I blogged a few posts ago about red herring hints on Ancestry, and discussed a specific case where the algorithm has been suggesting a wrong marriage and other facts for quite a time.
If you remember, or haven’t read that post, the case involved a marriage between a farm labourer, John Pidsley, and his wife Mary, father and mother of Thomas Pidsley born 1842. For all the census returns, Mary stated she was born in Exmouth, except one where she said Littleham, which is a small place within Exmouth. The algorithm decided Mary Parnell was the wife of John Pidsley, the daughter of a highly-educated doctor, and that some of the children of the marriage had been born out of wedlock.
I thought this was unlikely, especially when I saw that some people had given this Mary Parnell the birth date of a child who probably died aged eight, and others the death date of a Mary Pidsley who married a Reverend.
As the marriage that I preferred, between John Pidsley and Mary Phillips at Withycombe Raleigh, Exmouth solved all the problems, such as the disparity of social status and the location of the marriage and birth of Mary, I was pretty sure that I was right. Then it occurred to me that, Thomas Pidsley’s birth being after the date of compulsory registration, the record on the GRO should show the mother’s maiden name on their newfangled search facility. And Lo! it was so. Thomas Pidsley, born 1842, had a mother with the maiden name of Phillips NOT Parnell. It doesn’t stop dozens of people accepting the hint from Ancestry, unfortunately. But it’s nice to have confirmation that my instincts were right.