Family Disambiguation Station

Dedicated to using the GPS (Genealogical Proof Standard) to ensure TRUTH & ACCURACY of YOUR family tree against the tidal wave of unwitting modern "Click-Any-Ologists"

Genetic Genealogy: To Do or Not to Do DNA Testing, That’s Been My Question, Seeking to Discern Accuracy & Specific Applicability

LOONNNGGGG story short: For several years now, I’ve been wondering if, and how, DNA testing can answer specific genealogy questions for my family: (1) to identify the paternity of a 1xGreat-grandfather (to determine which, if either of the two family stories/extant legends is correct); (2) to determine whether, or not, the Native American legend for a 4xGreat-grandfather is true (since there is zero info of this family or descendants on any prominent Indian Rolls, and they are recorded as white on the censuses); to determine whether there is any Native American blood at all (a similar legend crops up on another line, too).

While doing independent study via methodology tutorials by Crista Cowan, their Barefoot Genealogist, posted at Youtube in their Desktop Education playlist, a recurrent topic came up in the varied DNA instruction: the factor of random inheritance, dropped DNA strands, (in the silenced, recessive genes). I first noted it in the “AncestryDNA: Why is My Native American Ancestry Not Showing Up?”(in which it’s pointed out that through (recombinant random inheritance in which siblings can receive different ancestral DNA; some siblings receiving zero from a particular ancestral line). Yet this concept was repeated with different examples & different visuals in many of the DNA tutorials—and it nagged at me. That concept of random inheritance wasn’t entirely new, dominant/recessive genes having been touched on in high school. What I couldn’t quite wrap my head around was the idea that full siblings could exhibit different ancestral lines, perhaps a brother showing something no other sibling inherited. If that was so, I wondered, what on earth could DNA testing do to conclusively answer my own genealogical questions?

After attending a genetic results class last year (summer 2016( at an annual Utah conference, in which the presenter, a geneticist & world-wide lecturer, announced that his team had determined that a man living in the 1800s could not have been the biological father of a daughter who’d been told her paternity by her dying mother’s own deathbed testimony.

Still trying to wrap my head around the concept that siblings could exhibit different DNA due to random inheritance and dropped DNA strands, I wondered, how in the world, could any geneticist say with any accuracy that it is proven conclusively, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that someone could not be an ancestor. So I immediately emailed the geneticist sharing that thought and asking questions about the applicability of DNA testing to my specific genealogical questions in light of my parents being cousins on three ancestral lines. He sent an email promising to get back to me, but he failed to do so, including ignoring my followup emails. It left me wondering if I’d hit a nerve, if in fact he could not definitively defend his results as entirely conclusive, (ironically, after my several emails, he was interviewed online in Autumn 2016,and brought up the function of random DNA, but said “We’re not going to discuss it here”, so is he skirting the issue, I wondered) and therefore if I could not trust DNA testing to answer my own genealogical questions.

In the interim, I found a tutorial from the Feb 2017 annual Rootstech presentations, which answered many of my questions, at least enough of them, to make me begin again to reconsider doing DNA testing for genealogical purposes. I’ll share that link here to aid you in deciding whether it would be beneficial to your family: “My Ancestors are in My DNA” by Angie Bush (duration 41:40). Be aware, however, that the annual Rootstech videos are available for a limited time. But this one is so valuable, I really hope they keep it accessible permanently.

The other question I have about DNA testing, is whether it’s entirely trustworthy to capture and convey an accurate picture of anyone’s (full?) ancestral DNA. Or, with random inheritance, is it like Carbon-14 radiometric dating, results depending on which sample is tested (Did they get the right/oldest chunk of decayed matter in the dirt?), and for which there are documented examples individual testing companies presenting differing dates, and those dates contradict and far exceed the Biblical record. (REF: “Is Carbon Dating Reliable?”; “Errors are Feared in Carbon Dating”, “Does Carbon-14 Dating Disprove the Bible?”, and “Myths Regarding Radiocarbon Dating”

For DNA application, in other words, did they test the right descendant who randomly inherited the sought-after ancestral genes in the recombinant bits that are passed down? OR, is DNA testing, & it’s interpretation, not yet refined enough to be entirely accurate? Still looking for answers on that one.

The biggest concern I have, is not being led on a genealogical wild goose chase. With all the existing genealogical mysteries due to missing, interrupted, and even erroneous paper trails, should I really muddy the water further with DNA testing?

Hopefully, however, it seems a legitimate no-brainer that doing DNA testing & thereby preserving family DNA, will be better than not doing it at all. And if there are failures and inadequacies in current testing and analysis now, will it be straightened out later, and will the time come when it will be reevaluated and accurately categorized for future descendants? Seems, in part, it comes down to this, to get an accurate picture: you can’t test just one, you must test several family members, especially the oldest generations.

Hope all this pondering is helpful in aiding your decision on whether or not to do genetic DNA testing to aid in accurate determination of your family ancestry.


Legal Definitions for Comprehending Genealogical Relationships

So what is a cousin? Someone who shares the same common ancestor you do, but through a different, yet related, line of descent.

To learn the exact relationship of two distant relatives, you need to identify the first shared ancestor in the closest generation to you both.

Let’s say your first common ancestor is Daniel Boone, or say, “Rip Van Winkle”:
His children are siblings;
his grandchildren from those various siblings are 1st cousins;
likewise, his (1x) Great-grandchildren are 2nd cousins;
therefore, his Great-Great (2x) grandchildren are 3rd cousins;
& progressively, his Great-Great-Great (3x) grandchildren are 4th cousins,
and so on, until you arrive at the two specific relatives.

When you run out of equivalent generations, and one line of descendancy still continues—that’s when you begin to apply the term “removed.”
Let’s say you are the grandchild of Rip Van Winkle & wife, (your mother is his daughter—and her brother, your uncle, is his son, let’s say he’s named Bob). If you want to know your grandchild’s relationship to your first cousin (son of your uncle, let’s say he’s Max), you could diagram it like this:

(The first shared ancestral couple in the generation closest to you both)
Gpa: Rip Van Winkle (& Wife) Gma: Eva Van Winkle
Daughter/your Mom (Sibling) Son/your Uncle Bob
| |
You (1st Cousin) your Cousin Max
Your Child (1C 1R = 1st cousin, one time/generation removed)
Your Grandchild (1C 2R = 1st cousin, two times/generations removed)

So, the relationship of your child to your cousin Max is 1st cousin 1x removed, & the relationship of your grandchild to cousin Max is 1st cousin 2x removed.

To take it further, when your cousin Max has children, they will be your children’s 2nd cousins, and your grandchildren’s 2nd cousins 1 generation removed.

As you can see, this visual graphing is far more understandable, more clearly & concisely conveyable, therefore easier to follow, than trying to verbally describe the exact relationships orally or in written paragraph form (both of which are far more convoluted & difficult for people to grasp). This quick-charting has been an invaluable tool to accurately ascertain the exact relationships of my varying degrees of cousins and their posterity. As you utilize it & make it your own, I’m confident, that it will become as helpful & enlightening a tool for you as it has been for me. Blessings in correctly identifying your cousin relationships!


Here are some tutorials which may further assist you (by my favorite genealogical tutorial teacher, Crista Cowan, the “Barefoot Genealogist” at I highly recommend all her tutorials as beneficial—she is knowledgeable, articulate, & animated, not boring or monotone in the least—well worth your time!)

“Defining Relationships in Genealogy”

“Adoption and Genealogy Research”

Citation: By researcher, Rose H. Bonnell, 15 Aug 2016.
Provenance & Permissions: This blog post is the Intellectual Property of Rose Herndon Bonnell (
com/539) permission is granted for use when quoted in full, with proper attribution & citations.

Decoding Penmanship for Genealogical Purposes: How to Use Principles of Paleography for Accurate Transcriptions So You Can Locate All Extant Documents Pertaining to Your Ancestors

I’ve been long now in the trenches of original genealogical research spanning more than three decades (progressing, along with younger siblings, from elementary-schoolers accompanying our parents to oral history interviews, cemetery traipsing & tombstone transcriptioning in the early 1970s, to an interested teen hand-copying from my parental pedigrees & family group sheets, to an adult beginning my own intensive research in microfilms of original documents at genealogical repositories throughout the 1980s & making family history trips, viewing originals held in courthouses in the 1990s, supplementing & establishing family history by personal & telephone interviews, correspondence & transcription of tape-recorded contributions with my grandparents & Great-aunts, & my last surviving Great-grandmother, expanding into correspondence with other historians & researching at courthouses, libraries, and historical societies in ancestral states). During that time, I’ve seen the problem caused by inaccurate spellings, transcriptions, indexing, and erroneous summarizing in publications. It’s HUGE, with so many far-reaching tentacles of error being adopted as truth and fact when it is nothing but fiction caused by a fundamental mistaken reading of a document.

This is why it’s so essential to keep going back to the original (since, with each transcription or publication & re-publication, more chance for error creeps in and you’re that many more generations removed from the actual document made at the time the ancestor was present). Sometimes it’s only much later, once experience is gained in methodology, and with the family, that a document is seen & transcribed accurately in historical context.

And when doing genealogical detective work, one small error can completely change the foundation &/or goal of what you’re searching for and how you ought to view it or weight it’s value.

I’ll give two quick examples:

The first pertaining to research on Younger Herndon (1785 VA-1859 KY):

BACKGROUND (1): U.S. Federal Censuses are taken once every decade since the founding of the nation, beginning in 1790. From 1790 through 1840, the census only lists head of household with gender & age-span; and all household others are listed as tick marks in age & gender brackets, males, females, slaves. 1850 is the first to list all members of the family, but it does not indicate the relationship of the household members (parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, in-law, friend, cousin, servant, hired or slave laborer), 1860 in KY & TN seems to have been done in tense hurried times, with given names listed only as initials. The 1870 census seems to be the first one to list blacks by name. The 1880 census is the first to indicate the relationship of household members to the head (therefore the wife may not have been the mother of all the children, but could have been a successive marriage, hence the need to identify birth gaps). Accelerated Indexing Systems of SLC, provided pre-internet alphabetized census index books. The preface explained census rules, and how you cannot prove the accuracy of data supplied because, if the family wasn’t home after the ideal three attempts, info could be taken from a neighbor or children or a local business owner, anyone who could comment on the resident family. The 1940 census was the first to indicate identity of the informant (by a circled “x” next to the name). If the informant was a later spouse, they may not have known the ages or birthplaces of all family members and may merely have been approximating. FYI:This same problem occurs with death certificates, to which early ones (away from rigidity of modern law) particularly are prone, in that the informant may not even have been a relative, but a neighbor, and so far removed from actual knowledge of the birth & parentage data could have been & often is found in error.

EXAMPLE (1): The 1820 Census of Stewart Co TN, enumerates the family of my ancestor Younger Herndon (1785 VA-1859 KY). Problem is that the teens in one category appears to number 4. This was an error published in the AIS Census Index Book accessed in the early 1980s, and unfortunately hand-copied into my notes. (REF: Original data: Jackson, Ron V., Accelerated Indexing Systems, comp.. Tennessee Census, 1810-91. Compiled and digitized by Mr. Jackson and AIS from microfilmed schedules of the U.S. Federal Decennial Census, territorial/state censuses, and/or census substitutes.) Sadly, it was a mistake taken from an 1820 census and incorrectly applied as an 1810 tax list when no 1810 census or substitute exists. (See: “Bogus 1810 Tennessee records” ( Yet, for over two decades, it was believed that there were four teens in that age bracket in the family. This was important in determining whether this was a household containing two child-bearing couples or only one. After digitization & indexing & transcription of it online at; I was revisiting the problem, viewing the original online when my computer froze. I went to another computer (this one with a larger screen) and pulled it up again, this time taking in everything the indexer recorded, saying the numeral was not a four but a one—I thought how can that possibly be right?! Then I pulled up the digital image and poured over the whole page, not just the part pertaining to my ancestor. I compared all the numerals. To me it looked like there were two types of numeral four: a pointy-top closed four & an open-top boxy four. Turns out (by checking the sums calculated by the enumerator on the original document)—in every instance the pointy-top closed fours were in fact a deeply flagged numeral one overwriting a dash, leaving the appearance of a four, but being in actuality a one. Only the open-topped boxy fours were true fours. That was a consistent fact in every calculation, and the only thing that brought agreement with the calculations of the original enumerator, enabling the transmission of his definitions identifying his own numerals. Thank Heaven the indexer caught the true identity of the numerals! It was far from apparent and took a good deal of study or training on their part (in contrast to the hastily transcribed names which often are erroneous). This indexer was a God-send to me and this document proved there were no other teens old enough to be parents of any of the household, ensuring it consisted of one parent couple, Younger & presumably his wife, the only female above the age of !

The second pertaining to research on Benjamin Herndon (ca. 1760 VA-1814 SC):

BACKGROUND (2): This man, ancestor Benjamin Herndon, (, is reported by his own grandson in 1891 (SAR application # 4434) as having served in the patriot cause in the American Revolutionary War; present in payrolls of Capt Samuel Hawes, Col Alexander Spotswood (later Capt James Upshaw, Col Christian Febigar)’s Company of the 2d Virginia Regiment (see authorities: Saffell’s 1894 3rd edition page 275; Gwathmey’s 1938, pages 350 & 372); from May-Dec 1777 Caroline Co VA, till joining the Horse Service on 30 Dec 1777 in Valley Forge along with five others from his unit on the same day; horse service identified in 1818 by surviving fellow-Private Obadiah Carter (viewable at, as Colonel George Baylor’s Regt of horse called Light dragoons, the 3rd regiment of Cavalry, and confirmed by “A List of Men Listed in Col Baylor’s Regiment of Light Dragoons, transcribed & published in the Virginia Genealogical Society Quarterly in 1993, Vol. 31, No. 2, as being dated January 17, 1779. The author’s cited source was VSLA Personal Papers Coll Acc #22547.) Problem is that there were four Benjamin Herndon’s submitted as patriots to DAR; three of whom had some contact with Caroline Co VA (two were pre-Rev War; mine was post-Rev War).

Example (2): Rather than under Virginia State Library & Archives, the document was found at Library of Virginia, in Manuscript collections under title “Returns of Colonel George Baylor’s regiment, 1778-1779.” LVA Acc # 22547: “A List of Men Listed in Camp for Col Baylor’s Regmnt of Light dragoons, January 17, 1778.” (The document source is described by the repository as “Papers, 1778-1779, of the Virginia Office of the Quartermaster General, Public Stores in Fredericksburg, Virginia, consisting of a return, dated 1 March 1778, of arms and accoutrements in the Third Troop belonging to Colonel George Baylor’s (1752-1784) Regiment of Light Dragoons; a list, 17 January 1779, of men in camp for Colonel Baylor’s Regiment of Light Dragoons; and a roll, n.d., of horses purchased for Colonel Baylor by Miles Selden, Jr., of Henrico County, Virginia.” Much to my dismay, but in accordance with my wondering, although both the repository and Minor W. Weisinger, the 1993 author, both transcribed the date as 1779, which would be more beneficial to my proof needs, the truth is, that the final digit is not a 9 but an 8 which was partly obscured, written in the space within the overhanging lengthy lower loop of the “y” in the word “Baylor” which first inhabited the space in which the 8 was written—the strange 8 has no comparison anywhere on that page, but does not match the 9s throughout, and is formed much like the inverted v encompassed (pointed teepee-like) in the top half of a flip-flop sandal. (I’ve found other similarly-formed 8s in the Rev War documents digitized & indexed for 1778 at; it’s as though they form the numeral upside down). I’ve suggested computer study of it with chromograpic or chromolithographic-type PhotoShop separation of color layers to verify it, but it really is discernible with the naked eye.

For my research, this costs an entire 12 months of my ancestor’s life, and what I’d rejoiced was presumably gained when I found the 1993 published transcription of the document, but by viewing the original myself, I learned the truth, which to me meant, that I could not use it as stand-alone proof to rule out another Benjamin who resided in nearby Goochland Co VA, made his will as sick of body on 17 May 1778 & died by 19 Oct 1778 when the will was presented & proven in court. This required use of supportive marriage & deed documents to establish that he had forfeited residency in Caroline County VA in the early 1770s, having purchased his first land in Goochland Co VA on 24 Nov 1770, married his only wife in Goochland on 26 Dec 1771, and as a resident of Saint James Northam, Goochland Co VA, sold 97 acres of Goochland land to his mother (who was coming from Caroline Co VA) on 19 Jul 1773; and again as resident of Saint James Northam, Goochland Co VA, he sold an additional 97 acres of the 388 acres on which the said Benjamin Herndon now lives. Thank goodness for the progression of marriage and deeds to prove residency, to be able to rule out the Benjamin who was no longer a resident of Caroline (& had not been there for five years before the start of the Rev War; & rather was a resident of Goochland 7 years before the 1777 Caroline Co VA pay & muster rolls & 8 years before the 17 Jan 1778 Baylor’s Camp return which listed MEN’s NAMES: Benjn Herndon; REGIMENT & COMPANY: 2[nd] V[A] R[egiment], Capt Upshaw’s Comp[an]y, PLACE OF ABODE: Living in Caroline County V[A].”

I recommend these online tutorials by webinar lecturer, Crista Cowan, to aid you in your search:

“Spelling Doesn’t Count: Tips for Finding Your Ancestors”

“Anyone Can Read This: Basic Paleography for Genealogists”

“What Does That Say? More Paleography Tips and Tricks”

Citation: By researcher, Rose H. Bonnell, 13 Aug 2016.
Provenance & Permissions: This blog post is the Intellectual Property of Rose Herndon Bonnell (
com/528) permission is granted for use when quoted in full, with proper attribution & citations.

Worldwide Records Preservation by the LDS Church via their Family History Library & Granite Mountain Records Vault in the Salt Lake City Utah Area

The LDS Church is world-leader in preservation of worldwide records of genealogical significance, including vital records of birth, marriage, death, as well as deeds, probate & other court data, and published family histories & genealogies as well as transcribed & submitted pedigrees & family group sheets. For a comprehensive overview of the Church’s preservation work, I recommend these instructional online videos:

“Granite Mountain Records Vault, Part 1 – FamilySearch Genealogy Records”

Granite Mountain Records Vault, Part 2 – FamilySearch Genealogy Records

If difficult to view, the videos are also posted at:

“Mormon Church Granite Mountain Vault Part 1”

“Mormon Granite Mountain Records Vault Part2”

For an outside view, see this quick glimpse:

“The Granite Mountain Records Vault”

These final three videos are NOT about the same Granite Mountain in Utah (rather, it is in BC/British Columbia Canada) but I’ve included them for their inspirational value in conveying the magnitude of effort required by institutions & individuals in achieving a “Firm as the Mountains Around Us” repository for the protection of records:

“Granite Mountain, May 18 2011”

“Return to Granite Mountain, May 24th 2011”

The location for the last two videos is revealed here:

“Granite Mountain Powder Fields”

Blessings in recognizing your part in the preservation of truth and accuracy in compiling & preserving your own family records!

Rose Herndon Bonnell

Recommended viewing by researcher, Rose H. Bonnell, 4 Aug 2016
Provenance & Permissions: This blog recommendation (not the videos) is the Intellectual Property of Rose Herndon Bonnell (
com/476) permission is granted for use when quoted in full, with proper attribution & citations.

How To: Learn & Implement Other Professional Genealogical Detective Research Techniques

Here’s more recommended free training via Continuing Education in Research Methodologies:

“Building a Family from Circumstantial Evidence, a preview by Judy Russell”

“Skillbuilding: Perils of Source Snobbery” (BCG) by Thomas W. Jones

“Spotlight: Thomas W. Jones”

“Inferential Genealogy”

“Handout of Class Notes for Inferential Class of Thomas W. Jones”

“Using Correlation to Reveal Facts That No Record States”

“Handout of Class Notes for Correlation Class of Thomas W. Jones”

“inferential Genealogy: Deducing Ancestors’ Identities Indirectly” by Thomas W. Jones

“Carolina Family Roots: Case Study: Using Correlation”

“Adventures in Genealogy Education: Part 1: Studying Evidence Analysis”

“Adventures in Genealogy Education: Part 2: Studying Evidence Analysis”

“Cracking a Case by Marian Pierre Louis”

Blessings in your research & in accumulating time-proven people-finder skills for growing your authentic family tree!

Rose Herndon Bonnell

By researcher, Rose H. Bonnell, 4 Aug 2016
Citation: This blog post is the Intellectual Property of Rose Herndon Bonnell, you may use it with my permission when properly cited.

How To: Utilize the Skills of a Seasoned Genealogist to ASCERTAIN YOUR TRUE AUTHENTIC ANCESTRY rather than a mythical unproven fairytale legend (truth vs. error/red herring/delusion/fake/fraud)!

After three decades as a family historian & direct-entry genealogist (in-the-trenches of original records), having researched on my own since 1981-82, building on the collaborative interviews made by my parents & grandparents of the Great-grandparents, learning incrementally by experience and self-study and taking classes at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City Utah (as well as regional genealogy conferences & local family history centers & courses at the annual BYU Edu Week), gathering my own data via personal & telephone interviews, family history trips with research visits to courthouses & cemeteries & libraries, as well as utilizing supplemental online databases of digitized original documents & forums for research collaboration—and coming to the end of all primary documents, after all that, still having questions—I began the search for internet examples of breaking through the proverbial genealogical brick walls.

Anxious & unashamed to view my research from various perspectives, I decided in effect to, very deliberately, go back to “Ground Zero.” I viewed many tutorials in my quest, and hit a goldmine, locating a favorite teacher in Crista Cowan (both animated & articulate), known as “the Barefoot Genealogist” of (see’s YouTube Channel Playlists: Desktop Education (324 videos), & Genealogical Proof Standard (7 videos). For anyone wanting to quickly & thoroughly learn & implement the rules & applications of evidence & the various ways of viewing it to reveal gaps & clues, here’s some amazingly superior free online education.

(FYI: Crista Cowan is the new employee trainer, receiving & re-dispensing her continuing education (in layman’s terms) from THE premiere U.S. SOURCE, the founders of Genealogical Certification & writers of books on genealogical evidence: Elizabeth Shown Mills CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA (author of Evidence Explained) & Thomas W. Jones PhD, CG, FASG, FUGA, FNGS (author of Mastering Genealogical Proof) (see for more info), at the annual Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy & at Boston University, etcetera. So you are learning from the best, just one step from the proverbial horse’s mouth!)

“Crafting a Genealogy Research Plan”

“Which Source Do I Believe? Evaluating Evidence”

“Genealogical Proof Standard: An Introduction”

“Genealogical Proof Standard: Reasonably Exhaustive Search”

“Genealogical Proof Standard: Complete and Accurate Citation of Sources”

“Genealogical Proof Standard: Analysis and Correlation of the Collected Information”

“Genealogical Proof Standard: Resolution of Conflicting Evidence”

“Genealogical Proof Standard: Soundly Reasoned, Coherently Written Conclusion”

“Genealogy Methodology: Negative Evidence”

“Genealogy Methodology: Documenting Parentage”

“Genealogy Methodology: Getting Around Burned Counties”

“Introduction to Using Land Records for Family History”

“Family History Focus to Grow Your Family Tree”

“Back to the Basics: Genealogy 101”

“Search Like a Detective”

“Using Like A Pro”

“Best Practices for Attaching Records to Your Online Tree”

“Breaking Through Your Genealogy Brick Walls”

“Putting Your Ancestors’ Lives in Historical Context”

“Quick Tips for Breaking Through Your Genealogy Brick Walls”

“AncestryDNA: Genetic Genealogy Brick Wall Case Study”

“You’ve Received Your AncestryDNA [or, I Got My] Results. Now what?”

“AncestryDNA: Why is My Native American DNA Not Showing Up?”

“How to Prove Native American/Indian Ancestry”

Blessings in your research, and in joining this “movement” to correct the inadvertently-created brick-wall errors in our family trees!!! We can do so, by diligently, conscientiously, documenting our searches & findings, writing succinct analyses, then sharing them online.

Rose Herndon Bonnell

By researcher, Rose H. Bonnell, 15 July 2016 & 4 Aug 2016
Citation: This blog post is the Intellectual Property of Rose Herndon Bonnell, you may use it with my permission when properly cited.

Officially, Just What is DISAMBIGUATION?


My answer: Disambiguation (for genealogical application)

During my journey to correct the mass-proliferated errors of the mis-merged individuals, couples, and sets of children within our family tree, I kept coming across this term in Wikipedia, and though I believe I’d heard it in normal speech as well, it seemed quite a clever term. I adopted it, because it worked well with the concept of separating two individuals known by the same name, who did not exist as one entity but as an amalgamation of the two, which, therefore needed separation, clarification, & documentation.

This fictional character problem of the non-existent yet notorious ancestor, had grown to such mythical proportions—it was so enormous, so wide-spread, so convoluted, and such a genealogical brick wall—its solution needed a term not often used, but something with which researchers might have glancing familiarity, something equally attention-getting & memorable, SO I embraced, adopted & assimilated it for that purpose.

Not exactly “co-opting” the term “disambiguation” but, instead, honoring & saluting it, yet some meaning from “co-opt” has relevance to my intended usage: (paraphrased)
* to [utilize] something for your [appointed] purpose
* to cause … something … to become part of your movement
* [by] absorbing, assimilating, appropriating

In this sense, correction of erroneous data (inadvertent mis-identification & mis-representation of ancestral identity) is so crucial/essential/mandatory, it must become a “movement” in order to preserve truth & accuracy for future generations.

Here is 2016 data on the original use of the term “Disambiguation”:

YourDictionary: Disambiguation

The definition of a disambiguation is a removal of uncertainty or confusion.

An example of disambiguation is when a study explains the discrepancy between two different scientific studies that point to different results that create uncertainty.
FYI SOURCE CITATION: YourDictionary definition and usage example. Copyright © 2016 by LoveToKnow Corp.

Wikipedia: Disambiguation

Disambiguation in Wikipedia is the process of resolving the conflicts that arise when a potential article title is ambiguous, most often because it refers to more than one subject covered by Wikipedia, either as the main topic of an article, or a subtopic covered by an article in addition to the article’s main subject. For example, the word “Mercury” can refer to a chemical element, a planet, a Roman god, and many other things.

There are three important aspects to disambiguation:

Naming articles in such a way that each has a unique title. For example, three of the articles dealing with topics ordinarily called “Mercury” are titled Mercury (element), Mercury (planet) and Mercury (mythology).
Making the links for ambiguous terms point to the correct article title. For example, an editor of an astronomy article may have created a link to Mercury, and this should be corrected to point to Mercury (planet).
Ensuring that a reader who searches for a topic using a particular term can get to the information on that topic quickly and easily, whichever of the possible topics it might be. For example, the page Mercury is a disambiguation page—a non-article page which lists the various meanings of “Mercury” and links to the articles which cover them. (As discussed below, however, ambiguous terms do not always require a disambiguation page.)

So, back to my commentary again:
This wikipedia page for Disambiguation has been updated many times, 2002-2016, but, today in preparing this article, for the first time, I looked back at the wikipedia Disambiguation page’s history, and found there’s a significant irony in it’s creation on 2 Feb 2002, in the writer’s statement “This list was started to find a home for some of the Orphans.” Not sure exactly what he referred to, but the contributing editor Chuck Smith exulted “(deorphanized 5 articles! yay).” That warms my heart, because, we as genealogists have a mission to connect our “orphaned” ancestors with their true parents, preserving their true identities. In this sense, disambiguation was the best Providentially-inspired term that could be utilized for what we are seeking to accomplish in clearing the muddied waters of our true ancestry. So, my gratitude to wikipedia for it’s terminology, wherever it came from. For, although, the official definition is different than how I am using it for genealogical purposes, it really does fit in my goal to “remove uncertainty or confusion” about specific mis-merged ancestors.

I hope to help tear down our genealogical brick walls. I recommend the internet tutorials by Crista Cowan, the “Barefoot Genealogist” viewable at > follow us on YouTube > playlists > Desktop Education or Genealogical Proof Standard. She has over 300 videos with training sessions averaging 25-30 minutes. She is animated, articulate, a pleasure to listen to while watching her essential PowerPoints. It will train you to be an informed direct-entry genealogist! Here’s my first recommendations, to whet your appetite & get you started:

“Genealogy: Part History, Part Mystery”

“Five Reasons You Are Not Finding your Ancestor”

“Common Mistakes in Genealogy”

“Common Mistakes in Genealogy (Part 2)”

“Genealogy Brainstorming: I’m Stuck. Now What?”

For more recommended tutorials, see the next blog: “How To: Utilize the Skills of a Seasoned Genealogist to ASCERTAIN YOUR TRUE AUTHENTIC ANCESTRY rather than a mythical unproven fairytale legend (truth vs. error/fake/fraud)!”

Blessings in your research, and in joining this “movement” to correct the inadvertantly-created brick-wall errors in our family trees!!! We can do so, by diligently, conscientiously, documenting our searches & findings, writing succinct analyses, then sharing them online.

Rose Herndon Bonnell

By researcher, Rose H. Bonnell, 15 July 2016
Citation: This blog post is the Intellectual Property of Rose Herndon Bonnell, you may use it with my permission when properly cited.

Find A Grave Contributions: The Battle & Current Status

Search Family Disambiguation’s cemetery records at

by clicking on this phrase: Family Disambiguation.

(So far, I haven’t figured out how to fix this link any other way, but there’s no harm in that. The first page you come to has links to my 6 memorials by clicking on that phrase in the upper right quadrant.)

My memorials are for public service clarification & differentiation (disambiguation) purposes.

I have added 6 memorials to Find A Grave (joined six months ago with this purpose, finally did it this week, alas, without photos). Of necessity for clarification, the bio-sketches run longer than I’d like (but I have benefited by a few lengthy ones I’ve found by others in the past, & the website allows the length so I hope it will pass muster):

For convenience, I’ve listed these in sets of couples (the first four entries are for disambiguation purposes, separating a massive mis-merge!):

* Find A Grave Memorial# 166553946: Younger Herndon (1785 – 1859)

* Find A Grave Memorial# 166714909: Sarah Ann possibly Wilson Herndon (1801 – 1860)

* Find A Grave Memorial# 166677991: Philip Herndon ([ca.] 1805 – 1848)

* Find A Grave Memorial# 166715088: Sarah Hitchcock Herndon (1807 – 1851)

* Find A Grave Memorial# 166738704: (PVT) Benjamin Herndon ([ca.] 1760 – 1814)

* Find A Grave Memorial# 166825324: Ann Newton Herndon ([ca.] 1763 – 1831)

ALERT: Immediately after posting those FindAGrave entries, having emailed FindAGrave editor asking for oversight & arbitration of the difficulty in separating an inaccurate mis-merged “fake” composite family on their website and to make a policy concerning mismerged individuals (two-in-ones) & couples (four-in-twos), having supplied all documentation, and after originally posting this blog, I received a very disturbing reply.

I am speaking of my 3x Great-grandparents: one man & one woman, who are represented by an earlier FindAGrave patron (the current memorial manager is not the memorial creator), but erroneously merged two men & two women & their two sets of children into one. I was unsuccessful in convincing the current manager that the memorials were completely inaccurate, wrong dates (day & month of birth belonging to an uncle), wrong spouse (belonging to a separate man, the other half of the mis-merge), some wrong children who belong to the other half of the mis-merged couple, and needed a complete overhaul for correction, that in fact she had only one authentic individual person, the spouse being a mis-merge of two men, none of the dates correct, and the children attributed to them were a complete mix-up between the two couples. Evidently the current memorial manager’s interest is in quantity of feathers in the hat & not accuracy of the memorial. She doesn’t know the true wife of the half of the man she wants to keep, and isn’t releasing any portion of the four-way mis-merge when she is only representing two of four people (only one really, because her other is a fake which does not exist).

In making FindAGrave aware, I was greatly disappointed to find that the “curator” (don’t know if there’s only one or if that is what they call all their customer service editors) who replied to me was only interested in first-rights of the current manager regardless of inaccuracy and asked that I take down my “duplicates.” In response, I immediately removed Sarah Hitchcock Herndon [Corrected] (as Sarah Hitchcock is the only authentic person of her two memorials) and that Sarah’s true spouse Philip Herndon (half of the mis-merge).

Problem is, although the current memorial manager offered to remove the erroneous names, she hasn’t, and has ceased communication, not answering my last two emails, AND she wants to retain the identity of my ancestor Younger Herndon (retaining the erroneous name Philip), taking over my unique entry for Sarah Ann possibly Wilson (who was previously unknown to her), without releasing the other half of the mis-merged set (the Philip portion & his wife Sarah Hitchcock).

Although I supplied links to 3 volumes of 733+ pages of documentation separating the two couples & families, it appears neither the memorial manager, nor FindAGrave editor/curator are interested enough to do more than barely skim my letter. I sent a follow-up letter to FindAGrave editor/curator, requesting escalation of the problem to FindAGrave policy-makers, and can only hope that since it was bought-out by, they will make policy-changes to ensure accuracy of the memorials.

As it’s going, since the current memorial manager has ceased communication, & FindAGrave wants me to merely work through her, which I’ve freely offered to both to do, my hands are tied, and the accuracy of my ancestors hang in the balance, hostages to the whims of an unwilling memorial manager (whether due to mere ignorance or willful disregard for truth)!

As you can see by this, just because memorials & family linkages are on a massive database (even FindAGrave) are adopted into an official county cemetery book (as these mis-merges of my ancestors were in 2008), you cannot take these undocumented postings as fact, you must treat them as mere clues which must be verified. It is crucial that you do your own research, no matter how long published, copied into online trees, mass-copied, and mass-proliferated & mass-disseminated, because the sheer volume of mass-copied material does not equal consensus or truth! If not doing your own verification & fact-checking from original documents, you only perpetuate myth, and you often are buying a lie, a falsehood, which creates the genealogical brick walls which is why you cannot find these non-existent “fakes” in the documents.

So the question is, how much are you willing to do to establish what is true, to separate fact from fiction? Do you want to perpetuate a fairytale without basis in documentation, or do you want to find your true ancestor? It’s up to you! If you don’t want truth, you may as well write fiction as to post names to erect a family tree which isn’t real.

This is a formidable uphill battle against the tidal wave of erroneously hypothesized, then widely-corresponded, incrementally adopted & posted, then mass-copied, & integrated into online trees, now canonized & published as proven fact in an official 2008 county cemetery book & on FindAGrave, when there is zero documentation in original records to back it up. All because a respected somebody said it might be so (that the given name Younger might have been used in the sense of Junior and maybe he was connected to a Philip Herndon & therefore maybe his name was Philip Younger, meaning Philip Junior), and tragically that genealogist died while he was still working through it, having made many cross-outs & over-writes in his original notes which few have access to and many do not take the time to avail themselves of, yet he was misquoted, and the mis-merge of two men’s names began, being rumored for decades on the internet back-and-forth across the nation without the foundation of dates, and a monstrous error emerged, two men conflated into one, (probably father & son or uncle & nephew), their two wives both named Sarah confused as one, and the children of both couples mixed into one—which has been posted, published, touted and integrated so many ways, people aren’t open to investigating the truth—because the story’s been told wrong too long, it’s taken on a life of it’s own, overshadowing our true ancestors—and totally erasing the other half of the couple, denying their very existence!

So the question facing us is: how do you establish truth to people who have “bought” the fiction, the falsehood, hook-line-and-sinker? Despite my three decades of research on that line, my nearly seven years intensively spent on connecting them & their parents & children, with my nine whole months spent exclusively on separating the mis-merger by supportive documents, I’m finding people not willing to even look in detail. What must be done? First they have to be educated to care. This is my attempt to turn the tide and aim people in the right direction.

Now my six FindAGrave Memorials have been reduced to four (due to obedience & conformity, not consensus or agreement). Depending on FindAGrave (and the curator who replied to me, as well as the current memorial manager), my two remaining unique ones for the mis-merged couple may be at risk; perhaps all of them if FindAGrave decides to erase all my contributions (as I’ve read they’ve done to others).

This well illustrates why it’s been so important to me that a Disambiguation Central (as I originally called it) or Disambiguation Station (which I changed to for rhyming & memory & recognition purposes) or Family Tree Fixer (which I’m working on) be established for the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) correction of online family trees, because I am absolutely certain, I’m not the only genealogist facing this problem of erroneous fictional brick-wall-catalyst info being published and adhered to in place of the truth of my authentic ancestors. Heaven help us is my prayer & my call to you for action. May we unite in using genealogical proof standards and principles of educated correlation & deduction to “reveal facts not stated in any one record” (as taught by Thomas W. Jones, of Board for Certification of Genealogists).

Citation: By researcher, Rose H. Bonnell, 15 Jul 2016 & 15 Aug 2016.
Provenance & Permissions: This blog post is the Intellectual Property of Rose Herndon Bonnell (
com/212) permission is granted for use when quoted in full, with proper attribution & citations.

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To Apply or Not-to-Apply “Occam’s Razor,” a Problem-Solving Tool

Having been an early avid mystery reader, initially I thought there was a strong case for application of this principle to genealogical research, but that’s long since changed. Life experience has taught me to see there are too many variables that occur, working together to bring each into the path of destiny, fore-ordained mission, or purpose, or whatever you want to call it. I concur with Mark Twain’s coined saying, “Truth is [often] stranger than fiction.”

We hopefully all know (& have experienced) how God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform, and so sometimes, although the path from A to B is usually direct, sometimes it can be via a very convoluted journey, not as the proverbial crow flies. We’ve heard the term & seen the examples of degrees-of-separation, how things can be related and superficially linked via distant connections. That being said, in crime-solving, or solving a mystery of any kind, there is a problem-solving tool that is sometimes, even often, accurately utilized. Many times it is very useful. It is termed, “Occam’s Razor.”

When I was a teen I enjoyed reading fictional mysteries, particularly one series which introduced me to this concept. Its cases were solved by fictional characters Jupiter Jones & friends Peter Crenshaw & Bob Andrews in “Three Investigators” or its earlier title “Alfred Hitchcock & the Three Investigators,” by Robert Arthur Jr. & successors (1964-1987). At (, the recurring plot is summarized thus: “Most mysteries were solved by Jupiter Jones, a supreme logician who implicitly used the Occam’s Razor principle: that the simplest and most rational explanation should be preferred to an explanation which requires additional assumptions.”

So what is “Occam’s Razor” & how is it applied specifically to genealogy?

According to a math website (, data updated 1997 by Sugihara Hiroshi, original by Phil Gibbs 1996: “Occam’s (or Ockham’s) razor is a [problem-solving] principle attributed to the 14th century logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham. Ockham was the village in the English county of Surrey where he was born. The principle states that “Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.” Sometimes it is quoted in one of its original Latin forms to give it an air of authenticity:

“Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate”
“Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora” …

In application to mathematics & physics (with application also perhaps to genealogy detectives), this math website explains: “The most useful statement of the principle for scientists is: “when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better.”

At (, “How Occam’s Razor Works” by Josh Clark: he explains: “You’ve probably heard it before: The simplest explanation is usually the right one. Detectives use it to deduce who’s the likeliest suspect in a murder case — you know, the butler did it. Doctors ­use it to determine the illness behind a set of symptoms. This line of reasoning is called Occam’s razor. It’s used in a wide variety of ways throughout the world as a means to slice through a problem or situation and eliminate unnecessary elements. But what we call the razor is a little different than what its author originally wrote. There are two parts that are considered the basis of Occam’s razor, and they were originally written in Latin… [meaning] “It’s elementary. The simplest explanation is usually the correct one. [—] Or is it?” …

According to the respected encyclopedia ( “Occam’s razor, also spelled Ockham’s razor, also called law of economy or law of parsimony, [is a] principle stated by the Scholastic philosopher William of Ockham (1285–1347/49) that pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate, “plurality should not be posited without necessity.” The principle gives precedence to simplicity: [that] of two competing theories, the simpler explanation of an entity is to be preferred. The principle is also expressed as “Entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity.” The principle was, in fact, invoked [earlier,] before Ockham by Durandus of Saint-Pourçain, a French Dominican theologian and philosopher of dubious orthodoxy, who used it … (100 of 320 words)”

And back to Wikipedia’s summary (’s_razor):
“Occam’s razor (also written as Ockham’s razor, and lex parsimoniae in Latin, which means law of parsimony) is a problem-solving principle attributed to William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), who was an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher and theologian. The principle can be interpreted as stating [“]Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. The application of the principle can be used to shift the burden of proof in a discussion. However, Alan Baker, who suggests this in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, is careful to point out that his suggestion should not be taken generally, but only as it applies in a particular context, that is: philosophers who argue in opposition to metaphysical theories that involve any kind of probably “superfluous ontological apparatus.”[a] Baker then notes that principles, including Occam’s razor, are often expressed in a way that is unclear regarding which facet of “simplicity”—parsimony or elegance—the principle refers to, and that in a hypothetical formulation the facets of simplicity may work in different directions: a simpler description may refer to a more complex hypothesis, and a more complex description may refer to a simpler hypothesis.[b] Solomonoff’s theory of inductive inference is a mathematically formalized Occam’s razor:[2][3][4][5][6][7] shorter computable theories have more weight when calculating the probability of the next observation, using all computable theories that perfectly describe previous observations. In science, Occam’s razor is used as a heuristic technique (discovery tool) to guide scientists in the development of theoretical models, rather than as an arbiter between published models.[8][9] In the scientific method, Occam’s razor is not considered an irrefutable principle of logic or a scientific result; the preference for simplicity in the scientific method is based on the falsifiability criterion. For each accepted explanation of a phenomenon, there may be an extremely large, perhaps even incomprehensible, number of possible and more complex alternatives, because one can always burden failing explanations with ad hoc hypothesis to prevent them from being falsified; therefore, simpler theories are preferable to more complex ones because they are more testable.[1][10][11]”

On another website ( Gavin Kistner posted on 13 Dec 1999: “Occam’s Razor: Do you really know what it means? In [the movie,] Contact, Dr. Arroway (played by Jodie Foster) is asked “Do you know what Occam’s Razor is?” to which she responds (roughly): “Yes, it’s the scientific principle that, all things being equal, the simplest answer is usually the right one.” No it isn’t! It’s not it’s not! I keep hearing people refer to Occam’s Razor (also, I discovered, acceptably spelled “Ockham’s Razor”) as though it means that simpler explanations tend to be right. Occam’s Razor is this: “one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything” – William of Ockham. [UPDATE: The page from which I got that quote has rather liberally translated the original. I’m now finding a variety of english translations for the original latin “Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate”, such as “Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily,” and “Plurality should not be posited without necessity.” Some other night I’ll do a consensus search and find the most accurate translation.] Occam’s Razor, in my [Gavin Kistner’s] words, means that if you have a working explanation for something, don’t go making it more complicated. Which, yes, means that the first hypothesis you try is the simplest one…but that doesn’t mean that it’s RIGHT because it’s simple, it just means that it’s the best explanation to try until it doesn’t work. For example, say you plot three points on a graph, all in a line, and are trying to come up with a function which will describe the rest of the points you plot. There are an infinite number of equations which will pass through those three points, but the best assumption to make is that all the points will lie along the line. Occam’s razor says so. What Occam doesn’t say is that choice is the “right” one just because it’s simple. If you plot a fourth point which doesn’t end up in line with the other three, is there egg on Occam’s face? …”

Finally, My Own Summary Disclaimer: Occam’s Razor, then, must be used with caution in the examination of evidence, because sometimes, for example, in a jump-to-conclusion & rush-to-judgement, parents or spouses or butlers are wrongly accused of crimes, viewed as being ones with quickest access & by familiarity also ones with quickest supposed motive. Several cases come to mind. However, on the converse, it is also true, at least in operating a motor vehicle, that usually, or at least often, the least circuitous route is the one taken. My Point: Don’t make too many jumps in your jumps-to-conclusion in building your wall of evidence!

Interestingly enough, just now, when wondering if other genealogists use this theory, I found this post by another genealogist, Timothy Andrew Barber “Andy” ( he wrote: “As I was contemplating a name for this genealogy website, for whatever reason, I was reading an article on Occam’s Razor. For those who don’t know about Occam’s Razor, here you go: In it’s simplest form, Occam’s Razor is a problem solving principle that, basically, says… all things being equal, the simplest answer is the best. Upon reading further, however, I found that a more concise definition is… “Among competing hypotheses that predict equally well, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.”” [Notice his point: “among competing hypotheses that predict equally well”—in genealogical research that’s calling for a lot; how many hypothetical scenarios can be equated as bearing truly “equal” weight?

BOTTOM LINE: My question is this, the simplest answer being the “best” or preferred one, is it always the TRUE one? I have to concur with Gavin Kistner cited above, and with the spirit & fact expressed in the song lyrics: “God bless the broken road that led me straight to you,” (“Broken Road” performed by RASCAL FLATS, written by songwriters: JEFF HANNA, MARCUS HUMMON, ROBERT E. BOYD; Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group), because real life (like a soap opera) proves it is not necessarily so! Circumstances in real life are often circuitous! So, for whatever it’s worth, I place it here for your careful consideration. Occam’s Razor, may, or, may not be helpful, depending on the truth! What did God do in orchestrating circumstances in the lives of the ancestors you are researching?

Suggested Reading for your elucidation & enjoyment: and

Citation: By researcher, Rose H. Bonnell, 3 February 2016 & 2 Sep 2016.
Provenance & Permissions: This blog post is the Intellectual Property of Rose Herndon Bonnell (
com/170) permission is granted for use when quoted in full & properly cited.

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