to Kentucky and most of them are probably valid.

Searching for kentucky kent england returns 22 profiles, that are questionable, but could be migrants from Kent to Kentucky

Maybe correct search would be if parents died in England and child is born in Kentucky, but I don't have such search in place.
by Aleš Trtnik G2G6 Pilot (467k points)
selected by Dennis Wheeler

HI  Aleš,

Thanks for this, I didn't know this search page existed.

I think this is the best answer, as those with an interest in this problem (and similar) can do their own research by adjusting the search criteria. For example, by ordering by date of death you get a group of people who died in Kentucky before it even existed (c 1776). There are also quite a few people who died in "Colony, Laurel, Kentucky," or similar which I gather is a notoriously non-existent place suspected of being generated by faulty auto-complete genealogy software.

Well, you should read the help page for WikiTree+

There is a lot more you can do.
And that's another page of which I was unaware!
+5 votes
I see it, as you do, on other sites.

And I had an email from someone searching for relatives from Kentucky, asking my a bout mine (in Kent), and if they were connected.
by Janet Gunn G2G6 Mach 7 (79.5k points)
+4 votes
they have my great uncle William (Little Snowey) Theobald in Kentucky as well, he was born and died in Kent England
+7 votes
It's happened because someone has entered a list of traditional abbreviations for US states for the software to use when interpreting records. Looking at the list only Kent would seem to cause significant problems.
by Matthew Fletcher G2G6 Mach 8 (88.2k points)
Most annoying! It corrupts a lot of data. I suppose that there's no way of getting the word out there and possibly modifying the list of abbreviations.

I've posted a note about this problem on the comments page for this entry in Wikipedia. It may help eventually.

It has been suggested that a lot of this type of error is down to early versions of Family Tree Maker which tried to autocomplete entries, particularly place names. Unfortunately it had a strong US bias and could quite easily "complete" Kent into Kentucky. Apparently there are a lot of other examples of where it is suspected of doing this including inventing non-existing place names.
+7 votes

hummm...never considered this before, but it explains some things...

When I first started collecting family data, I ran across a Hardy ancestor who was born in England around 1450 and died in Kentucky around 1500. My first thought, was, "did she sail over with Christopher Columbus, and establish an early Kentucky colony?!" I couldn't believe how people would just knowingly enter such bogus information. I never considered it was programmatically done from bad abbreviations, and likely never seen by human eyes.

And that error had propagated to many, many online family trees, including here at WikiTree (though corrected here by the time I discovered it). Blindly copy-pasting.

by Dennis Wheeler G2G6 Pilot (506k points)
+4 votes
Yes, it's rife, but not as confusing, once you're aware of it, as those curious transpositions of south-east England towns on Family Search, that mix up Faversham with Folkstone and Brighton with Burwash &c.
by Chris Weston G2G6 Mach 1 (11.3k points)
+4 votes
Another reason that an index or transcription should only be used as a tool and not the final data. When possible the original records really should be examined. Also, basic sanity checking by a researcher would find most of these problems.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (382k points)
I agree with your sentiment on this, but in many cases the original records are out of reach off the everyday family historian. We have to rely on transcribers like the Mormons, and other researchers. Once an error creeps in it can get propagated over many data sets before it it spotted.

But sanity checking is a must, and every body should be able to do it.

Even the "official" transcribers get it wrong sometimes, I've found several errors in the transcriptions of the UK census data for example.

Related questions

+3 votes
2 answers
164 views asked Jan 1, 2018 in Genealogy Help by Martin Coull G2G1 (1.5k points)
+5 votes
2 answers
0 votes
2 answers
0 votes
2 answers
40 views asked Jul 15 in Genealogy Help by Mark Dorney G2G6 Mach 2 (28.7k points)
+4 votes
1 answer
+5 votes
0 answers

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

disclaimer - terms - copyright