Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lessons Learned about Family trees on Rootsweb: The case of children of James F Davis and Dora Nix

A fellow Godwin researcher sent me information from some family trees that were posted on about the Dora Nix and James F. Davis family. I contacted the researchers who posted these trees to get more information about their research and to find out more information about this elusive James F. Davis.

In both of the trees, there were two daughters listed as children of Dora Nix and James F Davis. They were Osceiola Davis and Tillie Davis. According to the trees, Oscieola Davis married Samuel Walker Loyd and Tillie Davis married William E. Carpenter. William E. Carpenter was the son of Dora Nix Davis and her second husband, William Carpenter. If Tillie Davis were really the daughter of James F. Davis and Dora Nix, then that would mean that Tillie Davis married her half brother Willie Carpenter!

I questioned that situation and started digging. One of the trees referenced the file of Mike Peters. After some digging, I found a Pedigree Resource file Mike Peters had posted to the website. Sure enough, there was Dora and James F . Davis with two daughters: Tillie Davis (married William Carpenter) and Osieola Davis (married Samuel W. Loyd).

Mike Peters also posted marriage information on William Carpenter to Dora Davis to the Sharp Co., AR Marriage Record website. I found Mike’s address and I wrote him a letter. In the letter, I asked him for source information for James, Tillie, and Osieola Davis.

My letter was received and answered!

In an email, Mike said he had the death certificate of his grandmother, Osieola Davis Clark (Los Angeles, CA). The certificate listed James F. Davis as Osieola’s father. He also confirmed that Tillie Davis who married William E. Carpenter was NOT James and Dora Davis’ daughter.

While looking through other files on, I found another user submitted Family Data Collection file posted by Nellie Mae Conklin on one Otala “Tillie” Aldrich who married William Carpenter, son of William Carpenter and Dora Nix Davis Carpenter! Tillie and William Everett Carpenter’s death records can be found on the CA death record site.

Nellie Mae Conklin has published several books that are available in libraries across the country. She did submit to the LDS FHL a book on Tillie’s Aldrich family, with some entries on the Carpenter family. However I was not able to borrow it through my local FHL because evidently they don’t allow unmicrofilmed books to leave the library in Salt Lake City.

So…with the success of my last letter writing excursion fresh in my mind, I set off to write another letter to the 89 year old Nellie Mae Conklin in which I requested either a copy of the book or a copy of her Carpenter family entries from the book.

I am eagerly awaiting her reply.

There are many lessons learned in this essay:

Use user submitted rootseb family tree files as a guide only and don’t believe everything your read as fact

Remember to dig deeper to find the actual sources of information

It illustrates how one small printed mistake can be reproduced for many years

Letter – writing can be successful!


Oscieola Davis was my 2nd great-aunt and you can read more about her life here.

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