Using the Notes Section on FamilySearch

In the movie, the Ten Commandments, the pharaoh often says, “So let it be written, so let it be done.” Well, I need that kind of power to make a correction to the Gordon family line of mine stick. Thankfully, FamilySearch has a way to do just that. Partly I would use the “Reason to Detach” boxes when breaking the link between inaccurate relations, but I can also leave a post under the “Notes” section at the bottom of profile pages for each individual involved.


In short, Lt. Nathaniel Gordon of Virginia and North Carolina is not the father of my relative Charles Gordon of Pennsylvania and Ohio.

I’ve seen the error of my ways and it comes from patiently working on my tree and learning more about what is good genealogy and what is absolute garbage.

In April 2011, I posted about the discoveries I found on for my 3xs great-grandfather Charles Gordon. Here’s what the post looked like:

“I found Charles Gordon (1755-1809). Turns out, he’s hard to find in records because his name is Nathaniel Charles Gordon. Some records only have him as Nathaniel. I found 14 different family trees with Nathaniel on their branches. Then, when I added the name Nathaniel to the LDS Family Search website, I found all Charles’ siblings listed, and his ancestors going back another 4 generations confirmed.”

How do I say this gently to the old, inexperienced version of myself?


Have you learned about inferential genealogy?

Here’s what talented genealogy speaker Tom Jones says inferential genealogy is: “accurately deducing ancestors’ identities and many aspects of their lives by digging below “surface information” in genealogical records and combining information from several sources.” (See Tom’s Inferential Genealogy Handout from FamilySearch).

So, here’s what I know to be true:

My proven 2nd great grandfather is Charles Gordon:
Birth: Oct 1801 in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, United States
Death: 22 Mar 1873 in Columbus, Franklin, Ohio, United States

Charles married Jane Fickle:
Birth: 6 Dec 1803 in Monongalia, Virginia, United States
Death: 3 Jun 1865 in Worthington, Franklin, Ohio, United States

At some point in my research, Charles was linked as the son of:
Nathaniel Charles Gordon
Birth 1755 in Virginia, USA
Death September 12, 1809, in Wilkes County, Georgia, USA


Nancy Gordon
Birth 1759 in Spotsylvania, Spotsylvania, Virginia, United States
Death 7 Oct 1835 in Jones County, Georgia, USA

When I looked at the relationships more closely, some red flags started springing up. I have perpetuated the false genealogical connection by don’t pay attention to the signs that inferential genealogy was throwing in my face.

What now?

At this point, I can’t solve the trees that link Charles Gordon to Lt Nathaniel Gordon in Ancestry or MyHeritage, but I can fix the relationships on FamilySearch and leave a nice long note so future researchers will avoid this mistakes. This is the closest I get to having that Egyptian Pharoah’s power.

Here’s the statement I wrote on FamilySearch to help others realize that connection should not be made:

Lt. Nathaniel Gordon and his wife Nancy are from Virginia and Wilkes County, North Carolina. The are currently listed on unsourced family trees on and MyHeritage with  13 children. When looking at the first son on these unsourced trees, the son is born seven years before the parent’s marriage and not in Virginia or North Carolina. The children born after the family’s marriage for the most part are from North Carolina, where the parents are expected to be found.

Until you look at the last four children.  Elizabeth, Hester, and Charles are supposedly born in Pennsylvania.  There is currently no evidence that Nathaniel and his family moved to Pennsylvania. With a common name like Nathaniel and Nancy Gordon with children named Elizabeth, Hester and Charles, It’s entirely possible that the Pennsylvania individuals are mixed up with the North Carolina family. Additionally, the last child Nancy was supposedly born in Illinois. Again, there is no evidence that Lt. Nathaniel Gordon lived in Illinois.

If you’ll notice there are no sources attached to the details of the family of Lt . Nathaniel Gordon and his wife Nancy. With much of these records taking place before Census data lists families, we should ask what sources are being used to:

1) Validate the names, birth dates, and birth locations of the last four children who were not born in North Carolina where the Nathaniel and his wife die and the other children are born?

2) How certain are we that these children are not being confused with other individuals with these very common names and preventing research for their families from being completed?

I have found no evidence of Charles Gordon (born in PA in 1801) that he’s from North Carolina. Until there is more proof that he is the son of Nathaniel Gordon (of VA and NC) he should not be connected to this family. If you have evidence to the contrary, please share. Otherwise, do not continue this unsubstantiated connection.

Was this the best argument against the relationship ever written? Should I like to the previous post that I have written that further explains the situation? Does it hold up to Genealogical Proof Standards?

You’ll have to be the judge of that. But the point is this, Family Search lets me make other researchers aware that the relationship is not valid and the reasons I believe I’m correct. Someone else can come along and leave a comment on my note and we can discuss the situation further. All of these notes could be preserved for the future.

Showing my vulnerability is difficult, but it’s so important to learn from our mistakes and leave trail markers that indicated which path ahead should not be taken.

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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