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Beware of Online Genealogical Claims

Online genealogy sites can provide valuable genealogical information. People can post their family trees and link their family members to one another on these sites. We can then use this information to help extend our own family lines.

Yet one must be cautious when reviewing this type of information. These pages are secondary sources at best, and facts must be verified.

This week I found Reed family information that I believe is incorrect posted on two such sites:

  1. Family Search. This site has a crowd sourced family tree. There I found my ancestor’s second wife, but she was reportedly married to his son, not him. Caleb Reed (1756-abt 1832) married Elizabeth Van Dyke in Shelby County, Kentucky in 1816. Caleb had a namesake son, Caleb C. Reed (d. 1829), who lived in the same county. The online tree at Family Search claims the son, not the father, married Elizabeth Van Dyke. A close review of Shelby County records reveals that Caleb C. Reed had married a different woman, Prudence Kirkham, in 1812, several years before the Van Dyke marriage. In 1829, Caleb C. Reed’s widow Prudence Reed offered his will for probate and became guardian of his children. Caleb C. Reed did not marry Elizabeth Van Dyke while married to Prudence. Elizabeth was his stepmother after her marriage to his father.
  2. Find A Grave. Sometime after Caleb C. Reed’s death, Prudence relocated her family to Sullivan County, Indiana. She is buried in the Little Flock Cemetery there. Her Find A Grave memorial is linked to that of a purported husband, Caleb S. Reed who was buried nearby in 1866. We know from the Shelby County, KY records that her husband Caleb C. Reed died much earlier, in 1829. Contrary to the information posted on Find A Grave, Caleb S. Reed was not her husband and not the father of her children. The confusion here is understandable because Caleb was a common name in our family.

Whenever I come across mistakes such as these, I sigh and wonder how much effort I should make to correct the information. I do not like to see errors perpetuated, but posting better information takes time away from my own research.

I did send a message to Find A Grave asking them to edit the connection between Prudence Reed and Caleb S. Reed. I may take the time to correct the Family Search online tree because the senior Caleb Reed was my ancestor.

Prudence Kirkham and the Reeds lived long enough ago that they had many descendants. For their sake, the record should be correct.

One Response to “Beware of Online Genealogical Claims”

  • I am a descendant of Peter VanDyke Sr, the first husband of Elizabeth, who was later wife of Caleb Reed.
    I am very interested in confirming the identity of which Caleb she married. Elizabeth was much younger than Peter VanDyke, so age-wise–either Caleb would be logical. I have not worked on Reeds, and it sounds like you have records to answer my questions. Hopefully, I can figure out Elizabeth’s maiden name…I have a clue to that!
    I hope to hear from you soon.
    Dann Norton

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