How do we know the Goodman Genealogy is fictitious?

+10 votes
Data doctoring I came upon a 311 error--duplicate siblings with same mother. I can see that there are serious errors. The mother was described as a black slave living in a plantation home in Cornwall, England in 1367. There may have been plantations in Cornwall, and there were probably slaves. But from what I've read about slavery and England there were almost certainly no black slaves in Cornwall in 1367. So perhaps the "Goodman Genealogy" is an unsourced fabrication. I saw no complete citations, but this is true of countless profiles. What if the original teller of the tale merely misinterpreted facts? An American reading about a plantation and slaves will naturally assume they are African, and perhaps add that adjective to the story. But what if these were indentured servants, perhaps Irish, not unlike the second wife?

The point of all this is the Goodmans and other descendants have abandoned these profiles, most likely because they are branded as fraudulent. Yet I've seen no documentation that exposes the fraud or the fiction. Am I just missing it? It seems to me that categorizing these profiles as fictional is counterproductive. A descendant who comes across these profiles is most likely going to avoid working on them. Unless I'm missing something, wouldn't {{Unsourced|England}} and {{citation needed}} work just as well and probably better, at least in this case?
WikiTree profile: Bingey The Slave
in Policy and Style by Stephanie Ward G2G6 Mach 9 (98.2k points)
My previous experience with similar things is that they're not intentional fabrications, but rather the imaginings of someone with mental health issues. Databases are full of them.
Having met a few of these "Goodman" profiles and followed their trails into a number of European countries, there were thousands of them, with a sameness about them that one became very familiar with. They all originated with, and were managed by the same individual at the time of collecting into this category. It was a delicate situation at the time and managed with care and consideration by an experienced team of leaders.

3 Answers

+8 votes
Best answer
Sigh. i'm one of two or three people who took the trouble to "brand" these profiles. And yes, it was in part to keep people from wanting to adopt them and reconnect them, because they are a disgrace. The profiles were already orphaned before we took them on.

I am familiar with the French ramifications of this huge fraud (thousands of profiles created by the same husband and wife team) and this is what I can tell you about it:

- the sources are fake. "Lorraine archives" it says on a lot a profiles. This is a lie. I'm not sayind the people who created the profiles are responsible for this lie (we don't know where their data came from), but someone is. "Lorraine archives" do not exist. Or if they exist, they do not contain this sort of info. This sort of info would be in departmental archives (Moselle, Meuse, Haute-Marne...) or city archives. Somewhere down the line, someone invented these people and stuck an invented archive reference on them. That's a lie.

- The details are not credible. These lines include full details, going up to the 11th century (!!) of complete families with names of all children, even those who died in infancy. It's just impossible to have that level of detail for events this far in the past. We don't even know the exact number of King Charles VIII and Anne de Bretagne's children, and they were the king and queen, just before 1500. We don't know anything of young unmarried children in ordinary families in the 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th and even 15th centuries.

- The details about society and mores are wrong. Several of the French characters, in typical French fashion I guess, are said to be polygamous. This stretches credulity. When performing a marriage, priests were required to check that the contractants were not already married. Even a prior engagement was sufficient to cancel the wedding! Suggesting (as is done in several profiles) that a man had several wives in plain view is plain ignorance of how things were, at the very least. Someone who had done actual research would never have come up with this.

- An example of historical error. Dr Joseph Guillotin (credited with giving his name to the guillotine) was worked in this genealogy,as bigamous husband of "Delia Marin" and his real wife, Elise Saugrain. The biography said Dr Guillotin had taken a second wife when he discovered the first one, Delia, was barren, and attributed 5 children to Guillotin and Saugrain. This is completely false. For the bigamy accusation, see above. Guillotin was a notable. And he never had any children. At all.

- Speaking of "Delia" Marin, the naming patterns are all wrong.

- Speaking of the "Marin" family, we identified the Irish immigrant called Philip Marin (or Morran) who settled in Canada in the 19th century. He was real enough but his parents were totally wrong. We found the names of the real parents (it was not that difficult). The wrong parents were a couple from Flanders who lived 60 years too early to be his parents, but do appear in select marriages collections, because their marriage happened to be indexed.

As Helen points out, there is the problem of known paintings attached to completely different individuals. One of the most egregious polygamists has a portrait which is really the portrait of Alfred de Musset, the poet. One of the British girls has a portrait which really represents Louise of France, daughter of Louis XV, by Nattier.

And it goes on and on. If you believe these profiles deserve to be investigated and each fact carefully checked to establish the truth, please do. All we ask in the mean time, is that the profiles stay disconnected and the warning signs stay on them. There are litterally thousands of them. We did identify a  few individuals that really existed (only not in the same place and century as the profile data indicated) and we retrieved and fixed them.

Then there are the fabricated individuals who were grafted to real families, as Helen explains above. Believe me. This set of profiles has given us A LOT of work. We really felt we needed to indentify them - and quickly - and that was for the sake of WikiTree's credibility.
by Isabelle Martin G2G6 Pilot (474k points)
selected by Stephanie Ward
Dunno about credibility.  It's the database that's exported to other sites, not the bios, and I'm horribly afraid that at some point in the future the database will be seen as the prime asset.  And all the junk gets left in the database with no indication that it's junk.
Yes, the majority of these profiles (at least) should be deleted.
Thank you, all of you, for taking the time to fill in the background. Just to clarify, I wasn't arguing against the template-- just needed more information and wasn't sure how this one qualified for the template any more than any of the other unsourced or poorly cited profiles that I encounter on an an almost daily basis. And by the way, to RJ's point, I stumbled into this quagmire because of a data base error (311-- duplicate sibling of same mother), which led me to another 311, as well as to mother too young, mother married on the day she was born, father born after children, wrong word in last name, prefix in name, wrong words in location, misspelled location-- and I've barely scratched the surface. These profiles are rife with database errors. Does fixing the data errors somehow dignify them and impair our credibility even more?

So now, after having spent the better part of two days in a quagmire of  total BS, I completely understand why some of these many profiles have no more of a warning than the template-- they've taken up way more time and energy than they deserve. Since I'm up to my ears in it now, though, I think I'll spend just a little more time with them by putting together a 'Research Notes' section that I can paste on the templated Goodmans to warn off the unwary.

Would appreciate direction as to doctoring the data, though.

Thank you, Stephanie. I believe your researching and writing skills would be better employed on more deserving profiles.

Regarding data doctoring, my first impulse was to request that questionable profiles be excluded from reports. Doesn't look like it is going to happen. Second impulse was to mark all the errors false. Not very good either, since false errors get listed with the rest when you're fixing a profile, and may come back.

Since the rule for "disproven" (one step above uncertain) profiles is to disconnect them entirely, I fix all the "parent too old" and "parent to young or not born" errors by removing the parent/child relationship. (But ONLY with profiles from this set!!). That removes the error with minimum effort and has the advantage of not perpetuating a lie. 

Not sure what to do about the 131, 132 and 134 type errors (no dates) - surely we're not going to invent dates for people who did not exist. Or about "unique names", either.

At first I thought that keeping the errors would be more evidence that the profiles are ridiculous, but it does not work very well. Error reports draw attention on these profiles, that they don't deserve. If they did not appear in reports, it would be a good thing. It looks like the best way to achieve this is to correct the errors! Ironic, isn't it?

And here's the full report for the category:

Yikes. Before I knew any of this I fixed 'mother too young' with an estimated date based on her own mother's DOB and her oldest child's DOB. I adopted Bingey The Slave to change her name to Bingey Unknown, released her, then merged Unknown Slave with her. And more. Much more. Thank you for finding a way to make me look like I knew what I was doing. Or at least that I did no harm.
I'm always sorry when I notice that these profiles have been worked on. Now though, the Bingey profile has enough information to make anyone understand it should be disregarded. (There were initially 5 or 6 "The Slave" or "Slave of Goodman" profiles that I all merged together - figured one was offensive enough, no need to have duplicates!).

I'm actually looking at unique names - some of them can be corrected by just removing a weird middle name.
+13 votes
It only says "Research suggests that this person may never have existed. See the text for details." which leaves room for someone to prove otherwise. To not state that is, in my opinion, more misleading. There are no actual sources listed and the facts presented are improbable. Better to list it as possibly fraudulent than to encourage someone to believe it is factual without further research. WT is supposed to be based on fact.

Perhaps you could take it as a project to prove or disprove the story/family. It could be an interesting challenge for someone.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (444k points)
Doug, I couldn't agree more. In fact I was looking for more information on the profiles-- not less. The template implied there was information I wasn't seeing. As for the project you suggest, it's a great idea for someone named Goodman or Hitchens, etc. Personally I have no dog in this hunt, so count me out. But I will go so far as to add a 'Research Notes' section to warn away the next unwary data doctor who comes along. Because they will come along. Oh, I've seen the data, they will come.
The template tries to be diplomatic because {{Total Junk}} would be too rude.

Doesn't work of course.  Personally I avoid using even the existing template on loads of profiles that would qualify for {{Total Junk}}.  Almost anything is now too rude on WikiTree, so if we had a {{Raised Eyebrow}} or a {{Hmm?}} I'd probably avoid it.  Perhaps we need something like {{Great Profile, But}}
XD  I vote for you as creator of templates!
+11 votes

There are very many similar profiles within this 'pedigree', slaves and plantations.There were no 'plantations' in Cornwall in thev1400s or now. The will on this profile is typical of several.It has to have been fabricated by someone with very little knowledge of England or its history.

From memory  a "Goodman"  name was substituted for Edward 1V taken from a text about the Battle of Barnet.

Numerous portraits of quite different people were appended to profiles.

There are several baptist  and other non conformist ministers way before the reformation. Its not a skilful fabrication

There are some people who show a resemblance to real people but have the wrong parents, wives and fictious stories. They certainly are problematic.

by Helen Ford G2G6 Pilot (382k points)
edited by Helen Ford

Helen, while I agree with everything you've said here, I do have one quibble, which is part of why I felt like I needed more information on the profiles to begin with. Were there really no plantations in Cornwall? I'm quite sure there were none in the sense of the 17-19th century US slave plantations, but this is what I get when I google plantation: "an estate on which crops such as coffee, sugar, and tobacco are cultivated by resident labor." Sounds like many an English estate would qualify. And yes, I know there are members of this tree that are described as black slaves, but there were so many other errors that it occurred to me that someone could have made that (black, slave) assumption based on usage of the word plantation, and filled in information that wasn't there. 

The point is moot now, as far as I'm concerned. Y'all have been kind enough to give me the background. My thinking was there may be other hard-headed types like myself who feel the need to reinvent the wheel when they see a template with no further explanation, so I've added a little detail and copied it onto several of the Goodman profiles. 

I probably won't do many more though, because I've started to get the feeling there are people who have deliberately tried to sabotage WikiTree, and wasting time on them means they win. I know it sounds paranoid, but right after bumping up against this Goodman beast, I came upon the UNKNOWN tree. Somebody actually created profiles for UNKNOWN UNKNOWN who married UNKNOWN Unknown UNKNOWN, and had several children named Unknown UNKNOWN. Their locations were also unknown, as were most of the dates. But one was born in 1495, and his grandunknown was born in 1586 or something. How can someone know the dates and absolutely nothing else. And how can the same PM have created duplicate Unknowns.  The profile is UNKNOWN-81421 if you want to take a look. 

The medieval landscape in Cornwall comprised small hamlets, open field system (strip farming)  and common grazing on the less fertile lands. ( plus quarrying in some areas). Its a world away from any definition of a plantation that I can find.

Besides that the style of the wills on these profiles is just wrong. Only 122 Cornish wills from 1342 to 1540 actually exist today. They are formulaic The  beliefs of the testator and hope for his  soul, place of  burial , bequests to the church and to pray for the soul( to altars, lights, guilds and fraternities, monasteries, the mother church (Cathedral) ) Then bequests of personal goods and animals .The 122  Cornish wills have been published but are not online .To get a flavour albeit a little later and from Somerset see 

But I agree, that they waste a lot of people's time. I would like to see them all deleted or perhaps all made unlisted. These profiles don't add to our credibility. The template didn't prevent you trying to make things 'right' nor it seems does it prevent others trying to relink it to the main tree.

@Stephanie: You may have mentioned this UNKNOWN UNKNOWN tree in one of the other threads where it has been up lately. I just though I'd say it here, too. 1) It wasn't intentionally created - it's a failed GEDCOM upload from the olden days. 2) I'm working on it - there is a corresponding upload with names by the same manager (plus some of them have duplicates courtesy the williams-anders GEDCOM). So I'm slowly merging, from the tips of the branches and down. Once the profiles get into the range of death records in the parish archives I source them from Riksarkivet SVAR. This isn't a fake like the Goodman Genealogy - it just has got loose from the original publications and spread across the Internet.

Eva, Helen-- and everyone else-- thanks, good to know.

"coffee, sugar, and tobacco are cultivated by resident labor." Sounds like many an English estate would qualify.

You should visit England more. cheeky

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