Archive for October, 2011
The error of our ways
Posted on: October 5th, 2011 by pj

I’ve only just started using Family Tree Maker.  I think I may have used it for a while years ago but quickly moved on to other software.  Recently I bought the app for my iMac and overall the program is not bad.  However, there is one feature that I love and which horrifies me in just about equal measure and that’s the ability to take information from other people’s public trees.  This is very seductive and when I click the little shaking leaf on some of my ancestors I have found they also live in many other trees.  Further investigations have revealed parents, siblings and whole new lines.  Wonderful!  One further click and I can merge that information with my own tree.  However, this is only a positive addition when the source information is included and can be verified.  Otherwise this is all just guesswork.  If you can’t verify the information you may as well leaf through a phone book, pick out a person at random and add them to your genealogy database.

I was concerned about inaccurate information being passed on via the Internet around 8 years ago when I discovered that someone had erroneously merged two Rainbow families in Tasmania.   This was included in a family tree that was posted on a geocities website and then spread around the web very quickly.  I was not able to contact the author of the original tree directly but I posted the mistake to several genealogy forums and, over time, the mistake appeared less and less in other’s researchers trees.

I’m concerned that with the advent of software like FTM our mistakes will be promulgated more frequently and will be harder to rectify, such as this one that I discovered recently.

I casually began investigating my father’s maternal line and with the help of FTM was able to tap into other’s research to go back a little further.  There were many trees, over a dozen, who had information about this particular ancestor, lets call her Emma.  I was surprised and not a little excited to see that she had been born in a small village in France after generations of the family, both before and after Emma, all living in the same Worcestershire town in the UK.  Eight family trees included the French information but with no source cited.  I messaged all eight authors asking if they could give me any clue of where this exciting information had come from.  I had a reply from one saying she couldn’t help because she had just ‘copied it from another tree.”  My guess is that there was an original mistake and its just spread.

I love that technology has opened up so many doors to family historians and allowed us to move forward with our research in giant strides instead of what was often mind-numbing tediousness of pre-internet days.

On balance I think we’ve gained much more from sharing information than we’ve lost  but I still have this nagging worry that the ease of new technology may be encouraging a new generation to believe that genealogy is all about copying information from the internet and in the near future many family trees will be a mess of guesswork and replicated errors.   What do you think?

October 1841
Posted on: October 1st, 2011 by pj

170 years ago this month Jabez Rainbow lost it.

He had taken a room at The Boot public house in St. Albans, Herts, England for a night with his girlfriend, Jane Pearce.   Jabez was a soldier and stationed in the town working as part of a recruitment team.  He was billeted at another pub a couple of streets away but occasionally took a room at The Boot to be with Jane.  On the morning of 3rd October 1841 while Jane was sleeping he took his shaving razor and calmly sliced her throat.  Needless to say this woke Jane who, at first, appeared not to feel pain but rather a choking sensation and as she put her hands to her throat felt them “go right in” to her neck.  A violent  struggle ensued with Jabez straddling Jane who silently (her vocal chords had been severed) kicked and hit out at Jabez gaining more wounds to her hands, arms and legs.  It was over as quickly as it started with Jabez suddenly releasing her, running to the door of their room and calling down to the landlord, “Murder” and “Come take me.”

There are several surprising elements to this story.  One is that Jane survived her injuries, thanks to the prompt attention of a surgeon who lived nearby and another is that she appeared to express no anger towards Jabez at his trial.   The case itself caused a sensation in the town with crowds gathering,  all eager to see the victim as she arrived in a carriage, escorted by the police and her doctor.

Jabez escaped the capital indictment and was ordered to be transported to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) for 15 years for the offence of wounding.  Although the case was widely reported in the press there are many questions that arise from reading the articles for example, why did his friends and Jane all say they had never seen him drunk and yet on his convict record he states that he had been drinking for several days?

I don’t have any photos of Jabez but the image below is an impression of what he may have looked like based on photos of other family members and a comprehensive written physical description on his convict record, eg nose – broad, mouth – large, etc.

 


Jabez is my 3rd great grand-uncle. His background, trial and life in Tasmania form part of my book ‘Chasing Rainbows’.