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Going by the book does not ensure accuracy

Published April 29, 2004

Elvis Presley's family tree has been traced back to Scotland, according to Scottish writer Allan Morrison, who made the discovery while he researched Presley for his upcoming book, The Presley Prophecy. Morrison contends that the King is a direct descendant of Andrew Presley, a blacksmith who lived in the tiny farming community of Lonmay about 300 years ago.

But in his book More Palatine Families, published in 1991, Hank Z. Jones, a nationally known genealogist and expert in German ancestry, says Presley descends from Valentine Preslar, who was born in Germany around 1869.

Add those divergent scenarios to the one created by writer Elaine Dundy, who wrote Elvis and Gladys in 1985, and you have quite a mix.

One thing is certain. You can't believe everything you read and half of what you hear. Many researchers assume that information published in a book, particularly a hardback, must be correct.

I recently encountered a similar situation. Two men named Daniel Mills were born in Washington County, Md., in 1860. By 1870, three men named Daniel Mills were living there, and they were all the same age. Easy to confuse. And that's exactly what one family historian did.

The researcher was tracing the tree of a spouse of Daniel Mills. Although a Daniel Mills did marry a woman with that surname, it wasn't the one he selected. Thus, in his book, Daniel is placed with the wrong parents.

I have plenty of evidence that shows which Daniel actually married into that family. But when I mentioned the error to another Mills researcher, she replied that a hardback book in the local library said otherwise. End of story as far as she was concerned.

James Dow of Tampa found a new wrinkle in census records while researching the Poindexter family in Stutsman, N.D.

Reuben Poindexter, age 62, appears on the 1920 census for that county. Not unexpected. Finding wife Lola, 50, on the census with him was something of a shock, though, since Dow had proof that Lola died on May 18, 1918.

Since it is possible that Reuben wooed and married another woman by the same name, who was the same age and born in the same place as his late wife, Dow is conducting further research to prove what actually transpired.

Oddly, Poindexter's daughter, Ruth, also appears with the family on the 1920 census. More or less. On the 1910 census, Ruth was a single female living with her parents. On the 1920 census, Ruth is listed as part of her father's household. A line is drawn through her surname, and her status is changed from single to married.

It's not unusual for a widowed daughter to be back at home. And Ruth's husband could be living elsewhere. But Ruth's marital surname is not included, and her status is married, not widowed.

Why the discrepancies? Maybe the census taker merely attempted to update the 1910 records rather than start from scratch. He could have used information derived from a city directory. We'll never know, and it doesn't really matter.

What counts is accuracy. The best way to ensure that your links are solid is to find three ways to document each of life's major milestones - birth, marriage and death - and to use the work of others only as guidelines for conducting your own research.

Read past Donna Murray Allen columns online at Type "Donna Murray Allen" in the search box. You can write to Allen c/o Floridian, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail her at Her Web site, includes information on classes and lectures. Allen welcomes your questions about genealogy and will respond to those of general interest in future columns.

[Last modified April 28, 2004, 13:30:22]

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