Those Darn Wells’ .. A Mountain Of Data

In Those Darn Wells’ .. The Problem, I detailed a family lineage error that is at about 150 years old, an unfortunate error that has been perpetuated in books, letters and online trees.  After a trip to Salt Lake City I returned home with 9.85GB of data distributed between 35 PDF’s and 1,662 photos.  Where to even start?

We started by creating a new family tree (called Those Darn Wells’).  We are using RootsMagic as it easily allows you to have one file that contains multiple trees. We started our tree with our (hopefully) ultimate destination: “Our Richard Wells” tree.  This tree contains 17 people, spread among 11 families.








The next stand-alone tree we added was the documentation of the Dr Richard Wells family (Col. George Wells parents), and their tree.  Where did we get this information?  One of the sources we made photocopies of in the Salt Lake City, from a book “Anne Arundel Gentry, A Genealogical History of Some Early Families of Anne Arundel County, Maryland” by Harry Wright Newman published in 1971.  The biography is on pages 496-516, and added 25 new families and 39 new people.

The trick with this overwhelming quantity of data is to take each stand-alone fragment and and create a “little tree” that only contains the people mentioned in the fragment.  Examine these entries for a Richard Jr, Thomas, William and William Wells.

Create “mini-trees” for each entry

From these entries I can create 4 tiny trees for the cited events that occurred in Baltimore County, Md:

  1. Richard Wells Jr whose wife is Jane Renshaw, daughter of Jane Renshaw (we don’t know who here husband is yet), who left her granddaughters Cassandra, Laurana, Elizabeth and Susanna an inheritance on 07 Aug 1754 (2 families, 7 people)
  2. Thomas Wells married Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Joshua Howard on 16 Sep 1736 (2 families, 3 people)
  3. William Wells married Sarah Jenkins, daughter of William Jenkins on 04 Sep 1760  (2 families, 3 people)
  4. William Wells married Fenecil [Rachel?] Jenkins, daughter of William Jenkins on 01 Sep 1763 (2 families, 3 people)

Notice we created two different William Wells trees.  Nothing in this information tells us that it is the same William marrying two different daughters of William Jenkins.  In fact, unless we do some additional research, we don’t know that this is even the same William Jenkins.  Instead, it may be two completely different families.  So, until we have additional information, these are 4 families, with some information, but we do not yet combine the William Wells or the William Jenkins families!

Our hope is that over the next weeks and months, as we assemble additional fragments of names from the gathered sources including: deeds, taxes, marriages, births, deaths, estates/probate and other records that these “little families” will assemble themselves into fewer larger families, as we figure out family relationships, and we hope that by the end of this process we will discover whose family “our Richard Wells” belongs too (if any).

More to come ..

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Those Darn Wells’ .. Our Haul

In Those Darn Wells’ .. The Problem, I detailed a family lineage error that is at about 150 years old, an unfortunate error that has been perpetuated in books, letters and online trees. Recent biographies of the Col. George Wells family by Robert W Barnes and Henry C Penden do not include “my Richard” in this family, which confirms an error has occurred, but does not answer my fundamental question: who are the parents of the Richard Wells, whose daughter Frances married Daniel Kenley in Baltimore County, Maryland in 1739?

During RootsTech my cousin Elisa and I spent a week in Salt Lake City at the Family History Library and worked our way through the catalog (non-online items), making photocopies and taking pictures.

A Row of Microfilm Cabinets. I will miss microfilm, but love being able to view the images at home

The majority of resources we worked with were books, but some of the material was still on microfilm.  With the current rate of microfilm to digital image conversion projects we discovered the majority of microfilm has already (at least for these 3 counties) been converted to images, and can be accessed through the FamilySearch

Vertical microfilm storage (top half of each cabinet)

Horizontal microfilm storage (bottom half of cabinet)

catalog. If the material is available online, then we skipped the resource; we can access the material from the comfort of home.



So, how much material did we find in the library? 9.85GB worth for 3 counties in Maryland!

  • 35 PDF’s: pages we printed out from 35 different books or books that we found digital versions of online at google books or other online archives
  • 515 photos: from 15 different items specific to Anne Arundel county
  • 589 photos: from 19 different items specific to Baltimore county
  • 269 photos: from 17 different items specific to Harford county
  • 289 photos: from 13 different items for all counties in Maryland

What are we going to do with this mountain of information?  Stay tuned ..

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Those Darn Wells’ .. The Approach

In my last post, Those Darn Wells’ .. The Problem, I detailed a lineage error that is at about 150 years old, an unfortunate error that has been perpetuated in books, letters and online trees.  What to do?  My cousin, Elisa, and I decided to meet in Salt Lake City for a week, attend the RootsTech Conference, and spend every free minute in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City!

Baltimore County Resources in Family History Library, Salt Lake City

Our approach?  Identify the counties that were settled early (our Richard was born in the 1690’s), and the parent county of the area where our Richard lived.  Our list:  Anne Arundel, Baltimore, and Harford counties!  Next, I went into the FamilySearch catalog, and conducted a search for each of our targeted counties.

The FamilySearch catalog has a feature that allows you to build a printable list by adding an item, book, microfilm or digital collection, to a Catalog Print List.  I examined each of the resources in each county and built a list of items to pull in the library.  I excluded any resource that is online and can be accessed from home (with a non-LDS account).  These resources can be perused from the comfort of home.  I also excluded any resources focused on the years after Richard died (he died in 1782).  My goal was to identify all of the books and microfilm’s that we could only access in Salt Lake City!

Our Research Plan for Baltimore County

I printed the list for each county and took them to Salt Lake City. Looking at the Baltimore county list, you will see I hand wrote the format, BK (book), PDF (digital book that can only be accessed in a family history center), and MF (microfilm), ONLINE (for resources online access in FHL).

These printouts formed the core of our Research Plan.  These are the list of books and microfilms we wanted to examine for any and all mention of the last names we were looking for: Wells, Wilson, Wright and Kenley.

My next post will discuss our trip and how well our research plan worked.

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Those Darn Wells’ .. The Problem

On 06 November 1739, Daniel Kenley married Frances Wells in Aberdeen, Harford County, Md.  Frances was the daughter of Richard and Elizabeth Wells, my 7th great grandparents.  I still don’t know Elizabeth’s maiden name.

Every place I research, online, in books, in books printed in 1800’s, and in letters in various manuscript collections dating from the mid-1800’s, the parents of “my” Richard Wells are listed as Col. George Wells and his wife Blanche Goldsmith.  The parents of Col. George were Dr. Richard and Frances Whyte Wells.

Col. George Wells and Blanche had a family of 5 children: Blanche, Benjamin, Frances, Susannah and George. Each of these children were identified in the will of George and Frances’ separate will.  Nowhere, in either will, or the remaining probate records, is there mention of a child named Richard.  Col. George’s will was drawn up more than a year before his death, and Blanche’s will was written about a month prior to her death.  However, for each of these children, there are many surviving records: deeds, probate records, church records, tax records, governing council records, etc.

Conclusion: Col. George & Blanche Wells Are NOT “my” Richard Wells’ Parents!

While it does make sense that there would be a son Richard, after all Col. George’s father was named Richard, what does not make sense, is that given the prominence and assets of the family (thousands of acres, with each of the 5 named children receiving 600-1500 acres each, cash, crops and cash equivalents), provisions should have been made for such a young child, 10 years younger than his nearest sibling, born when Blanche was 45.  While having a child at 45 years of age is not unheard of, I should be able to find some evidence of his connection to Col. George and Blanche, or to their equally prominent children, given the large quantity of primary records that remain, documenting this prominent family!

Since I find no records to support Richards connection to this well-known, well documented, and established family, despite the many books, letters and online trees that state there is a connection, I have come to the conclusion, that while my Richard Well’s father may have been named George, his father is not the Col. George Wells married to Blanche Whyte.  As a note, I have not located any information that identifies my Richard’s father.

In my next post, we will explore my new research direction, and I will continue to chronicle my progress, or lack of progress thereof, in determining the parents of “my” Richard Wells.


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GenDetective version 3.1 Now Available!

GenDetective 3.1 is now available for download.  This update is free to current GenDetective 3.0 users.

Version 3.1 adds fixes for several small issues and introduces one new feature.

Customized User Interface Colors, a new feature in GenDetective 3.1

  • Introducing user controlled color selection for the user interface.  See this post for information on how to use this wonderful new feature. Although the colors in the picture are not coordinated, they do demonstrate that you can make your own color selections.  You can now customize the colors used in:
    1. The Maps
    2. Research Progress Graphs
    3. The User Interface Colors (grids that display lists of people)
    4. The Reports!
  • Tweak to correct sizing on computer screens with a magnification of up to 450%
  • Corrections to queries for a couple of reports


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What if purple is my least favorite color?

Back in October, during the BETA testing of GenDetective v3, we received this email from John:

“what if purple is my least favorite color.  Can you give me one or two or more options?”

It’s a great idea, and as we told John, we would add it to GenDetective 3.1!  Now, you can customize the colors used in GenDetective.  What colors?  Just about every color used in maps, charts, reports and the user interface.

You start color customization by going to the Configuration Menu, clicking on Customize GenDetective.

Each of the color choices will launch a pop-up screen that allows you to chose your colors for each user interface element.  Click on the color bar to change the color.  Select from pre-defined colors, or create your own colors.  Looking at the choices of elements you can configure, you will notice some elements can not be change.  Color options include most elements of the program that use color, but gray and white are still with us.

To see changes to the general program colors, you will need to exit GenDetective and relaunch the program.  Report, map and chart color changes will be updated as soon as you click on an item.  If you don’t like your color selections, tweak the colors, or start over by clicking the “Reset Default Colors” button.

Below are two pictures showing the range of customization now available to GenDetective users.

Change your map colors!

Change your reports colors!









Have fun changing your maps, charts and reports to match your color preferences.  Hopefully, this works for John as well!

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What is My Tree View?

My Tree View is new to GenDetective v3, and is a combination of the visualization achieved by My Personal Research Goals, My Research Progress and a traditional view of your family!  What do I mean by the traditional view of your family?  That block view, used by every genealogy software program, where each person is to their parents, who are each connected to their parents, and is repeated for several generations.  That same view we study each day hoping for that brainstorm that will help us burst through our brick wall!

Why include this block view in GenDetective?  Because we have augmented it by combining the traditional block view with My Research Progress.  It is a view of your family that you will find nowhere else.  Instead of just showing you what you already know, it summarizes your research progress and identifies, at a glance, where you have met your research goals, and where you haven’t.  The Tree View puts the analysis of GenDetective at your finger tips, even as you look at that familiar view of your family!

New My Tree View!

Moving around the screen:

  1. Upper left: traditional view of your family, with one wrinkle, the footprint showing your Personal Research Progress for each person
  2. Upper right: the family members for the selected person (William Fleming Taylor). Click on any person to navigate to that persons tree
  3. Lower right: the research progress for this person.  Click on each link to see what has and what has not been located
  4. Lower left: a timeline showing the events of this persons life

When each of these elements are combined together, you get a new powerful research tool, providing insight into your research and each persons life, all in a single place, My Tree View!

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