Guest Blogger, Janice Cooper relates her experience of an online tree
Recently, I was curious to discover an online family tree which included Alma Readford as the daughter of Henry Readford and Elizabeth Jane Skuthorpe, a couple from New South Wales. The family tree indicated that she had died in 1940 and it seems possible that the brief information included there came from the death entry on the online index of the New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages
The acceptance of information on this basis alone rings alarm bells for family historians.
The first consideration to be made about this index entry is to whether ‘Readford’ is Alma’s birth or married name. To establish which is the case, the additional information provided on the Death Transcription from the NSW Registry for Alma Readford is informative. It reveals that her death was registered by her son, Charles. It shows that Alma Readford died at the age of 76 and that she was the daughter of Henry ‘Hall’ and Elizabeth Readford. These details are confirmed by the index entry for her birth.
Alma’s mother, Elizabeth Hall, nee Readford was Henry Readford’s sister, about 2 years his senior.1 Details on the Death Transcription also show that Alma married Charles Napoleon Readford when she was 30 years old and that they had two sons and four daughters between 1895 and 1905. Charles Napoleon Readford, born in 1858 as the fourth son of William Readford and Sophia Aldridge, was one of Henry Readford’s many nephews.
Therefore, rather than being a daughter of Henry Readford, Alma Readford nee Hall, was his niece both through her mother and her marriage to Charles Napoleon Readford.
Charles N Readford’s first marriage in 1879 to Annie Edith M Wood produced five daughters before Annie died in 1891. With her marriage to Charles, Alma became stepmother to girls aged from fourteen to three years old.2
A second alarm bell to ring for me is that Alma R Readford’s birth in 1864 occurred about seven years before Elizabeth Skuthorpe and Henry Readford were married on 13 April 1871, a detail I had already researched because I was interested in the life of Elizabeth Jane Skuthorpe. Her only daughter with Henry, Jemima Mary Elizabeth was born in 1872.
Elizabeth’s first husband, Jonathan Snell died on 22 August 1863 after three years of marriage. Their children, Eva and Albert were aged about four and two years in 1864.
Alma Readford’s descendants
It is for the many descendants of Alma’s children and step children, I feel disappointment that their true family history has not been recognised on online family trees such as the one I have referred to. Of the 28 public trees found in an exact search for Henry Readford, eight inaccurately attribute Alma’s birth. Possibly a number of these are the result of thoughtlessly copied information from another online tree.
This means that Alma’s descendants need to check information available on online trees and to use recognised family history techniques in their research. With this foundation, they will be able to build an online tree that is accurate and clearly shows the sources of their information.
Henry Readford’s descendants
The history of Henry and Elizabeth Readford’s only daughter, Jemima, has not been discovered. If she has descendants, their family history research will have many challenges beyond that of being given a much older sister. The descendants of his step-children, who trace their ancestry, will need to take careful steps in their research.
Why make such an obvious error public, or make it at all? Is it the failure of common sense about family relationships? Is it the lack of knowledge of basic family research skills? Are there other possible reasons?
I am saddened by the fact that the ancestry of all descendants has been misrepresented in this way and wish them a clear mind when undertaking their family history. Congratulations to those descendants who have already presented accurate information online.
1 Patrick McCarthy, The man who was Starlight, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1987, pp. x-xi; New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages, Deaths, Elizabeth Hall, 6500/1872, John Readford, 3394/1901.
2 The registration of all the Readford family marriages, births and deaths are freely available at New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages
However Alma is registered as Clara on the index entry of her marriage.
Janice Cooper 12 January 2018