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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What is My Research Progress?

In the last post I wrote about My Personal Research Goals, and how you use personal goals to identify the types of records you want to find for each ancestor.  Why go to this effort?  GenDetective uses your personal research goals to look at each person in your tree, comparing them to your goals, and then provides a visualization of your research.  Not by each person, instead My Research Progress shows you the people where you have located specific demographic .. and the people where you haven’t!

GenDetective’s analysis should not be confused with a reasonably exhaustive search, which is a detailed examination of a wide variety of records and manuscript collections.  GenDetective’s analysis is limited to a comparison to the list of checks you provided: yes, I want to find this record, and this one, but not that one.  GenDetective’s visualizations are limited to basic demographic records (birth, death, census, military service, immigration and religious events).

Research Progress .. Step 1

Looking at the screenshot (left), we can visualize our research.  Clicking on the Vital Statistics links results in the following screen.

My Research Progress — Vital Statistics .. Step 2

The Step 2 screen shows the research progress for the direct relatives in the area of Vital Statistics ..

  • Birth Date
  • Birth Location
  • Both Parents
  • Last Name
  • First Name

What do the 3 different colored bars mean? The dark purple is people that we’ve found the demographic for (first name, last name, …).  The blue color shows people whom we have not found the demographic for.  So, what’s left?  The pink color shows people where we’ve located some of the information!  For parents, that’s easy; one parent has been identified, but not the second parent.  For a date, like birth date, the pink represents an approximate date: circa 1817, between 1818-1821, a date of some form, but not very specific.  For a location, like birth location, the pink represents a generic location, a state or a country.  Not very specific, but much better than nothing!

Direct Relatives with Approximate Birth Dates – Step 3

Next, click on one of the colored sections of a bar, or on the equivalent link in the bottom section of the screen.  The Step 3 graphic shows the people who have an approximate birth date (note the ABT which I use in data entry for about).

In the picture the blue arrow points to a link you can use to print the list of relatives that are showing on the bottom part of the screen.

Lets look at a second example.

US Census Research, Direct Relatives

This screen shot shows my current research progress into locating US Census records.  I can visualize my progress, and by selecting any of the blue bars (I picked 1900) we see the following list.

Direct Relatives Not Located in 1900 US Census

You can use the Print this list link to send a report to the printer, or, just work off the list on your computer screen!  That quickly, with a few clicks of the mouse, we can drill into our tree and identify research opportunities.  Isn’t that what we’re all looking for, research opportunities?  The more we exploit those research opportunities, the more information we’ve compiled to break through our brick walls.

By using My Personal Research Goals and combining them with My Research Progress, GenDetective is providing a new visual way to research.  GenDetective is doing the work you, yourself would do, if you took the time to “study” what you have for each person in your tree.  Instead, GenDetective does this work for you, enabling you to do what you enjoy doing .. hunting down more records and clues to each persons life.

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My Personal Research Goals

What kind of feature is My Personal Research Goals?  My Personal Research Goals provides you with a way to share your goals, identify the types of information you attempt to find for each of the people in your family tree, with GenDetective.  These goals are yours and yours alone, and will most likely differ from the goals of other researchers.   The research and documentation required for someone whose goal is to join DAR or the Mayflower Society is different from the researcher who does not have such lofty goals.

Lets start with a person, any person you want to add to your tree.  If you want to add a person you might want to know some basic demographic information: a first and last name, maybe a birth date and location, and whether they are deceased, and if so when and where they died.  Are we in agreement so far?  I know maiden names of the girls can be problematic, but isn’t that a frequent goal?  To identify maiden names?

What other information might I want to research?

  • Census records? Federal, state and local?
  • Will and/or probate records?
  • Burial cemetery?  What about locating graves or markers?
  • Obituaries?
  • Immigration, emigration or naturalization information?
  • Occupations for men and maybe women?
  • Religious events? And if so, how many events do I try to locate?
  • Military service?

What if you look for wills and probate records, but only for your direct relatives, not for the first cousins?  What if you only look for census records from 1850 forward, not using those tick mark censuses?  GenDetective has a way for you to configure that information as well!

Configuring My Personal Research Goals

What’s up with those footprints?  GenDetective users those footprints to identify your personal research progress toward meeting your identified goals; visually showing you how far along the path of an ancestors life you have walked.

Using your personal goals, GenDetective can now identify the relatives that need additional research!  Instead of saying I want to research a specific type of record or person today, the question becomes:  Which of my relatives fall short of my personal research goals?

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How Does GenDetective Work?

GenDetective rearranges your family into viewpoints that differ from other genealogy products on the market, with the belief that if we scrutinize our family differently new research opportunities and paths may open.  The goal is to help you break through genealogy brick walls, inspire new thoughts, identify research opportunities (read more here).

Study your tree

GenDetective begins by using a GEDCOM file created by your family tree manager.  Who, what?  The software you use to add people and information to your family tree, products like: RootsMagic, Legacy, Family Tree Maker, MyHeritage,, and others, can export your tree into a file that can be shared with other genealogists and software programs.  This enables you to “tell” GenDetective everything you know about your family.  Since GenDetective is installed on your computer, your research never leaves your hands; it is not shared with anyone but you!  For additional information on GEDCOM files view our video: So What Is A GEDCOM file?  Don’t know how to create the file?  GenDetective includes videos showing you step by step what to do.

I have my GEDCOM file (.ged), what now? Launch GenDetective, and using the wizard, point to the file you just created and let GenDetective go to work.

Wizard scans your tree

Time estimate

The wizard will read your file and tell you how many people, families, events and other information it found.  It will also provide an estimate as to how much time it estimates it may take to “digest” the information.

GenDetective takes your family and:

  • Arranges it based on geography, the places where our family lived, married and died
  • Identifies research opportunities for each person, using lifespan and geography
    • Estimates birth and death if not provided
    • Missing vital statistics, death statistics, immigration ..
    • Census records found and missing (federal, state and local)
    • Potential military service

GenDetective Serves Your Data In New Ways!

The GenDetective Wizard has finished, what happens next?  Explore GenDetective and the information it has compiled about your family and explore, look at your family on a map, look at the suggested research opportunities, study your family in the context of geography.  GenDetective has the following views:

  1. My Research Progress
  2. My Tree View
  3. My Family View
  4. My Maps View
  5. Reports By Task

In the next few blog posts we will discuss each one of these views into your family and how to use them to identify research opportunities, and break through your brick walls.  That’s our goal right?  Smash through, tunnel under or leap over our brick walls and proceed with our exciting new research.


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