Originally published in MxWorld, Vol. 26 No. 1.
View Ancestral Web Cards
You may recall from my previous article in the May MxWorld that I hoped to have
finished my work on the Ancestral Tree and have it posted on our Website by the
time of this publication. Well, I'm happy to report that I've done so and Jim has
posted the resultant Webcards for this tree on the 'Lines' segment of our Website.
This tree pulls together data from numerous sources. These include many of the genealogies
published in Mx-World to-date, plus supporting contextual sources. Thus, it is likely
the most comprehensive available compilation of ancestral Mx genealogies and sources.
We see this as a great tool for Mx researchers, one that will grow and improve,
with your help, over time. The sources, we know, contain errors, and even contradict
each other. We encourage you to use these sources in your research, bring in additional
sources of your own, and keep us informed of the best information as it emerges
from your research and analysis.
In this installment of the series we discuss the Ancestral Tree and its products
at some length, but first, in the way of providing some background, we're going
to digress and wax a bit philosophic about the art of analysis in general as well
as how it applies to genealogy in particular.
To establish my bona fides to write on this subject let me share with you the fact
that I spent the best part of four decades as a professional researcher and analyst.
As a result I've developed more than a little insight into the nature of the analytic
process, and indeed, near the end of my career I wrote a treatise called "The Art
of Analysis" and subsequently taught a course based on same.
Classically speaking, analysis is a process whereby one attempts to discover the
nature of an object or concept by breaking it down into its constituent parts .
A related discipline, synthesis, is a process whereby one attempts to discover the
nature of an object or concept by bringing its disparate parts together . In reality,
most 'analysts" perform both processes so we tend to lump the two together under
the rubric 'analysis'.
Although there are scores of analytic disciplines or 'ologies', ranging from abiology
(the study of inanimate objects) to zymology (the study of fermentation, they all
subscribe to a generic suite of systematic tools, methods and specific styles of
thinking. Furthermore, practicing analysts can be loosely placed into one of two
camps, those we'll call Empiricists--dedicated to critical thinking --and those
we'll call Theorists--dedicated to creative thinking . In their purest form Empiricists
refuse to recognize any datum as valid unless it can be proven six-ways-from-Sunday;
while the pure Theorist is apt to adopt almost any claim regardless of source or
In genealogical terms the pure Empiricist insists on only primary evidence, preferably
from three different sources; while the Theorist is likely to blithely grab anything
(s)he comes across and run with it. In the first instance, while the data found
may be irrefutable, the genealogist will soon find him/herself at the proverbial
brick wall. In the second instance, while the genealogist will amass loads of new
seed data (s)he will also end up with an amalgam of confusing, contradictory and
unsourced 'stuff' and probably never come to any definitive conclusions.
Obviously, both approaches in their purest form have drawbacks. The solution to
this dichotomy is to find a way to apply both critical and creative thinking to
the same data. As an example of this from my own experience, when faced with a new
analytic challenge I often led my analysts in a "brain-storming" session. Each would
have a turn to express a possible answer to a problem or a possible route to follow
to solve that problem, with each building on the ideas of those who had gone before.
The thinking involved was strictly creative in that all ideas were considered on
an equal footing regardless of how outlandish they might sound . The process continued
until we ran out of new ideas. Then, and only then, would we switch gears and engage
in critical thinking, winnowing down the results in a logical and systematic manner
to arrive at the most likely answer.
So, what does all this have to do with the Ancestral Tree? You may recall that in
my previous articles I stated that "...we’re including all of the Ancestral Mxes
cited in Nellie Zada Rice Mx’s book, History Genealogical and Biographical of the
Molyneux Families. An unfortunate down-side of using Nellie’s book is that it is
often self-contradictory." Well, not only is Nellie's book self-contradictory but
it also often contradicts the information contained in books by other authorities
such as those by John and Bernard Burke or by Great Britain's College of Arms, and
those authorities, in-turn, often contradict each other. The bottom-line is that
the bulk of the information we have on the early Mxes is not derived from primary
or even secondary, records. It is instead, "derivative", i.e., any source that specifies
the origin of a datum, but is dependent on some other authority for same. This makes
it extremely difficult to judge the relative validity of any given datum (although
we have agreed that where Burke and Nellie contradict, we'll favor Burke.)
So, how was I, a self-proclaimed non-expert on these ancient lineages, to go about
presenting the data in a tree format, without introducing my own biases? The answer
was to use a format that appears very much like the result of abductive reasoning
. Simply put we have abstained (as much as is humanly possible) from making value
judgments on the data that now reside in the Ancestral Tree. Where, for instance,
we have conflicting dates of birth, we present them in date order--unless an earlier
one is from Nellie's book and a later one from Burke's.
This approach leads to some interesting conundrums, where for instance an individual
may appear to be his "own grandpa". In a perfect world, we would go back over all
the source records in these cases and try to resolve the conflicts (we did do so
in some cases). But in reality, compiling this tree has been a monumental task and
none of us in the core cadre have either the time or the energy to do so. Instead,
we rely on you to do so. If you find a contradiction in the tree that you think
you can resolve, let us know--but be prepared to defend your reasoning!
Now lets talk about what's in the Ancestral Tree and how it can be used:
- We've made no judgments as to the validity of any given member's claim of relationship
to the ancestral Lines such as Sefton or Castle Dillon. Thus this tree includes
individuals known or purported to be members of ancestral Lines.
- The Ancestral Tree addresses 7,704 individuals (although a significant percentage
of these are unnamed wives listed only as FNU LNU--another place where we could
use your help--as well as persons b. after 1910 for whom we have no death dates
and who have thus been anonymized by our privacy algorithms). We've also cited 793
sources, most of them citations from our MxWorld archives, but as I've stated before,
we often had to go outside MxWorld to provide context--especially in those cases
where members didn't provide genealogical data (a surprising number by the way).
The sources we used in this regard ran the gamut of reliability from personal family
trees on Ancestry and elsewhere on the Web, to scholarly historic treatises such
as those already mentioned.
- In order to protect the privacy of living persons, wherever we didn't have a date
of birth, we estimated it to the closest likely decade based on the dates of birth
of close kin and/or marriage dates (in some cases this led to some interesting conundrums
as stated above.) These estimated dates appear as follows; "est 1900's" or "est
1750's-1770's". Though the estimates can be useful in differentiating among folks
with the same given names, titles, etc., they are only loose estimates and should
be taken with a very large grain of salt.
- Where appropriate, we've included user identifications from Nellie's book, such
as Sir Francis Mx, identified by Nellie as number 18-129. As a memory aid during
construction of this tree we also generated unique identifications for the patriarchs
of many of the major Lines so that we now have Darcy Mx whose User ID is TVSL010
(i.e., tenth of the Teversal Line); Lt. Gen Thomas Mx whose User ID is CDLN005 (i.e.,
5th of the Castle Dillon Line); and Sir Richard Mx whose User ID is SFTN 013 (i.e.,
13th of the Sefton Line.) For obvious reasons this is not a cast-iron system but
it might be useful in evaluating possible candidates for DNA testing. This numbering
system also helps one trace the rise of one Line from another, for instance, the
previously mentioned Sir Francis Mx (18-129 in Nellie's nomenclature) is also listed
as both HGTN004 and TVSL001. If you look at his dad, Lord Richard Mx, you find that
he is HGTN003. It would thus appear that the Teversal Mxes arose from the Haughton
Mxes. Likewise, the Haughton Mxes appear to have arisen from the Sefton Mxes with
the advent of Sir Thomas Mx (HGTN001), son of Sir Richard Mx (SFTN014) . The abbreviations
we used in this system are as follows:
a. CDLN=Castle Dillon
We've also included a third user identification, the IMFA member numbers for those
members whose names appear in this tree. However, most of these user identity numbers
will be of little or no use to you because our privacy algorithms have culled these
f. LCBY=Little Crosby
i. PEIC=Prince Edward Island, Canada
- Whenever we ran across conflicting data we tried to make a cogent comment to that
fact, for instance: in the case of Susannah Bailey, wife of Leslie Edward Mx, we
find the following: "Note: Although source 353 lists Susannah & her children w/
Cecil Sefton Mx, she was actually the wife of his brother Leslie Edward Mx. Its
clear from the wedding announcement concerning Edward Leslie Mx (g-son of Gen. Edward
Leslie Mx) to Dorothy Perkins that he was the son of Leslie Edward Mx vice Cecil
Sefton Mx. NZR Mx (source 88) and the 1920 Census corroborate this."; and in re
Rev. Peter Molineus: "Note: There is some contention as to whether he was the brother,
son or nephew of Joachim Molyneux."
- For reasons already stated neither the Ancestral Tree nor the Webcards generated
therefrom, were ever intended to represent an authoritative source of genealogical
data. We don't make any claims as to the validity of any of the data contained therein.
But, the digital documents do provide valuable seed data--virtual paths, and trails
that the diligent researcher may follow to see where they may lead. As we've stated
in the past, it is up to you, the individual genealogist, to be the critical thinker
and determine the validity of any claim to your satisfaction and standards. We merely
try to plant some signposts along the way.
For example an archaeologist might dissolve a potsherd into its constituent elements
to discover what earths, metals, chemicals, etc., went into its making, as well
as what kind of material might have been stored in it.
That same archaeologist might glue a number of potsherds together to discover the
shape, decorations and usage of the original vessel.
"Critical thinking, in general, refers to higher-order thinking that questions assumptions...It
is a way of deciding whether a claim is true..." (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_thought)
Creative thinking is "the process of thinking about ideas or situations in inventive
and unusual ways in order to understand them better and respond to them in a new
and constructive manner..." (www.thutong.doe.gov.za)
This process is also a good example of abductive reasoning which is defined as "...a
method of logical inference...which comes prior to induction and deduction for which
the colloquial name is to have a 'hunch'." (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abductive_reasoning.)
SFTN015 is the user identification of Sir Thomas' brother, Sir Richard, ancestor
to the Viscounts and Earls of Sefton, so Sir Thomas didn't get a Sefton number.