The Mixed Up Case of the Two James Youngs & Janet Robertsons in Renfrewshire, Scotland

which James Young-01

In May of 2014, I had a happy breakthrough moment when I added another generation to my tree on my Young line in Scotland.  It was a major victory that had just been waiting there for me.  That discovery led to additional discoveries when I found parents for both James Young and Janet Robertson.  In just a few short weeks I had added two full generations and plenty of descendants.  It was exciting!

My excitement quickly came to a halt.

You see, I like to participate in building the Family Tree in  So once I have researched a family well, I go into FamilySearch and try to update, source, add, merge, or whatever is needed, to help that Tree be as correct as possible.

When I went into the tree to add or attach James Young & Janet Robertson’s parents, I was faced with the most convoluted mess I’d come across yet.

This was my James & Janet with some of their children:

Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 2.18.49 PM

Everything looked pretty good.  Some facts, sources, children, and grandchildren were (and still are) missing, but otherwise, this was all correct.

But then a troubling duplicate reared it’s head when I went looking for James Young and Janet Ferguson, James’ parents.  I found this:

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 7.46.36 PMScreen Shot 2017-06-12 at 7.46.02 PM

So what is the trouble exactly?  Oh goodness, where do I begin…

This James Young has the same birth and death dates and places as my James Young.  He also has parents with the same names as my James Young’s parents.  His wife also has the same name as my James Young’s wife.  His first two children listed have the same names, birth dates, and birth places as my James Young’s first two children.

But then.  There are problems.

The marriage date and place are different by two years and 1 parish.  This James Young’s wife Janet Robertson has a different birth date and place, and different parents from my Janet.  And, who are those last two children?  They don’t seem to belong to my James Young and Janet Robertson.

The more I tried to unravel this, the more confusing it was.  I started by looking at the marriage records for both couples.  I wondered if they were a duplicate couple who had banns read in a neighboring parish?  Had the record of the banns been indexed incorrectly?  It’s a pretty big stretch since the entire date is so drastically different, but I wasn’t going to rule it out.  Looking at all of the records – all four – made it quite clear that there were two couples.  One who married in Renfrew, Renfrewshire in 1823 and one who married in High Church, Paisley, Renfrewshire in 1821.

At this point I decided I needed to complete a surname study for both parishes.  For the next three years I slowly went through the microfilm records for these parishes every time I went to BYU to research.  I had a notebook.  Every event for someone with the surname of Young was recorded.  It was slow and tedious.  I didn’t have much time to give to it.  It felt like it would take forever.

But then!  Ohhhh, this is about to get good…

About six weeks ago, I started helping two different people with Scottish research.  I hadn’t been working on my Scottish lines recently.  I knew that the ScotlandsPeople website had been updated.  I’d gotten lots of emails about it.  I just hadn’t tried it out yet.  There were so many complaints about glitches at first, that I thought I would let the dust settle before I used it.  I had other parts of my tree to work on, so it was just fine.

As I helped these two different people discover the joys of Scottish research, it started an itch for me.  I wanted to work on part of my Scottish lines again.

One afternoon, about 4 weeks ago, I was zipping around my house getting stuff done.  I had the strongest impression that I should revisit one of my brick walls – Andrew Brown, my 4th great grandfather.  I dropped everything and gave it a look.  Over the next three days I completely demolished that brick wall and had the best time pushing my tree back several generations.  But that, is a story for another day.

As my Andrew Brown journey was winding down, I thought about my dusty notebook and my Young Surname Study.  It hadn’t gotten any attention for a few months.  ScotlandsPeople is so different now.  I thought I could probably complete the project from home now without having to buy too many records.  So I pulled out my notebook and got to work.

I am sooooo happy to say that on Tuesday, the 13th of June, 2017, I tackled the main goal of my Young Surname Study.  I had enough information to accurately separate the two James Young and Janet Robertsons and their children.  I carefully fixed everyone, sourced them, and made sure they are attached to the correct family members.  That Tuesday was a long and wonderful day.

Without going into too many confusing details, this is what I discovered.

The James Young who was attached to my James Young’s parents is a different man.  He did in fact marry a Janet Robertson in 1821 in High Church, Paisley, Renfrewshire.  But after that, there is no trace of either of them.  No children, no death records, no census.  I don’t know where they went.

The first two children – James Young b. 1824 and Thomas Young b. 1828 were actually the children of my James and Janet and were duplicates.

The daughter, Jean Young, who did not belong to my James Young and Janet Robertson, did not belong to this James Young and Janet Robertson either.  She is the daughter of John Walker Young and Janet Robertson who were married in 1828 in Neilston, Renfrewshire.  Her complete name is actually Jean Anderson Young and this little darlin’ has two birth and baptism records in two different parishes.  Luckily for me, the father’s unusual occupation of (Calico) Printer in Grahamston was listed on both of her records, along with the detail that she was the couple’s 2nd child and 2nd daughter.

The last son listed, Robert Young, was not the child of my James and Janet or of this James and Janet either.  He was the son of a James Young and Janet Robertson who married in Paisley, High Church, Renfrewshire in 1831, four years before his birth in the exact same parish and ten years after the marriage of the couple he was attached to.

In the end, this meant that the convoluted James and Janet were left with no birth and death dates and places for James, no children, no parents for James, and still attached to the parents for Janet.  Parents that I did not research, so I can’t say for certain they are in fact her parents.

My James and Janet are now attached properly to their children and parents.  Well, aside from the few children I haven’t fully researched and added yet.

My surname study is not complete.  There are still plenty of family members I need to finish researching.  But these are my big takeaways from my progress so far:

First – Don’t be afraid of a mess in FamilySearch.  You can solve it!  Even if it takes three years.  No one messed with the mess because I left a very detailed note on both James Youngs explaining my research project.  If you want to work effectively in FamilySearch – communicate!  Leave notes, sources, and good explanations when you make changes or additions.

Second – A surname study is an AWESOME way to really get to know a parish and a family or set of families.  You get a good sense of how many people live there and how they are connected to each other.  It took my best guesses, and some surprise people and facts,  and turned them into concrete conclusions.

Third – There are A LOT of James Youngs in the county of Renfrew in Scotland.  😉


Have you ever completed a surname study?  Would a surname study help your research?



Understanding Family Tree on FamilySearch – An Introduction

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After my post on Friday about RootsMapper I can see that many of my readers are not completely familiar with Family Tree on FamilySearch.  So here’s the scoop… is a website that includes several parts:

  • Family Tree
  • Memories (which are integrated into Family Tree)
  • Search – this is where you search records
  • Indexing
  • FamilySearch Wiki which includes all sorts of help topics

Why is it important to understand the different parts?

Well, the search feature is sometimes confused with the find feature.

What now?

Yes, it’s confusing.  The search feature allows you to search for records about your family members.  The find feature allows you to search Family Tree to find your family members who exist within the tree.

Does that sound the same?  It’s really not I promise.

This is the point at which it’s important to understand the purpose of Family Tree – which is only ONE part of  Family Tree was created with the intent to be ONE tree representing all of mankind.  The goal is to get us to work together to create the most accurate and complete family tree with every person reflected in that tree only ONE time.  So that means I don’t “have a tree on FamilySearch”, I choose to participate in THE tree on FamilySearch.  That tree is named Family Tree.

It’s at this point that you may be questioning what this experience is like.  Because who wants to constantly collaborate right?  We order loving genealogists like to research something, document our findings, source someone and have it stay just as we left it, right?  Well, if you choose to participate in Family Tree you really need a more community minded perspective.  Successfully participating requires understanding the various types of experiences that occur in the collaboration process so you can preempt some of the problems and it requires patience.

You may be wondering what the benefits are to this type of community effort with the constant changes, mistakes, and disagreements.  Well, let me tell you what I’ve learned.

First, there is a place for everyone in genealogy from beginner to highly specialized expert.  When a beginner jumps in and participates in Family Tree they are bound to make mistakes.  How we approach those beginners can have a huge impact on their future efforts and how we feel about those mistakes.  Everyone brings something to the table and when we have an open mind we can be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

Second, two minds are better than one, and three minds are better than two, and on and on it goes.  When we really collaborate, we can create a much more accurate tree.  Really collaborating doesn’t mean that we are just tolerating other users, it means that we are communicating and working together to gather information, review the data and draw conclusions.  It requires writing good reason statements and leaving detailed notes so that our family members understand our reasoning.  When we take those steps our extended family members are much less likely to change our hard work.

Third, we are related to so many more people than we have met or heard of before.  By participating in Family Tree we can meet new cousins.  These connections are so good.  Guess what?  Physical items like pictures, family bibles, and journals can only be inherited by ONE person.  Connecting on Family Tree can often lead to a happy digital reunion with family heirlooms we didn’t know existed and those heirlooms can lead to more discoveries.  When we put all of our collective pieces together, the story becomes richer and more detailed.

Fourth, learning to have patience with such a massive project and all of the participants leads to personal growth AND cool genealogy discoveries.  Allow me to illustrate with a short version of a cool story.  A while back I got an email from FamilySearch notifying me that a change had been made to someone I was “watching” on Family Tree.  When I looked at it I was completely dismayed to see that “MY” James Young was a total mess.  It took some work to clean everything up and restore order in this part of the tree.  As I worked, I revisited my information about James Young.  He was my current end of line individual.  I hadn’t been able to find his death record.  All of this time cleaning him up led me to finally find that death record and then the death records of his parents.  That beginner making a mess of James Young helped me take my tree back two generations!  A mistake that brought awesome rewards.

If you have ever considered having a tree on FamilySearch I hope you will adjust your thinking and consider PARTICIPATING in Family Tree on FamilySearch.  The more the merrier!  The more experience, the more accurate the tree will be.  Family Tree can use you and your expertise on your family members.  Participating in Family Tree has been a great experience for me.  If you choose to participate I hope it will be a great experience for you too!


If you have questions about FamilySearch or Family Tree, please ask.  I am very familiar with utilizing both the tree and the other resources on FamilySearch and I want to share that knowledge.  I would love to use your questions to guide my posts on this topic.

Happy Monday!



FamilySearch Tip – Organizing Search Results

I love hearing people say, “Ooooh!” when I show them something new.

In fact, I sort of live for that moment.  Every Thursday and Sunday I work one on one with people on their genealogy.  Of all the tricks I have taught people this one is hands down the most simple and popular.  Hopefully it helps you make your research time more efficient.

A few things:

  • This is my first video tutorial.
  • This trick works even if you don’t start your search from Family Tree.  You can simply search in the records section of and use this trick to organize the results.
  • I’m sorry about the date mistake.  If you notice it, gold star for you.  🙂

Enjoy, and happy searching!


On Profile Pics and Bigfoot-sized Footprints

IMG_1417 - sharpen, skin edit - cropped - B&WBeauty + Lovely & Ethereal

That’s me – Amberly.

In the spring I watched Crista Cowan’s presentation at RootsTech.  It was pretty awesome.  She said something that gave me pause.  She said that people are much more likely to send a message to someone on ancestry if they have a profile picture.  Especially if their tree is private, like mine is.


Never thought about that really.  Makes sense though, right?  You see the picture of a smiling, friendly looking person and you trust them more than if you were looking at that generic, beige, default ancestry avatar.

I took her words to heart and later that day I went into my ancestry profile and uploaded a photo.  Well, I tried anyway.  Like three times.  Except the darn thing wouldn’t work.  It was probably some system issue because everyone who listened to Crista that day thought the same thing I did and we bogged down the profile photo portion of the website with our efforts.

Well, fast forward to a few weeks ago.  I remembered that I still didn’t have a profile photo on ancestry so I went in and successfully uploaded the above photo.  On the first try.  🙂  And, guess what happened?

Over the last few weeks I have gotten messages from four cousins I didn’t know before.  Four cousins from various parts of the globe.  They all messaged asking questions but were of course happy to offer information that they had as well.  It’s been a beautiful thing.  Lots of emailing and sharing details, documents, photos, and stories.

I love that!

Sharing really is awesome.

But that’s not all.  Another cousin noticed some work I had done in Family Tree on and sent me an email asking questions.  Again, more emailing, sharing details, documents, photos, and stories.  This cousin is from New Zealand and happens to descend from my Scottish branch.  He knew about a whole bunch of cousins that immigrated to NZ and was able to help me fill in some gaps.

But wait, there’s even more.  I had another cousin from Canada contact me on this here blog after reading a post I wrote about a common aunt several generations back.  She just recently went to Scotland to learn more about this branch of our family.  I can’t wait to hear all about her trip.

I’m so glad I have online trees and this blog.  They are excellent cousin magnets.  I’m doing my best to leave huge, bigfoot-sized digital footprints all over the web so that those cousins can easily get in touch with me.  It seems to be working.

My advice?  Add a profile pic, be sure to have your email address in your profiles, leave those big ol’ Sasquatch prints all over online.  Maybe you’ll get some emails too.

I do hope so.  After all, it’s delightful.


FamilySearch News


FamilySearch has announced two features that have me excited.

First up is ‘Hinting’.

Yep, just what it sounds like.  They are working on their own version of the shaky leaf that Ancestry uses.  If this sounds intriguing to you, you will need to participate in Family Tree on FamilySearch in order to use this feature.  It hasn’t been launched yet but is scheduled for ‘soon’.  You can read more here.

Second up are some tools new to the Descendancy View – ‘Data Problems’ and ‘Research Suggestion’.

In Family Tree you can change the view to Descendancy View for one of your ancestors and then click your way through their posterity in list format by expanding and closing things.  It gives you the ability to take a top down approach from one of your ancestors and see if all of their descendants are accounted for.  Off to the side there are now little icons that will indicate if the system believes there is a ‘Data Problem’ or if it has ‘Research Suggestions’ for you.  I have seen several that say things like, ‘Possible data problem, this individual lived for more than 120 years.’  Then I can go right to the person and check it out.  Either I have really awesome genes or someone made a little typo and I need to fix it.  You can read more about these new tools here.

Those FamilySearch folks have been working hard to make their website a powerful, free tool for genealogists.  Have you tried out Family Tree?  What do you think of it?


Putting Kiddos in Order

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The James Young & Ann Vickers family as seen in Family Tree on

A friend called me recently to ask why the children in a family were out of order on Family Tree in

I happen to know the answer to that one.  It’s a pretty easy fix and saves a lot of frustration for order loving genealogists.  In the above family group you will notice that the children are not in order.  Janet Erskine Young was born in 1874 yet eight of her younger siblings appear before her in the family group.

The reason for children being out of order is that either the birth date or place are not standardized.  Simply standardizing these items will put the children in order.

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Here is Janet’s Vital Information.  I clicked on her birth info.

Screen shot 2014-05-27 at 2.54.10 PMThis opens the birth info.  Next I clicked edit.

Screen shot 2014-05-27 at 2.54.26 PMYou can see that the birth date is yellow and claims ‘No Standard Selected’.  Pretty silly since the date is written in standard format.  I simply delete the 4 at the end of 1874 and then type the 4 again.

Screen shot 2014-05-27 at 2.54.39 PMThe next step is also silly but important for fixing the problem.  I wrote the date correctly but I need to select the version FamilySearch suggests in the drop down menu even though it is identical to what I typed.

Screen shot 2014-05-27 at 2.54.48 PMAfter choosing the date provided by FamilySearch I click save.  I have now successfully standardized Janet Erskine Young’s birth info.

Screen shot 2014-05-27 at 2.55.11 PMAnd there she is at the top of her family where she belongs.  Now I need to go standardize the rest of her siblings so that 6 year gap doesn’t trick anyone into thinking there are missing children when they are really just at the bottom of the family group.

There you have it, ordering children in Family Tree on



New tool on FamilySearch

FamilySearch went live with a new tool that makes attaching records to multiple people a lot faster.  This tool is new as of late last week.  I’ve used it a handful of times and have found that the function has not been identical every time.  Here is a breakdown of how it works – at least one of the ways it works.  Even though it’s not been perfectly consistent, each way is similar enough that you can follow this general set of instructions.


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I found this census record for Seth & Esther Maffit, my 3rd great grandparents.  After verifying it was the correct record for my family, I came back to the index page.  If I click the blue ‘Attach to Family Tree’ button, then I see the next image.


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The website is asking me to match the record to the correct Seth Maffit.  You can see there are two lists – ‘Possible Matches’ and ‘History List’.  The possible matches are pulled by the system, the history list is just a list of the people I have most recently worked on in Family Tree.  If neither of these lists pulls up the correct person you can find them using their ID number.  My Seth happens to be the top choice – Seth Potter Maffit.  After clicking ‘Select’, I see this.


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Some more details about Seth.  I can type a reason statement explaining why I am attaching the source and then click ‘Attach’.


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After attaching the record, the index page looks slightly different.  I can now ‘View in Family Tree’ and ‘Review Attachments’.  Clicking ‘View in Family Tree’ allows me to see who the record is attached to.  Clicking ‘Review Attachments’ is the cool new feature.  I clicked it and then see this page.


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On the left is the information from the record.  On the right is the family information about Seth Potter Maffit.  Notice the family members down at the bottom on the left.  They aren’t lined up with Seth’s family members.  Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t.  If they aren’t you can solve that by dragging and dropping.  I drug Esther’s census entry up and put it in the box next to her name and then it looked like this.


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Notice there is now the option to ‘Attach’ the record to Esther.  In order to drag and drop the kiddos I clicked ‘Open’ at the end of the first gray bar that says ‘Children from Family Tree’.  Then I see this.


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Now I can drag and drop the kiddos.


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Now everyone is lined up.  Well, everyone except for Charles Middlesworth.  I don’t know who that child is.  More research for another day.  The next step is to attach each one.  First click the blue ‘Attach’ between the record and the Family Tree entry.


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After you click ‘Attach’ you see something like this to compare the information from the record to the information from the tree.  You can also add a reason statement here.  When you are satisfied, click the blue ‘Attach’ button one last time.  Complete this process for each person.


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Now the 1870 Census is attached to each member of the Maffit family.  This tool has certainly sped up the process but it’s not nearly as streamlined as the tool.  I hope to see this tool get better with time.  For now I am happy that things are faster than they used to be.

Do you use Family Tree?  If so, try out this new tool and let me know what you think.

Happy attaching!