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September 26, 2021

Don’t Make Genealogy Assumptions

Steve asked Olive Tree Genealogy a very good question about making an assumption from a census record.

How can one determine the relationship of individuals on the 1860 census. On the 1860 Hardy County Virginia census, my great grandfather Thomas Wilson is placed below a Pamelia Wilson, and above that a Judy Wilson. Can I safely assume that Thomas is Pamelia's son born out of wedlock? 

My answer to Steve was “This is an important question in genealogy. The short answer is Absolutely not!"

Don't Assume! 

The meaning of "assume" is to suppose without any proof.  

You should never assume anything in genealogy research. You can however create a Working Theory, based on the facts you have found.

List the Possible Scenarios 

In the example you gave, you don't know how Thomas is related, or even if he's related at all. Let's look at some possible scenarios (with the caveat that you have not told me the ages of the individuals and that's an important consideration when developing theories). 

1. Thomas might be Pamelia's son.

2. Thomas might be Pamelia's nephew.

3. Thomas might be Pamelia's cousin. 

4. Thomas might be adopted

5. Thomas might be from a completely unrelated Wilson family 

There are other possibilities depending on the ages of Thomas and the other individuals in the census.

Develop Your Working Theory

A simple definition of "theory" is a supposition, or an idea that might be true but are not yet proven. 

You think that Thomas might be Pamelia's son. That's a good working theory

Prove or Disprove Your Theory

 Your next step would be to search for records that PROVE or DISPROVE your theory. 

* Can you find Thomas or Pamelia in 1850 or 1870 census?
* Look for Thomas' birth record
* Look for Thomas' marriage record
* Look for Thomas' death or obit

Continue researching Pamelia. Find out what you can about her. Is her father named Thomas? That might add a little more weight to your working theory (although that still would not be proof of a mother-son relationship). Perhaps Pamelia has an obit that mentions a son Thomas.

The bottom line is that unless you find proof, it's only guesswork or assumptions. And genealogy is about facts and truth, not guesses. Guesses based on a record you found are important to aid you in developing a working theory but you still must prove (or disprove) that theory. 

September 20, 2021

After 1/4 of a Century, What’s Next For Olive Tree Genealogy?


Life is about change.

When I first had the idea to create my Olive Tree Genealogy website back in 1996, the internet was a brand new thing. There were very few online genealogy sites. The big sites like Rootsweb and Ancestry did not yet exist. It was a new frontier.

It never occurred to me that a quarter of a century later the Olive Tree Genealogy site would still be going strong.  And over the last 25 years Olive Tree Genealogy has grown into an entire family of websites –,, and several more.

Then there are my blogs. 18 years ago I jumped on the blog bandwagon with my Olive Tree Genealogy blog. I’m never happy with just one toe in the waters, and several more blogs followed, all part of the Olive Tree Genealogy family.

Then came the Social Media explosion and this created many new avenues for Olive Tree Genealogy to explore and grow, including Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. 

The last 25 years have been busy, exciting, rewarding and yes, like all endeavours, sometimes frustrating. I have always believed in giving more than I take from the Genealogy community but now it’s time to slow down. Since it’s only a slow down, not a goodbye, I am calling it semi-retirement! 

I will still be offering free and unique content on Olive Tree Genealogy (It is not going anywhere), and participating in genealogy events. My other websites will remain online but they won’t be my primary focus after December 1st .

For now I plan to get back to my roots (pun intended). I  will be scaling back my blog posts and my time on Social Media. I may even be able to carve out some time for my own genealogy research! 

I’ll be focusing most of my time on my Olive Tree Genealoy website but I’ll also be writing more Genealogy books, including my Janie Riley genealogy mysteries. 

New horizons await and I am eager to start this new journey.


September 13, 2021

The Things Family Don’t Know Astound Me!

Before the Pandemic hit I joined my brother and nephew and families for a dinner out. During the evening I showed them a booklet I was creating for our McGinnis family ancestry.

My nephew expressed surprise that my mother and father (his grandparents) had been married in a double wedding ceremony with my mother's sister. This was news to him!

This may seem like a small thing but I was startled. That double wedding was something I heard about as a young child. I have the actual wedding invitation. I have newspaper articles about the two sisters in Guelph who were to be married in a double ceremony. 

I have articles about their showers, their trousseau teas, their wedding and their honeymoon plans. I have a photo of my mom and dad standing on the steps of the church on their Wedding Day. I have a group photo of the Wedding party. 

For me, this is old news and something I know as if it happened to me. I assumed everyone in the family knew. It never occured to me that my nieces or nephews might never have heard of it.

Didn't my brother ever mention it? Did he know? I suddenly feel quite a bit of pressure to spread the word! To share the stories and the facts I've known for so many years. 

Maybe I'm the only one who knows and boy that worries me. I made an error by assuming everyone in the family knew of this special day. What else don't they know (that I do). 

I grew up hearing stories. My mother, grandmother and aunt all told me stories of their childhood and their lives. I asked for the stories over and over again. They showed me clippings from newspapers. My mom had a scrapbook (which may actually have been my grandmother's, my memory is fuzzy on that) which she eventually gave me and that is where all the newspaper clippings, the wedding invitation, etc were. 

Maybe that's why I am a genealogist. I love hearing the stories, learning about the people living their daily lives. It's not about the names or dates or going back the furthest in time. For me it's all about the people - who were they, what events did they experience, what emotions did they feel, how did they live their lives... these are important to me and finding the answers to those questions make my ancestors alive for me. 

What’s important to you as the keeper of the family genealogy?

September 9, 2021

Haldimand County Obituary Ames Moulton Webb 1919

 Agnes Isabell Moulton Webb, wife of Alfred Webb, 26 years old, died February 11, 1919.

 A death registration for Agnes, found on Ancestry, indicates she died of influenza, so no doubt the Spanish Flu. Her marriage to Alfred in March 1915 provides her parents' names as Herbert Foster Moulton and Sarah Pattison

September 7, 2021

Haldimand County Obituary.Mary Sophia Webb Thompson 1938

 Mary Sophia Webb, wife of Calvin Thompson died in Hagersville, January 27, 1938

Her certificate of death was found on Ancestry showing she had a cerebral thrombosis causing death.


September 5, 2021

Haldimand County Obituary William Winter 1917

 William Winter died in South Cayuga February 25, 1917, age 85

According to his death registration found on Ancestry William was born in England. He is recorded with the surname Winters. I will leave it to interested descendants to figure out the cause of death. It appears to say hypoplaste Puen which I believe has something to do with the heart.

September 3, 2021

Haldimand County Obituary John William West 1917

 John Wm. (William) West died in Dunnville April 16, 1917.

His death registration was found on Ancestry indicating he died of heart failure in the House of Refuge (poorhouse). He was a widower, born in Ancaster Township, age 82 (as per death registration) and was buried in Cayuga. No information was known of his parents' names.