Are We Cousins? Adventures with Evidentia’s New Cousin Tracker

By | March 20, 2017

Russ Worthington, known by many in the genealogy community as “Cousin Russ”, is a fan of the new Evidentia Cousin Tracker.

He has already written half a dozen blog posts about the Evidentia Cousin Tracker, using it to track “We’re Related” notifications from the Ancestry phone app, and DNA match notifications. You can read his posts at The Worthington Weblog

So when Cousin Russ showed up on MY “We’re Related” app screen, the race was on to see who could prove (or disprove) their side of the “Possibility Tree” first.

Is Russ Worthington My Cousin?

That was the research question on the table. The first step was to build out the two direct lines, starting with the Most Recent Common Ancestor identified by Ancestry. The app projected that we were 9th cousins, so its one of the longer trees I had worked on to date (hey, the Cousin Tracker is only a week old!)

were related appadding a cousin log

There were a lot of names I didn’t have – 3 generations on my side, and of course all the descendants on Russ’s. I could add them on the Add Cousin Screen, but since there are benefits to assigning gender to a subject, so I had to bounce on over to the List Manager-> Subject List screen to fix the Report Name and assign gender to each new person.

There Are Advantages to Knowing the Developer…

edit subject from cousin log screenI took a pause here and decided to add a new feature to the cousin tracker – being able to edit subjects from the cousin graph. Then after rolling out the enhancement for everyone else, I returned to my research.

Evidentia had flagged the parent-child links that I already had proofs for with a green check mark. It wasn’t many. The next step was to input evidence for the missing links.

I have a confession to make – I did NOT do a “reasonably exhaustive search”, as required by the Genealogical Proof Standard. Russ already had a lead on me, and my goal for this fun afternoon project was to confirm whether I did or did not have “evidence to support” the claim that 1) I was related to the MRCA, Samuel Allen, and 2) Russ was related to Samuel Allen as well.  For that admittedly low standard, I settled for one or two reasonably reliable sources for each “proof”.
possibility tree

My Reasonably Reliable Sources

  • For many of the links I knew I had sources already linked to my family tree on Ancestry – I just hadn’t analyzed them in Evidentia yet.
  • For my grandfather’s link to his mother, I used the Massachusetts Vital Records, 1840–1910 collection on ancestry as well as the 1920 US Census.
  • For Hittie’s link to Hattie I used the Massachusetts, Births, 1841-1915 collection and the Massachusetts, Marriage Records, 1840-1915 collection.
  • For Hattie’s link to Annis I used  the 1880 US Census and Hattie’s marriage record in the Massachusetts, Marriage Records, 1840-1915 collection.

I realized at this point that “doing it right” even without the reasonably exhaustive search, was going to take some time.  Russ is a great guy, and I really wanted to prove he was my cousin, so I confess that I took the rest of my research offline.  I still used the Cousin Tracker as a visual to let me know what I needed.

Are Authored Works Reasonably Reliable?

For the parent-child relationships Annis -> Susanna -> Mehitable all I had was a book I had found, History of the Town of Abington, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, from Its First Settlement, by Benjamin Hobart.  The book includes family trees for several prominent Abington families, which apparently includes my ancestors.

abington bookOf course like many early genealogies, no sources were cited, and it is unclear what the author based his conclusions on.  If this were a diligent effort, the book would be a starting place, not an end in itself.  However since my threshold was “evidence exists”, and my afternoon was turning into evening, I settled.

However, now I was stuck – I had never seen a reference to Silence Allen before. What had Ancestry based its projections on?  I searched several online family trees, but nothing was obvious in my somewhat rushed search.  Then I went to my old friend google, where I discovered History of the Early Settlement of Bridgewater in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, Including an Extensive Family Register by Nahum Mitchell.  Similar to the first book, it included family trees for prominent Bridgewater families. In it was evidence for the links Samuel -> Elisha -> Silence -> Mehitable, including reference to Silence’s marriage to Mehitable’s father.

Challenge met!  I had determined that at the very least there was some evidence to support my link to the MRCA, Samuel Allen.

Russ Needed a Little Help

Maybe he was less enthusiastic to prove I was his cousin? OK, it was only because of my self imposed timeline.

While Russ worked from the bottom up on his direct line, I decided to work from Samuel Allen down – let’s see if we could meet in the middle.

And THAT is where everything fell apart. What looked like a reasonably thorough descendancy tree for Samuel included no son named Benjamin.  In fact it included another son born that same year, making a second son being born that year unlikely.  The actual son had no son’s named Stephen either.

Could ancestry be off just a generation?  There was a grandson named Benjamin. But alas, no Stephen.

In fact, I could not find a Stephen anywhere in that line, at least not a reasonable distance from Samuel.

Is Russ My Cousin?

russI will let Russ speak to his own research.  You can find his account of this tale in Review of the Cousin Tracker Log.  However, I am willing to say based on the evidence available to me at this time that Russ is NOT my Cousin, at least not thru the direct lines that Ancestry claims. That’s not to say we don’t have a connection, just that we haven’t found one  that we can back up with evidence yet.

Summary

OK, I had some fun.  I am not claiming this has been the most diligent research journey, but it was a nice little outing away from the chores of citation creation and DNA analysis. I had fun creating the Cousin Tracker and now I have had some fun using it.

I hope you find it a valuable addition to your genealogy toolbox.

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