Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wisdom Wednesday - Can a Published Genealogy Be Wrong?

The short answer is "of course".

Genealogies are written by people and people make mistakes. I have made more than a few, myself. But, I will say that once information is published in a book or genealogical research paper, they become part of the "conventional wisdom" and are treated as established fact in the genealogy of those individuals.  

My personal experience is that the quantity and quality of evidence needed to alter what is accepted fact after a genealogy is published becomes quite a challenge. In some cases, the amount of evidence needed to overcome the current accepted belief greatly exceeds the original evidence used to create the initial assumptions.  

The case that impacts me is about my ancestors David Fuller (Born:  1781, Horton, Nova Scotia) and his wife Mary. David Fuller was the son of Noah Fuller Jr (Born: 1750, Salem, MA). and grandson of Noah Fuller (Born: 1712, Salem, MA).  Noah Fuller Sr. was one of the original settlers to Horton, Nova Scotia. These settlers are known as New England Planters. More about them in future posts.

David Fuller, wife and sons removed from Horton, Nova Scotia and moved to Portland, Maine between 1840-1850.

There is not a lot of expert genealogical interest in David Fuller. He was not a famous figure nor was he a person of historical least not that I have uncovered. But according to my research he is my 3rd great grandfather, which makes him important to me.  However, if I believed what has been written in public genealogy records, then it is unlikely that he could be my ancestor.

The Conventional Wisdom

It has been asserted that David Fuller  married a woman named Mary Curry (Born:  July 11, 1795) daughter of Richard Curry and Rachel Bacon. Both David Fuller and Mary Curry were born in Horton, Nova Scotia. They were married in Grand Pre, NS on Sept 10, 1812. They had 5 daughters all born in Horton:  Lavinia, Rebecca, Sephrona, Matilda and Martha.  No sons.

It has been published that Mary Curry died in 1822, but there is no record of when or where David Fuller died or if he had any further children.

My Disagreement

My fundamental disagreement with this information is that I don't believe that David Fuller married Mary Curry. I believe he married a different woman all together. A woman named Mary Cary.  There is a good reason for this. When I review the original Horton Township Record book for Horton, Nova Scotia (which contains the birth, marriage and death information recorded for the town), it records that David Fuller married Mary Cary.  

My other challenge is that I believe I am descended from David and Mary's son, James Henry Fuller. But there is no record of him in the Horton Township Record book.

How the Conventional Wisdom became the Conventional Wisdom

Horton, Nova Scotia was a very small settlement. Only 100 or so families settled there in the early 1760s. It was typical that the families intermarried. So it is reasonable to believe that David's wife would be to one of the families already living in Horton at the time.

The Horton Township Book record indicates he married Mary Cary, but there wasn't a "Cary" family recorded as living in Horton, Nova Scotia at the time. The only name that was close was Mary Curry. She would have been about the right age. While it clearly does not say "Curry" in the Horton Township Book, this is explained by the general poor spelling and variations of how names were spelled at that time.  

In addition, Mary Curry was said to have died in 1822. All of the children recorded in the Horton Township Book are all born prior to 1822.

Anyone who has spent anytime working on family research knows that sometimes you have to make some assumptions to connect the dots between certain ancestors. In the absence of specific proof you have to make assumptions and make a leap of faith that they are correct.  

So as assumptions go, I can see why these were made and they do make an awful lot of sense.

However, the preponderance of the evidence I have uncovered indicate that David Fuller never married Mary Curry and that he did, in fact, marry Mary Cary.

The Supporting Evidence

The biggest leap of faith I had to take was that the David and Mary Fuller of Portland, Maine where the same David and Mary Fuller of Horton, Nova Scotia. There is no border crossing records that I have uncovered which show the immigration of the David and Mary Fuller or any of their sons.  

The second leap of faith I had to make was that even with no record of any sons in the Horton Township Book, that they did in fact have 6 sons named, David B., Benjamin W., James H., Theodore, Andrew H., and Colllingwood.

These do sound like pretty major assumptions, but don't judge too quickly. I do have overwhelming evidence to support them.

David. Mary and Sons of Portland Maine were from Horton, Nova Scotia

The US Census from 1850 shows that David, Mary, James, Theodore, Andrew and Collingwood all living together in Portland, Maine. In addition, it indicates that David and his sons were all born in Nova Scotia. It states that Mary was born in Massachusetts....which works, because this might help explain why her family wasn't included in the Horton Township Book.

The US Census from 1860 for Portland, Maine shows Mary Fuller living with Benjamin W Fuller and his family including Benjamin's brother James H.  Fuller.  David Fuller died somewhere between 1857-1860. I have not found his death record.

Mary Fuller died in Portland, Maine on Sept 16, 1873. I found both her death record and death notice in the paper which indicates that she was the Mary Fuller married to David Fuller.

Ok, So David and Mary and these sons were from Nova Scotia, but how do I prove that they are from Horton, NS?

My records show that 4 of the 6 sons became naturalized citizens. Two of the son's records show that they were born in "Norton, NS" and two show "Windsor, NS". Since there wasn't a "Norton, NS", we can discount this as an error. I am confident about this as Andrew H Fuller's naturalization says he is from "Norton, NS", but his obituary states he was born in "Horton, NS". In addition, David B. Fuller's death record states he was from Horton, Kings Co, NS

This is particularly important as Horton, NS was a small settlement. There were several Fuller families, but only one David Fuller who was the son of Noah Fuller Jr. and Elizabeth Bishop.  

David and Mary had Additional Children In Addition to Those Captured in the Township Book

Proving that David B. Fuller and the other men were born in Horton and Windsor, Nova Scotia doesn't prove that their parents, David and Mary Fuller are THE David and Mary Fuller from Horton, NS which are descended from Noah Fuller the original New England Planter.  

Which is why I needed to find some records which showed their mother's maiden name. I think you will agree that there COULDN'T have been two separate Fuller families living in Horton, NS which included a David Fuller and a Mary Cary, right?

I found death records for each of the Fuller sons (which was quite a feat in and of itself). Only 3 of the records included the names of each man's parents. ALL of those records listed the father as David Fuller and the mother as Mary Cary!

In addition, the 1838 Kings County Census records for Horton Township shows that David Fuller had a household of 13 people . The breakdown of ages of males and females lines up well to the fact that David and Mary had a total of 11 children that I have uncovered.  

At the time of the census, David and Mary's children would have been the following ages:

Lavinia - 25
Rebecca - 23
Sephrona - 21
Matilda - 19
Martha - 17
David B - 15
Benjamin W -13
James H - 11
Theodore - 9
Andrew H - 7
Collingwood - 2

This doesn't translates perfectly to the census, but very closely and would depend on when in the year the census was conducted. Also, I can't confirm, but it seems likely that either Lavinia or Rebecca would have been married by 1838 and judging from the time that lapsed between Andrew H and Collingwood's birth it is likely that there may have been another son who was born, but died young.

Connecting David and Mary's Daughters from Horton, NS to David and Mary Cary of Portland, Maine

By now, I hope that you can see that I have made a strong case that David and Mary Fuller moved to Portland, Maine and they did have 6 sons which were not recorded in the Horton Township Books.  

The last missing piece is trying to connect any of David and Mary's known daughters to my David and Mary Fuller or any of their brothers. This has proved to be very challenging!!  Matilda Fuller married Thomas Marine/Morine.  They lived in Kings County, NS, until they moved to Standish, Maine somewhere between 1880-1900. I have found a death record for Matilda Marine which records her father and mother as David Fuller and Mary Cary!!  

One more fact: I recently found out that David B. Fuller's middle name was "Bishop". This is significant because David Fuller Sr's father Noah Fuller was married to Elizabeth Bishop. The fact that David was given the middle name of the family name "Bishop" would be another compelling fact.

For me that was the final piece.  

Through a preponderance of the evidence, I think I have very convincingly proven that David and Mary Fuller of Portland, ME and David and Mary Fuller of Horton, Nova Scotia are one and the same, and they had a total of at least 11 children, 5 daughters recorded in the Horton Township book and had 6 sons who were not recorded.


When presenting this overwhelmingly strong argument, I am ALWAYS told, "but David Fuller married Mary Curry...I read it in the History of Kings, Co or other published genealogy.  Maybe David Fuller remarried after Mary Curry died....these could be the children of his second wife"!!


It has been very difficult to get anyone to take my evidence seriously,  because they feel like that the fact that Mary Curry married David Fuller is an established fact.   

Which leads to my next post:  Mary Curry's TRUE husband!


  1. You did a lot of work to find all this information. I would call it deductive reasoning. It looks good to me.

  2. Thanks Claudia! I have to say that Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorite fictional characters. He was the master of deductive reasoning.

  3. Chris, this is wonderful! I truly understand and appreciate the effort you put into this, time well spent to correct this very pervasive inaccuracy. Congratulations, cousin! Your reasoning is sound and logical and several records to back it up makes it very clear.

    Thank you so much for finding and sharing this. My tree will be corrected accordingly! :)

  4. Thanks, Marilynn! I put a lot of work into the research. We will get the truth out about Mary Cary one tree at a time :-)

  5. I am in no way related, but I found your reasoning very interesting...and sound. I am not familiar with the published genealogy you have referenced, but I wonder if it lists sources for its information. Without sources it is just opinion (says my journalist mind). I also love Sherlock Holmes; you are following in his steps nicely. Good luck!

  6. Thanks, Heather! The funny thing is they used the Horton Township Book as their source, but jumped to the conclusion that the spelling in the township book was misspelled and should have been Mary Curry. It wasn't a surprising assumption....but once it was published it became accepted by everyone :-(

    Elementary my dear, Heather, Elementary.

  7. I, too, have found errors in published genealogies on my family, written by family members - and I have also found errors about my family in several volumes of Goodspeed Publishing Company's "Biographical and Historical Memoirs" series in Arkansas.

    It's one of the reasons, albeit a minor one, that I blog. Too many people are just accepting what they see published - electronically or on paper - and running with it.

    If we are to be faithful storytellers, we need to get the story right. I think your consideration and assessment of all information in front of you is wise, and that you have arrived at the correct conclusions.

  8. Thanks, Dee-burris. I am sure I make mistakes, too. No one is perfect. But I try to get it right and will correct any mistakes that I uncover in my own research.

  9. Thank you for writing this. Too many times, people just take what is written in a book and run with it, never acknowledging it could be incorrect. For nearly a year, I have been doing "overkill" research to correct some things that were published in a book. You are so right about saying it takes more to correct it than it took to write it in the first place!

  10. @CC Thanks! It feels so good when you prove what you believe to be true! Keep it up until no one can poke a hole in it. Good luck!