Understanding the thoughts and processes used over decades to find, analyze and validate family data in this genealogical research is key to deciding if and how this information could be helpful to your family and if you can add to the documentation.
As my paternal cousin Col. Freddie Williams Evans said, the best social history looks in two directions at once -- both at large historical events and at ordinary experiences of people living through them. Although I also noted some of the historical changes affecting our ancestors' lives, my work is not a warm historical novel. I have corresponded with and used as sources some wonderfully researched manuscripts and books by descendants in our lines such as Catherine Aselford on the Pearsons; cousins Thomas Boyer Ruff and Samuel Oliver Ruff on the Ruffs; James Rolff and Robert Strong on the Strongs and others, but given that I wanted to cover as many lines as possible, there was insufficient time to weave numerous details into my dry facts. Even my speculations are safe and dry, and I did not attempt to provide a robust historical backdrop that included contemporary historical time markers which would put of our ancestor into perspective. A historical timeline might have been helpful to understand why seven out of ten children in the family of our maternal 7th great-grandfather Hannss Johann Henrich Muehlschlaegel in Lachen-Speyerdorf, Germany died and why our maternal 8th great-grandfather Hans Peter Emmert in Neckarelz, Germany only had one child survive to adulthood while other relatives' families in the same villages had higher survival rates.
In some cases I spent time inputting and maintaining data on indirect lines where the database clearly shows there was no known blood relationship and lines where there was no intermarriage at all, like the Littleton and Whittington families. In the early settlement years in some counties there were so few same-class prospective marriage partners that sometimes lines that intermarried with ours once did so multiple times. In the second case, the Littletons and Whittingtons were tracked for some reason by our great-grandmother and because their names kept cropping up in our direct-line ancestors' land sales, middle names, etc, when the information was available, such as when our great-grandmother paid to have research done, I incorporated the data. Similarly, although I kept the Campbell family data because they kept intermarrying in our Shenandoah Valley lines, I generally put no additional work into people who were our 5th cousins many-times-removed. In like manner, I did not focus research for this project on the most recent generations regardless on how close or distant until the era of atDNA testing provided new avenues to research ancestors.
Two aspects of genealogical research are that what is thought to be truth can change, and proof also means proving when information is incorrect, which I want to explore here in depth. I know from our family's experience that stories handed down in our maternal family were not always true. The information which we inherit is sometimes mixed up, speculative or misunderstood. Mistakes often become repetitive errors, such as when data from a single printed source is republished and later captured and republished repeatedly on the internet. Old family history compilations sometimes now have dis-proofs available online.
So the questions remain why our family was led to believe we had specific aristocratic connections which we did not and why do we continue to see supposed illustrious connections for our family discussed online? Part of the answer to the second question is some people posted online what I shared with them in hardcopy long ago which was based on our incorrect family traditions and this has proliferrated inaccuracies. The larger issue, and likely the issue that in some cases caused our family to believe we had illustrious lineage, is more complex. Starting in the early 1900s when genealogical research became fashionable and of interest, the well-documented lines of European royalty and church nobility -- which had been recorded to maintain land and power -- were reproduced for the mass market. From that start point it was convenient to take a proven distinguished line and link it to an American family. People were able to link to an already proven line and produce and/or sell a book, join a society or feel entitled to coat of arms. This lineage alignment did a large disservice to American families seeking knowledge about their ancestry and thus setting back valid research by probably a century for the affected lines. Under current proof standards for genealogical research which are founded on primary documentation of births, marriages and deaths such lineages do not stand up to scrutiny.
Despite our predecessors' quest to find illustrious ancestors, most of the purported links have evaporated during source-based research. In my data there are still places where I state in a biographical note that an individual is said to have descended from a key family or from a particular line of influential individuals, so that future researchers have the benefit of my state of knowledge. However I do not state it is a factual descent and I do not offer antecedents for the individual because I have no proof.
I tried to find the truth about each of our ancestors -- whether remarkable, mundane or tainted. I have not tried to prove them to be great ancestors; I assumed on average our ancestors were ordinary and that people who had plenty did not need to immigrate to America. Although I proved several of our maternal ancestors and many in the Schmidt lineage were of the noble class these were just a few out of thousands who were not. That is not to say I did not find our non-illustrious lineage fascinating and that some of our more wealthy progenitors were arrogant bigots. Some of our direct-line wealthy ancestors since discovered proved to be ones best not touted. An exception to this on my maternal line was Sir Edward Osborne, Major of London in 1583, who may be our ultimate illustrious ancestor because his wealth and stature came to him at a young age via marriage and his life does not appear, from the historic annals, to be one driven by arrogance, power and wealth.
Although our maternal great-grandparents' family traditions revolved around descent from illustrious European lines of the Augustes, Christians, Lanphiers, Remys, Wallaces and reported Warles, the result of my research was we have very few connections to nobility. There can be no illustrious connection if multiple generations are tenuous or missing or if our ancestor had the same name as a different person of nobility. Most of these family stories unraveled easily because dates and places did not align to our ancestors. Our maternal Auguste, Lanphier and Remy lines did not connect to nobility; our maternal 5th great-grandfather John Pearson did not serve in the Revolutionary War; our maternal immigrant 8th great-grandfather Thomas Christian may not have come from the Isle of Man and his ancestors are unknown; our Wallace descent as it was thought to be was incorrect; and there were no blood links to royalty through our Woods family. Each of these traditions can be unravelled by reading our ancestors' biographies and some are recounted below.
One of the easiest myths to uncover was our immigrant ancestor Jacob Remy was not the same person as Jacques Remy born a generation later who married Francoise and died in France, but this story lives on and on without rebuttal, because of a single 1942 unsourced account.
Many things thought to be true during the 1900s concerning our ancestor Peter Wallace were proved wrong because there were two Peter Wallaces and our ancestor's data was intertwined with the data of the other man, to whom we are not related. George Selden Wallace, Neander and Edgar Woods, Worth Ray in "Tennessee Cousins," and other authors seized on the less common name of Peter and linked our Peter Wallace of Augusta Co, VA with the line of an unrelated Peter Wallace who emigrated from eastern Scotland to York Co, VA in 1650 and who did have a son Peter. Nevertheless our own Wallace line is believed to descend from our maternal 8th great-grandfather Sir William Wallace, a knight.
Controversy existed concerning the lineage of our 7th great-grandaunt Mary Campbell. The Clan Campbell Society genealogist confirmed our Mary Campbell, who married Michael Woods, was not the third daughter of Sir James Campbell of Auchinbreck, who proved to be about six years old when our Mary was born. Thus this removed Sir Campbell and numerous distinctive family lines including some of the Campbells, Stewarts, FitzAlans and kings such as King Robert Stewart III from and linkage to our family.
Similar controversy concerned the lineage of Elizabeth Woods, our maternal 8th grandmother and the wife of Sir Andrew Woods II. Many publications credit Elizabeth Woods' parents as being Elizabeth Estell Worsop and John Andrew Woods. However, Irish death records proved Elizabeth Estell Worsop married a John Wood (not Woods) and died childless per her will. Removal of Elizabeth Estell Worsop from our lineage eliminated linkage to numerous illustrious families -- such as the Parsons, Loftus, Bagnall, Vaughan, Morgan, Perrot families and several kings, including King Henry VIII. I had already fallen for the link-to-nobility scam and entered innumerable generations of Campbells and Worsops into my database when I discovered the disparities. The multiple published works I had used had clearly traced the European lines using various published sources and the research methodology sounded good, but before the 1850s if possible one should not rely either on a single source in creating the ascendancy of any line or on research which does not provide multiple, non-overlapping sources of proof, such as wills, for each person in the lineage. Thus I removed those lines from my database in 2016 because two reported Campbell and Woods ancestors were incorrect; two people whose links to hundreds of other people were not correctly researched and established by works published long ago which I used long ago. In a mass market it was convenient to take a proven distinguished line and link it to an American family; it is still done every day on family trees online such as ancestry.com family trees and in published works.
In England armorial bearings were granted by the king and were registered with the College of Arms in London, which grew out of the Herald's College established in 1488 by the king to trace ancestry, approve coats of arms and confirm titles of honor. Many unrelated families share the same surname, but sharing a surname does not give a family the right to arms. Coats of arms must be granted, and to claim the right to arms, one must prove descent through the male line of someone to whom arms were granted. The right to display arms in America is limited to families proving direct lineal descent from an European arms-bearing ancestor for which we cannot qualify. Arms associated with lineages were inherited by a child from parents, either intact or somewhat modified, and belonged to one individual alone, not to a family. Our many interesting proven lines more than make up for the lack of dukes, queens and kings; an ancestor who had the nerve to show up George Washington was certainly a character.
My family history quest began with oral family traditions and inherited papers; progressed to interviews, mailed correspondence, data exchange, library research and microfilm; moved to the internet to access primary records and others' research; and was capped with access to DNA comparisons and group studies. When I began my genealogy quest at age twelve, names and locations seemed very important to me but I did not see the value of compiling full dates and sources. I soon realized the error of a minimalist approach and circled back through all my previous work to ensure my data was as thorough as possible. Until the internet became available my endeavors mainly included censuses as my primary sources and a lot of my work relied on less-reliable secondary resources. After completion of two years of research in microfilmed primary records, the internet began to make primary records easily available. One impact on my research was the explosion of available primary records and genealogical message boards sometimes proved previously published genealogies -- many still available today online and in libraries and requoted extensively on the internet -- were incorrect.
I moved more and more to using primary sources, and my 2014 work used primary records, secondary documents, circumstantial proof, generally in that order of priority, supplemented by unsourced online trees to find clues. I tried to rely on primary-source documentation when available or transcriptions thereof and to use compelling evidence in all other instances. Transcriptions can be stunningly incorrect. When researching the Feinthel family of Frankweiler, Germany I was incredibly misled by transcriptions of the Frinthal family, believing they were not our line. Luckily historian and descendant Dr. Kenneth Paulsen researched the original records in Germany and knew there were no Frinthals but only Feindels in that town.
Primary documents recorded contemporary events such as birth, christening, immigration, land purchases, taxes, military service and pensions, marriage, census, social security, death or probate whereas secondary sources include newspapers and obituaries. Although church records have long been maintained in many countries, until the last three centuries government records were a rarity for many people who were illiterate and innumerate; only the nobility needed to record lineages to maintain land and power. When possible, I have checked the original of any documents to look for transcription errors, which do often occur, and to use data which was not transcribed such as professions and addresses. I saved transcription softcopies with links to original documents beginning in 2012 to provide source material library. My research sometimes provides a wealth of details or the record trail may simply be paper thin and very little data is available. The depth and accuracy of my research depends on the source materials available, not to mention a little luck.
Primary sources do not provide incontrovertible evidence so conclusive there can be no other conclusions or so strong that it overpowers contrary evidence, thus requiring critical assessments of the sources. For example, people providing names, dates, locations and relationships to census takers or for death certificates may not have been factual or the data may not have been recorded correctly. So genealogical conclusions have to be made considering the preponderance of evidence.
The most important concept in judging a family history is what documentation is given for the conclusions made and if none is provided, how well are the conclusions explained. Genealogy without primary or secondary documentation can be a fairy tale. That said, genealogy without documentation can provide leads for future validation through research. At times unsourced family trees, message board postings, or family histories and traditions provide the only clues for possible future research.
My conclusions drawn about individuals are based on analysis and the supporting sources. Many of the references are in my hard or softcopy files. My hardcopy documents are each labeled as to family names contained, whether the person is in my direct or indirect lineage, and whether the data is in my softcopy database. The documents are filed by family, with some intermarried families grouped together. Softcopy documents are similarly filed. Furthermore, if the softcopy sources are pulled from the internet or the servers are terminated, much of the record-based source data has been saved for future possible use.
To quote my paternal cousin family researcher James Rolff, the big question in writing a family history is how much proof is necessary before making a statement of relationship. I have not freely made conclusions which had no basis. Research without integrity is a dangerous thing. I have stated when I am not completely certain of information or conclusions. Many judgments are based wholly on the research of others, but I have not used others' research if it appeared flawed, contradictory or undocumented. I have sometimes used compiled sources as clues as well as dispensers of truth. I have also, when able, looked at the original records on which research was based; this action succeeded in discovering some inaccuracies, such as Mary being the mother rather than wife of our 5th great-grandfather John Martin II. With the exception of some limited indirect-line Winslett data collected in the 1990s and not in my database, I do not have any other data available not included online.
When I began genealogical research, I documented each source I found, such as a census, separately because in the pre-internet era it was difficult to find any sources. Research done by other known researches was documented under that person's name. Once microfilm and the internet made original primary sources easily available I began lumping sources together as a time convenience. Some of the information I used was so extremely well-sourced, if I had listed every source separately my recording process would have significantly bogged down my research. By the mid 2010s because so many records were available I lumped together transcriptions of primary sources consisting of birth, christening, immigration, military, land, tax, marriage, census, social security, death, and/or probate records for key ancestors, their spouses, children and parents and saved them as a softcopy family records document under the ancestor's name with links to the original records. These sources easily available to me online are also available to others through the same patient search process. As a result of using both different genealogy softwares and different methodologies, my sources are also appended to the data in up to three totally different manners with no difference in importance among the methods.
My goal was to attach a minimum of one source to each person in my database. Ancestors with attached biographies may have additional sources within the text and/or at the conclusion of the biography. For example our colorful maternal 6th great-grandfather Simon Pearson I has 9 attached sources and 198 sources embedded in his biography. Simon Pearson was an exceptional case due to the difficulty in untangling his innumerable extant records.
In a perfect world every ancestor would have primary and/or secondary source-based proofs. Genealogy is far from a perfect world, thus what does unsourced mean? Unsourced means I found data online but either could not find primary records to verify the information or did not allocate time to check for those records because the person was not in my direct line. In every such case I have noted data concerning that person is based on unsourced information. In some cases definitive details of exact birth and death dates can only have come from secondary sources -- family bibles and records -- which I usually cannot access and thus have no way to verify. That the data is comprehensive does not automatically mean the data is correct, and it may even be the wrong person but have the same name. For example, I may have detailed birth, marriage and death data for a woman as well as details about her husband and children. All of her data may be correct, but if she was not actually one of the daughters of our ancestor, as some researchers might believe her to be, the bottom line is her data is incorrect for our family. So then why did I include unsourced data in our family tree? Once found, the data may not be easily found again and it is easier to prove or disprove data once you have captured it for future verification.
To routinely ignore certain sources because they could never be beneficial eliminates the possibility useful data can be found by using said sources in the future. Primary sources sometimes contain errors and ignored sources may contain accurate data not available elsewhere. Thus, family trees, traditions and histories without source information must also be investigated as a possible source for further research hints. Family documents reprinted by Yates Publishing, Edmund West and Heritage Publishing (Millennium); membership applications even if approved and find a grave biographies are one family's account or repetition of a possible lineage and provide no proof. Never, ever believe anyone's unsourced family lineage without further validation. In some cases I ignored others' research because of too many inconsistencies.
I believe in using data from unsourced documentation, clearly annotating it as being unsourced, and then working to prove if the data is correct trying to find primary sources for verification. Many such proofs have not yet been accomplished for my data, but given the distance of the ancestor from me, often that step may be unnecessary. For example in 2018 there were almost 10,000 ancestors in my database, 835 of whom had unsourced data, but of the 10,000 only 5 percent were my direct-line ancestors; a spot check of the direct-line ancestors showed 4 percent of the direct-line ancestors -- 2 out of 20 -- were not yet firmly proven and still relied on unsourced data. Judicious researchers are bothered by and may ignore approaches to genealogy which do not rely solely on original documents; for our direct-line ancestors I will continue to try to find primary sources.
Doubtless sometimes I likely erred in including people who are unsourced, but I clearly marked those individuals as coming from unproven data. I discovered the value of including them in my database is often I later find those individuals with proofs and I would never have recognized them as being our ancestors if they were not already in the database. I then changed their source code from unproven to the new source. On the other hand, I may also have missed unproven individuals living before the US censuses because I was being too cautious in adding individuals to the database. Generally carefully chosen online postings and trees -- ones without obvious errors and inconsistencies -- used by this researcher proved to be accurate over time as more records were found. Nevertheless, using undocumented trees and histories is risky as one tries to perceive if they are fact, fiction or fantasy by noting obvious dating errors, their sourcing to other unsourced trees, and/or sourcing to family history books now proven incorrect.
In attaching records to people in my database, I tried to ensure I did not create a coat with three sleeves by falsely citing records from outside an ancestor's likely lifetime. I tried to avoid illogicalities often found on the internet at all costs; an example of an illogicality is a parent born after a child, a child married before they were born or after they died. Similarly, because I would want to make a coat from the best possible cloth, I tried to find all the possible records and qualified my conclusions with words such as "a person named," reportedly, presumed, evidently, estimated and theoretically when not certain. Actually nothing is certain when recreating history.
Details posted on the internet may be inaccurate, but not any more so than information in a book. And either form may provide excellent clues to uncover lineage information or be incorrect. The key is finding original records such as birth, christening, marriage, death certificates and census and military documents to validate details. No matter how many sources you have for some data, it may merely be repetition of incorrect information. Many genealogies are suspect with numerous errors. I had nine published sources about our supposed maternal 7th great-grandfather Michael Woods -- who turned out to not be in our direct line at all. The nine sources had repeatedly republished the same incorrect data. Books without sources published over 50 years after events occurred are particularly subject to such inaccuracies.
The ancestral lines of our 7th great-grandfather Robert Martin, 8th great-grandfather Thomas Christian, and 9th great-grandfather James Dashiell have questionable linkages, but are pieced together in my work based on the best information available at this time. For example, sometimes our genealogical lines are not straight lines or even curves; they are dashed lines with a generational gap. An example is the illustrious Dashiell line where the family record clearly skipped a few generations -- more than once. Until our 11th great-grandfather Jacques de Chiel, our Dashiell line is well researched and proven with multiple non-overlapping sources. The earlier ancestors in our Dashiell line are based on the research of Benjamin Dashiell published in his 3 volume Dashiell Family Records circa 1928. Starting with Jacques' father Guillaume de Chiell II, the ascendancy is missing a few people. Another generation must have been between our James de Shiell born in 1575 and his supposed father Guillaume de Chiel born in 1520 because too much time passed before our James, the inheriting first son, was born. All the available information is in my database but needs verification if other records are ever accessible. Verifying the lineage recorded by Benjamin Dashiell and adding the missing links could potentially connect us to the first reported Dashiell ancestors -- our supposed 29th great-grandparents Eldinus and Bernardi married in the early 1000s. If the ascendancy is proven, internet research would embellish the stories of the knights, dukes, queens and kings in between us and Eldinus. In summary, I concluded familial relationships based on the evidence at hand and challenge subsequent generations to extract the remainder of the information when more data becomes available.
This work was certainly a labor of love: can you imagine the name Muehlschlaegel spelled ten ways within a single generation? And some ancestors made searching for them difficult in other ways: only using their initials in all legal documents, varying their first names, using only nick names, changing what state they were born in from census to census, etc. For the sake of sanity as well as ease of using my database, I standardized spellings within families and generations when it made sense to do so. In such cases I have explained I consistently used a particular spelling although the surname often appeared in other named forms.
As a researcher, one is always thankful when an ancestor has an unusual name, like our paternal 3rd great-grandfather Ezekiel Beam, and you find a consistent pattern of records with that full name that cover the decades of his life. Then you are incredulous when you uncover five men with that remarkably unusual name living in the same two areas of the same two states where your ancestor lived. Nothing is easy.
A key point in genealogical research is there could be and often were multiple individuals with the same name living in the same area at the same time. Not everyone with the same given and surname living in the area with our ancestors is related to us, regardless of where in the world you are tracing lines. Sometimes there are numerous records with our ancestor's name but clearly representing different people living in the same area. For example, church records may list births to your ancestor but the children are born too close together to be in the same family and checking the professions or addresses you uncover multiple same-named men in the parish. In research in small villages such as Eppingen, Germany with limited surnames, often many contemporaries shared the same name including both brothers, cousins and potential unrelated individuals. This particularly impacted research on our maternal 7th great-grandfather Johann Philipp Emmert and his wife Maria Catharina Kamm as well as their ancestors and descendants and continues to impact them today as novices incorrectly change the tree which our cousin Janet Beall Broadbent built on FamilySearch and recently published articles in genealogical journals incorrectly identify Maria Catharina's ancestry. Occasionally, when there was only a single record with our ancestor's name and logical dates given our ancestor's likely life span, such as with our maternal 9th great-grandfather John Kendall in County Norfolk, England in 1560 when he would have been of age to marry, I have assumed with appropriate annotation, that the woman on the marriage record may be his wife; I would not have made that deductive leap if there had been other John Kendall marriage records in that county in that era. When it was not absolutely clear to me, again by the process of inclusion or exclusion, that I had identified the correct person, our line stopped at that point. As international records are added online more progress can perhaps be made in the future.
To emphasize the possibility of mistakenly believing one's ancestor was the first man found with the correct name, many ancestors were named William by their parents who were named Thomas and Ann, christened in England, immigrated to America, patented land based on importing people to Virginia, married an Elizabeth (last name unknown,) and had children William, Thomas, Elizabeth, Ann, Mary, John and James. So many families have this profile with these commonly used names that researchers must show sources or caveat their conclusions, as I have tried to do. In our family the Hunts are one such confusing line because the typical reuse of family given names was compounded by the younger of two men with the same name dying before the older; specifically, John Hunt, our 8th great grandfather, was proceeded in death by the younger John Hunt, his nephew. Further there were William Hunt lines in both Charles City Co and neighboring Surry Co, with both lines owning land in Surry Co and with both lines with children named William, John, George and Mary, and with comingled Find-A-Grave data. Because of the multiplicity of crossovers, extreme care must be taken in accepting any data not aligned perfectly with primary records.
To best organize my data and to distinguish among same-named people in my database I established dating protocols that every person must have at least an estimated birth date and if married must have an estimated marriage date. If a birth date was not available, as a rule of thumb in the 1800s and earlier women married about age 20 and men age 25, so birth of their first child established the parents were about age 21 and 26 at that time. Generally parents had children every two years and no children were born after the mother was about age 40 - 42. These estimated dates created based on the above parameters are annotated with the word say in my database until specific dates are found. On the other hand, the word circa in my database is more exact and means within a year, as with a birth year implied by a census record.
Genealogy stitches together a history based on family documents and records. With the absence of supporting data sometimes I had to be content with nothing more than plausible circumstantial evidence, such as when only a single family with a particular surname lived in an area; when only one son with the correct surname was born at the approximate time; when parents were known to have a daughter and a marriage record was found for a woman of the right age, surname and location. In such instances I specifically stated the relationship was based on theory or presumption.
And work of this nature involved researching thousands of documents with varying states of legibility and sourcing, and hand copying many such documents during the early years of my work. To expect a few errors or inaccuracies in my work would be optimistic. I hope however to have reduced these issues to a minimum by repeatedly going through my data for various lines and by collaborating with other careful researchers.
Nevertheless, not everything I produced can possibly be correct because on occasion, even with logical analysis, I had to make tenuous connections. For example with our maternal 7th great-grandfather Charles Christian, the younger surviving son by that same name, by the process of elimination I believe I chose the correct son for our descent. Sometimes I was so close to making connections: the names were all represented but there was absolutely no proof someone who tried to reinvent themselves, for what ever reason, was really from another family. Is every line proved perfectly? Certainly not. The errors or omissions which may have occurred, have been caused by inadvertence or misinformation, to which all researchers are liable. I was also forced, for the want of time or the necessary information, to leave out many facts. For example, I did not list all the grandchildren of our 6th great-grandfathers or all our 7th cousins-five-times-removed because, unless those lines intersected with our direct-line ancestors a second time, they were of less interest -- the no-shared blood-in-our-veins phenomena.
Knowing how a researcher defined specific terms makes it easier to understand their work. For example the term "our ancestor" was used to include anyone in my ancestral lines. "This researcher" as used in the text refers to myself -- Virginia Custis Winslett, the compiler. Our lineage refers to everyone related to Virginia, in either my direct line or through marriage. Direct-line means only our grandparents in any generation but not their children, cousins and secondary wives. Our 4th great-grandfather means our great, great, great, great-grandfather -- six generations in the direct line before me and to anyone in my generation. Roman numerals I, II, III, etc have been arbitrarily assigned to differentiate among same-named people descended from each other without indication these numbers were used by the people; it was more likely the terms senior and junior were employed in such cases. Removed means a difference in generations, such as once removed means a difference of one generation. As used in the context of this database, paternal and maternal lines refer to the ancestors of my parents Capt. John Dixon Winslett and Virginia Custis Freseman respectively. The Col. Gerald Lamar Schmidt line is specifically noted as such. Of note, in-laws in colonial times sometimes referred to step-children, son or daughter sometimes meant an in-law, and cousin sometimes meant niece or nephew; I have only used the modern definitions when I was aware of the distinction. Unverified means no primary or secondary sources, terms defined above, have yet been located and can mean no attempt has been made to locate said sources because the ancestor is in our indirect-line and thus not a grandparent. Proven means primary-source documentation has been located.
There are always more ancestors to be found. What is certain is that the day each person died was the important day on which a they became an ancestor. Go back just 10 generations to our 8th great-grandparents -- 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, etc -- and there are 1,024 direct-line ancestors, not including our ancestors' siblings, although not all our lines can be traced back 10 generations. Lots of our lines were identified back to the 10th great-grandparents, and if all were, that would theoretically be just over 4,096 ancestors. However, some repeated intermarriages of Shenandoah Mountains lines pared down the number of both potential ancestors and of lines. When a person through one line was our first cousin nine-times-removed and then with their marriage became our our 6th great-grandfather, it was just interesting and reduced our potential ancestral numbers. Our Winslett - Schmidt -- Murphy database had under 10,000 people related to us in 2017 with 531 Winslett -- Fresemann, 299 Schmidt -- Counts, and 22 Murphy -- McCabe direct-line ancestors.
All our maternal lines are identified through the fourth generation back, after which our maternal grandfather's lines of Fresemann, Schuette and Guenther stop and our John line stops after the fifth generation. Our Guenther line will likely be proven further once additional records are digitized. The commonality of the name Fresemann severely limits the possibility that line will be traced without considerable atDNA matching results. My paternal Winslett tree is also completed for 4 generations back, except our Wheat line stops at the 3rd generation. Our Smith, Matthews and Byrd lines stop after the 4th generations; these lines have the possibility of continuation if the records can be found and/or with the addition of atDNA evidence. The Schmidt line was completed for four generations with the exception of the Hoag family which terminated after the 3rd generation back. In sum, that means all of my great-great-grandparents have been verified and Gerald Schmidt is missing two great-grandparents.
No famous Americans are in our direct line. The prominent Lee, Custis, Madison, Tyler and Washington families intermarried into our lines are not blood relatives. For example, President John Tyler married our Christian cousin; Lees married into our indirect Kendall lines; and President James Madison's niece was our Wood ancestor's first wife. However a number of our progenitors in our European direct lines were quite famous -- particularly Sir William Hewett, Robert Offley II and Sir Edward Osborne.
This family history has been researched and written down not for the moment but for all time. As the well-known genealogist Donald Jacobus stated, family genealogies are generally dull and uninteresting; I have attempted to capture the stories of these ancestors' lives and bring them to life when possible. As the philosopher Ecclesiasticus wrote (Ecclesiasticus 44:13-14), "Some of them have left behind a name, so that others declare their praise. But of others there is no memory; they have perished as though they had never existed; they have become as though they had never been born, they and their children after them. But these also were godly men, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten. Their offspring will continue forever, and their glory will never be blotted out. Their bodies are buried in peace, but their names live on generation after generation." These lives deserve to be remembered. The future of our past is bright and I hope that this work will be the basis for much research still to be done! Family history is recalled in fragments and pieced together as accurately as possible. Reassembling this family was like putting together a puzzle with small pieces; however in this case there are an infinite number of pieces in the box and more can be accomplished.
Genealogies by definition are never completed. The moment genealogies are posted online or printed, additional important information becomes available which may add data and disprove theories. Thus this compiled family genealogy will always be a work in progress. Planned next steps will be to expand family lines based on the results of atDNA studies and digitization of additional records and to add pictures and check the map links to this family history.
One known database issue is my use anywhere of brackets in the text has caused problems, so I would appreciate knowing about any garbled text in the biographies.