I realize that ancestry.com is a mix of user input and archived records, but as a programmer I firmly believe in the GIGO theory (Garbage in, garbage out).

I have gone through hints and trees, and I am fairly certain (90% probability) of the correctness of the information through about 4 or 5 generations, since this is corroborated by family records/verbal history.

Going back to about the 7th/8th generation back, I have found some ancestors that have the title Sir (Sir James White and Sir Thomas White, Luenbeg, Scotland, brothers to my great x6 grandfather), and I am interested in finding out more about them in particular (Everyone wants to be noble, hey?)

How do I go about make sure what I've connected on ancestry.com back that far is correct? What is/should be my next step(s)?

More information:

Direct ancestor:

Anthony White, B 1700 Luenbeg, Scotland. Wife - Mary Ralston (And a google search for Luenbeg matches several trees with the same information, although more than a few have it as "Luenbeg", so unverifiable information).


  1. Sir James White, B 1695 Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland.
  2. Sir Thomas White, B 1726 Lurgan, Armagh Ireland
  3. Alexander White B 1702, Scotland.

Evidently they all came to the US (date unknown) and died in Pennsylvania in the 1770 range.

  • 2
    Welcome to Genealogy.Se, and thanks for asking an interesting question. You've verified the sources back 4 and 5 generations, yes? Have you worked back step by step from there? What dates do you have for the two nobles?
    – user104
    May 8, 2013 at 15:35
  • Also, I'm perplexed by the place Luenbeg and suspect it might be an address rather than a place -- Googling for it doesn't throw up anything.
    – user104
    May 8, 2013 at 15:43
  • The Gazetteer for Scotland scottish-places.info/scotgaz/anyword.html suggests some alternatives, including Lynebeg, Loinveg and Loin-a-veaich. Do you have any other geographical clues?
    – user104
    May 8, 2013 at 15:51
  • @ColeValleyGirl - I have edited the question to include more information.
    – JohnP
    May 8, 2013 at 16:15
  • @JohnP, since this question is about a specific ancestor, not Ancestry trees in general, I hope, I added a suggestion for a better title. Once reviewed, you will see that instead of your very general one. Please be more specific next time. Thanks. May 11, 2013 at 12:11

4 Answers 4


A family tree without source citations is fiction.

I assume the information you have included in your question is from a user submitted Ancestry family tree. Typically such trees have no source citations. At best, some might contain accurate information, so use them only a clues after you have exhausted documentary sources both online and offline.

It is really, really easy to copy people from another tree without checking the data at all. Consequently, the number of trees in which the same information is repeated is not an indication of its veracity. As you said garbage in, garbage out, and there is a lot of garbage is the user submitted material. Anyone can upload thier family tree data, including people with little or no genealogical research experience and people who just collect names and make no attempt to verify the data.

Trust nothing that you have not verified from reliable sources, preferably several independent documents contemporary with the event.

Treat claims of prominent or important ancestors with scepticism. Yes, such connections make a good story, and wishful thinking abounds. Sometimes prominent people in history are erroneously attached to a family tree because thier records are more plentiful and easier to find, especially if the details loosely fit.

From the alledged four brothers in your example, Luenbeg looks suspiciously like a corruption of Lurgan, and the birth dates span over 30 years making a shared mother unlikely.


Although you should always begin with your last confirmed direct ancestor then work back from him (or her) and definitely NOT try to work forward from the "possible" link to nobility; you may gain some insights from analysing the plausibility of the ancient family first.

The situation of two brothers with titles and two without suggests that either two members of the same generation of one family were separately ennobled or that it was inherited from their father. In the second case, the eldest son would have succeeded the father and the younger have acquired the title on the death (without a male heir) of his brother. But on your information Thomas was the fourth son; so for him to have the title, Anthony and Alexander must have predeceased him. Given the huge difference in birth dates, that is certainly feasible but it also raises the possibility that Thomas's mother was the second wife of his father. That is, Thomas White was the half-brother of Anthony. The fact that you suggest he was born in Ulster seems consistent with the idea of a second family. Or indicates that he is in fact not part of the same family -- scepticism always.

If, as you suggest, "all" the brothers migrated to Pennsylvania then I would expect Sir Thomas to have returned "home" to take up his title. In which case, details of his Will would be in Scotland rather than New England.

So you have three distinct (but inter-related) tasks. You must work back from your known (4th or 5th generation) ancestor until you reach Anthony White. The technique is the time-honoured one -- from the record of his death, to his birth (baptism) to the marriage of his parents, to their death, to their birth and so on.

If you can build the chain of evidence for that connection, then you need to demonstrate that Anthony and James White had the same father and that he was titled. Then you can set out to find whether he was also the father of Thomas White.

  • Thank you, this is what I was looking for. I'm not all that sussed about being noble, I thought it was interesting. Luckily we have a Mormon family research center very near here, and our local Irish Cultural Center recently added a large library addition, with genealogical computer access to Irish records. These ancestors came from clicking the little leaf hints, and not added to the tree until at least 3 different trees agreed.
    – JohnP
    May 9, 2013 at 2:02
  • Just a thought. How do you know that the three different trees have not copied (incorrect) information from the same source or from one another? There is an awful lot of error out there.
    – Fortiter
    May 9, 2013 at 5:57
  • I don't know that, which is why I've been hesitant about accepting it outright. I can confirm father, grandfather, great and greatx2 grandfathers. I am about 80% certain on greatx3, after that it's all at face value. I'm working on confirming from known backwards atm, this was just something interesting a little further out.
    – JohnP
    May 9, 2013 at 14:32
  • @JohnP, just a thought but the dates are before or close to the War of Independence, and so the brothers may not have felt the need to "return home" to take up their title.
    – user104
    May 10, 2013 at 8:48

You can't trust anything you find in Ancestry.com user trees

What Sue Adams said, and then some. It's a pretty strong statement, I know, but hear me out.

I think the most common scenario for user trees on Ancestry.com is this: someone takes their family Bible or their great-aunt Ida's handwritten list of birthdates and marriages, and enters it into an Ancestry tree. Then, they accept any (and sometimes every) hint Ancestry offers as to possible record matches, even if it means listing someone in the same census in three different geographical locations. Once the tree is "done", they either forget about it for years, or possibly die, leaving the tree to contaminate others in perpetuity.

I can enumerate cases where many, many Ancestry user trees showed the same information, and a very small amount of actual research (one document) proved it wrong. I've had a great deal of interaction with Ancestry project owners, and I've found that many of them can't or won't accept a brick wall, and would rather have bad data that's contradicted by evidence than no data at all.

I've given out information by e-mail (including source citations, with the offer to provide copies of the source material itself), only to see that information show up later on Ancestry (or Geni, which is possibly worse), without citations, but with errors, through misunderstanding &/or mis-transcription. Over time, other Ancestry owners have copied the bad data and it just propagates (the phenomenon isn't limited to Ancestry - I've seen obviously wrong data in the IGI that was eventually removed, but not before it found its way onto many websites, where it lives on).

The only thing you can use Ancestry tree "hints" for is exactly that - hints, to help you figure out where to find actual documentation. I've used them in that way many times, and tracked down extremely useful documentation as a result. But I've also hit dead ends when the on-line data turned out to be completely bogus.

I apologize if this seems a bit ranting, but I don't think it's possible to emphasize enough the degree to which Ancestry user trees can't be trusted, no matter how many of them show the same data. You have to assume they're all copying from each other, and track down the original source material yourself.


You should always work back from the known to the unknown. Once you have reached the end of verifying the information you have against original sources, you need to search backwards generation by generation to validate the link to nobility.

Scotlands People would be an excellent resource for the Scottish element of the search, but it isn't free (other than wills, which is probably if little use if they died in Pennsylvania), and it sounds as if you need to start in Pennsylvania first.

Burkes Peerage might have done the work for you, but I can't find any evidence of it in a cursory search.

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