How Can It be so Messed Up?

I realize that if someone has the wrong birthdate for an ancestor or even the wrong name for the father of an ancestor, the world still turns.  But really, why can’t people get their information correct?

If you go to Ancestry.com and take a look at their Public Member Trees for the Cornett family, you will find 10 different birth dates and places for John Cornett, who received a land patent in Henrico County, Virginia in 1733.  Here is what others have uploaded:

Earl John born 1696

Earl John born 12 May 1696

John  born           1702

2 May 1703

2 May 1709

2 May, 1712

5 Feb 1724

2 May 1724

2 May 1726

2 May 1727

1739 in Panama—This one really confuses me!

All these Johns with various birth dates are listed as married to Mary Jesse or Elizabeth Bacon Mosby.

There are NO RECORDS attached to any of these dates.  The best anyone can give is a story passed around by researchers, the source of which is a county history of Grayson Co, VA.  So let’s try to find the source for these dates and places.

First, we know, proven by record, that a certain John Cornett received about 100-110 acres of land in Henrico County, Virginia in 1733.  In order to own land, a man had to be 21 years old or older.  So this proved that John Cornett was born BEFORE 1712.  This must be the origin of the 1712 birth year, but it does not mean he was born in 1712.  In fact, that doesn’t even make sense when you factor in his children who were supposedly born in the 1720s and 30s.

Some people say that a John and a James were born in 1726 or 1727; these two are most often listed as brothers and that may be correct.  What is frustrating is that John born in 1727 is listed as married to Elizabeth Bacon Mosby and so is John born 1712 and 1702.  A land deed dated 1774 might clear up this confusion.  The deed was signed by John Cornet Senr—a senior suggests there is also a junior—a younger person with the same name (in old records that is not always a father and son, just an older and younger).  So, there could be a John born about 1727 and one born earlier.

The 1709 and 1739 birth years are simply confusing.  I know of no reason for them.

The 1696 date is also confusing.  I see nothing connected to a John with that date in any records.

What is up with the day and month, 2 May?  There is a record of a christening for a John Cornett, christened on 2 May, 1703.  This is the source of the May 2 date (sometimes incorrectly written down as 12 May or February 5—think 5-2-1703 vs. 2-5-1703).  The legend claims that John Cornett was one of seven sons of an Earl Cornett—no records of an Earl Cornett exist.  The christening record lists John Cornett as the father.  So, what we have are so-called researchers latching onto a name and a date, but disregarding the part that doesn’t fit.

Why is this so messed up?  Simply because someone guessed and wrote it down, then shared it with someone who took it as fact.  Now, with the ease of sharing data on the internet, these mistakes are passed around at an exponential rate and cannot be controlled.  The mistakes are wrong.  And with this particular family, every genealogy is messed up because of these mistakes.

The solution?  Get the correct information out there!  That is what I plan to do with the Cornett family—do first hand research and then publish my findings.  Hopefully, people will start to fix the mistakes in their own trees, and it will soon spread to all.  Unfortunately, the wrong information will always be around, so it will always create confusion for researchers.

Now, don’t get me started on John Cornett’s supposed death date of 22 February, 1776.  Where did anyone get that date? (I have checked the microfilm records for that time period and see no records for John Cornett’s death.  I will check again!)