GG-Grandfather born in Estonia … NOT!

This has nothing to do with Geelong & District but a general tip on how family trees on the web can go horribly wrong.

Anyone who has done some serious family research knows that a large number of family trees you find on the internet are peppered with mistakes.  We know that we should never accept what we find on these trees but use them to do the research ourselves to see if there is valid information worth pursuing.

My maiden names is FUSSEN – unique in Australia and not that common around the world.  My first FUSSEN immigrant to Australia was my g-grandfather George FUSSEN.  According to Australian documents that I have – naturalisation papers, marriage certificates, birth certificates of children, and death certificate – he was born 19 May 1852 [or 1853] in Tours in France.  Despite several attempts I don’t yet have any European documentation to support his place of birth or the various stories passed down through the family.  These stories came from my late great aunt Mary who remembered a lot of what her mother (my g-grandfather’s youngest sister) told her.   I have been able to prove that some of these stories have been extremely accurate and therefore put a fair bit of faith in her memory.

Now and again I check to see if someone connected with my ancestors may have done some more research and found details I haven’t yet found.  Over the years the number of trees including my FUSSEN family has grown – some are submitted by cousins, descendants of George, but others are unknown people who appear to be based in Europe.  Oddly enough they all appear to have photographs direct from my family tree!

Yesterday I got my first “oh my gosh” moment!  George was the son of Peter FUSSEN and Francoise GENISE – according the family trees on Ancestry Peter FUSSEN was born in Estonia!  This totally threw me – my family tree on my web site [not Ancestry] is quite out-of-date and desperately needs some work on it [that is on the drawing board when I get a break from work at Christmas!].  According to my notes and research I believe that Peter FUSSEN was possibly from Switzerland – that’s some distance from Estonia.

I couldn’t resist searching these family trees further to try to find the source of the information about Estonia.  ALL of them had Estonia as Peter FUSSEN’s place of birth BUT there was one clue that eventually hit me like a sledge-hammer.  Two of the trees did NOT show Estonia as his place of birth in normal text but had (Estonia) in light grey – in other words this was a HINT from Ancestry and NOT data entered in this particular family tree.

The sledge-hammer?  I use abbreviated prefixes when I don’t have specific dates.

  • Abt = means I have found a year of an event in an index – if for example a birth was registered in 1890 I will enter this as Abt 1890 because although it was registered in 1890 the actual birth could have been late in 1889 and not registered until the following year.  The “Abt” is removed when I find the actual date.
  • Calc = means a date has been calculated from another event – if for example a death certificate stated an age, then a year of birth will be calculated from that.  If the age may not be accurate and conflicts with other events then I will prefix the year of birth with Calc.
  • Est = means that I have no idea of a date / year but use the standard 25 years for a generation to give me an idea of roughly when the event might have occurred.

Worked it out yet?

Either a human being or a computer decided that “Est” was an abbreviation for Estonia!  And of course everyone else just copied the information into their family tree!  No wonder there are so many errors floating around in the multitude of family trees out there!

At this stage I have absolutely NO evidence to suggest that my FUSSEN family came from Estonia – oh well, it was nice for a few moments to think that someone else had done some more research.  Roll on Christmas when I’ll have time to do a bit more and update my family tree.