The Shemwell Family

Frequently asked questions



The members of our family sites, THE SHEMWELL FAMILY, would like to take this opportunity to welcome all our 'cousins' in genealogy and encourage them to catch the fever as you search for your ancestors . This can become both a labor of love - and hate - because it can consume an extraordinary amount of time, but personal satisfaction, camaraderie, and other rewards are exhilarating. The acquisition and maintenance of this volume of information would not be possible without the support and participation of so many relatives. Genealogy is great fun and a wonderful learning experience, broadening both our knowledge of family and general facts of geography and sociology. We hope you will enjoy it as much as we do and we look forward to our mutual cooperation and friendships established through the functions of webtrees and our THE SHEMWELL FAMILY web site. Don't hesitate to drop us an email to say hello, advise us of a needed correction or addition, or to inquire about a relationship. Most of what we know is displayed online, with only the details of living kin or some sources not displayed for privacy purposes.

Gedcom Merge

After too many long months of work ... , I have finally found a program (webtrees) that we can all share, edit etc. together, so I have merged all the Shemwell FTM’s. ftw, paw, and Gedcoms I’ve collected over the years. All Herbs - Harris, ZT, James, Isaac, Maryland, Thomas W., Cox,  Pully (Doris), Grail, Snyder, Toft, William, Brian’s, Ronnie’s, Stanley (Helens), Shawn’s, Homman, (almost)all files posted on myfamily, and some that just have numbers…so I don’t know where they came from.  Some of the older files (as old as 1989, maybe older) don’t properly conform to Gedcom standards (some newer don’t either), so I had to manually edit the file, changing date formats, notes etc. then convert them to Gedcom 5.5 so they would be readable, what a mess. Then I used FTM to merge the files one at a time, carefully combining repeated individuals…. Leaving the facts on each person if they were a little different (in case I screwed up) leaving multiple birth, death etc. dates to sort out later. I then converted the file to a gedcom and then to an excel database, where I wrote excel formulas to help locate errors and merge individuals based on assorted sorting methods, fathers, wives, mothers and dates.  There are currently over 9,000 individuals in the database. There were over 11,000, but I deleted and merged nearly 2,000, mostly “living XXX” with no other info, and John T., John Todd, stuff.  I saved all the notes and source data (as well as I could) but alas most convert to NOTE or tend to “unlink”, depending on the program they used to make the original file. FTM converts all notes to “shared notes” and doesn’t combine identical data on individuals. I’ve discovered none of the commercial programs treat records the same… and sometimes doesn't recognize other programs (after gedcom conversion) fact data. The database is still a work in progress, you will probably notice redundant birth, deaths and other facts, and I'm sure some data that should have never been merged to begin with. Please read the FAQ's and let's build the family tree. 

Cuzin Barry



Each of us at SHEMWELLFAMILY.COM consider privacy of paramount importance and we protect our data vigorously. 
Fortunately, webtrees' software confidentiality functions are excellent in the application of certain rules of privacy - our main site hides details about people who are alive or to those who you are not linked. To view details of living people, you will have to be a trusted member of our site and you must connect the site with your username and password account. Your free membership gives you access to your special page (INDI record ID #) in the family tree. In addition, our site uses several levels of privacy access and user verification, as well as webtrees' relationship privacy. The latter function lets you see information for people defined as a close relative. If you are a member of the site and connected and still see some individuals or families still marked as "private", this feature has been enabled for your account.  If you think your access is too limited, please email the administrator and explain with details of identification numbers, where you were blocked and why you believe you should see this information. Of course, no system is perfect or unbreakable and inadvertent access to data remains a possibility. We do our best to address privacy issues quickly. If you feel strongly about some of your personal data stored here, please contact the genemaster via the e-mail links below. Your data can be removed from the site, but your access may be restricted. See also the FAQ on the site information. We take abuse of our information seriously, and will not tolerate theft or misuse. We will take legal action against those who engage in or attempt identity theft or harassment as result of accessing our data.

Do not copy our data on living persons to any other sites or to places that you may be unable to protect the privacy of these individuals. You can be held responsible for this exposure or abuse. As posted on our home page of this site, we do not share the information contained herein with other sources, nor do we contribute information to any commercial enterprise. The database will remain in our possession for the public display of public domain information, and will not be sold, given or loaned in any way or form in order to generate revenue by us or by others. Personal data will not be shared by us with a public source and our users are sworn to the same high standards.

Remember, the security of your password is essential in protecting the privacy of your own and other family members information, so keep it safe. We recommend that you change your password from time to time. Please note also that, as site administrators, we can not access your password. If you forget yours, please use the "Request for new password" on the login page and a new, temporary one will be sent to your registered e-mail address.



Should we say "Welcome, Cousin"? NOTE: THE SHEMWELL FAMILY does NOT REQUIRE REGISTRATION to gain access to data on deceased persons on our website. However, to contribute or to see facts on presumed living relatives, you will need to register for a free account and advise us of your relationship.

  1. Registrants should be relatives, albeit a distant cousin in many cases, however somehow related to someone already listed or someone who should be listed on our site;
  2. Registrants should be prepared to regularly visit and contribute to our sites, at a minimum providing us with your personal and immediate family information and later - modifications, augmentation, amplifications and additions to our existing data;
  3. Registrants must pledge to protect the privacy of the data on all living persons on the site, and, as noted above, contribute your own personal information. Violations will lead to immediate termination of access privileges and may be cause for legal action. We take the possibility of identity theft or information abuse seriously. Please see our Privacy Section below for more details.

If you qualify for registration and agree to abide by these rather simply policies and procedures, please feel free to use the registration form built into our site. Please use the comments field to answer ALL the information requested on that page, explaining your relationship to relatives contained within the existing site, your brief lineage to that person and also clearly confirm by affirmation your acknowledgement of your intentions to abide by our policies and access rules. We will then review your application for approval. Please be patient as proper review and verification may take some time and effort and we may be away for several days. Incomplete applications will be held until we receive the confirmation of relationship, enter you into our database and receive your promise to protect privacy and all data on living persons.



When you add or edit any data on the Family tree there a few general principles that should be followed:

1 - Every person and / or every event in that person's life should include a source reference. The concept is very simple. If you have a piece of information about someone, you MUST have got that information from somewhere. That "somewhere" is the SOURCE. It might be something sophisticated like a database, a Parish register, or a book. It might be something as simple as "Aunt Mary remembered....". These are both valid sources, but the more information you can give about a source, the easier it will be in ten, twenty, or more years time to look and say, "Ah, so that is where we got that bit of information!"

2 - All information must be factual, or described in a way that clearly indicates how accurate it is. If, for example, you know a person's age, from a census, but not their actual birth date, then you cannot say AS FACT that they were born in a certain year. There are issues of rounding, possible error on the census page, or even in some cases people might have misrepresented their age. In these cases, the use of date qualifiers like ABT (about), or EST (estimated), or CAL (calculated) to show how you arrived at the birth date you entered would be appropriate. Another good example is finding a birth, marriage or death on the UK's registration index pages. These only record events within a quarter (3 month period) so the closest you can record the date is, for example, BET JAN 1850 AND MAR 1850, meaning "in the Mar quarter of 1850. Entering a date like that is easy in the software we use - just type "Q1 1850" and it will be converted to the full text required for you!

3 - Information should accurately reflect what it really is, and what you really know. This means that the date of a baptism found on a Parish Register, for example, should NOT be entered as a BIRTH. It is a baptism or christening date. If it is the only record you have for the person's birth you should either not enter a birth (the baptism will be used instead in any age calculations), or enter the birth with a date of BEF (before) whatever the date of the baptism was. That clearly shows that the only thing we know for certain is that the birth happened before the baptism, but we don't know if it was 1 day, or 10 years before! The same applies for Parish register burials. They are not a death event, so the death would be better recorded as BEF the date of the burial.

4 - General site appearance -  How to best view this site. This site is best viewed with the newest browsers -  at least Firefox 3, Internet Explorer 8, Safari 4, Google Chrome or Opera, but includes almost any browser made in the last couple of years. Using older browser versions may result in all kinds of viewing glitches and navigational problems, including transparent images that may have grey backgrounds in Internet Explorer 6 and earlier. We do not support deprecated (old and discontinued) operating systems and browsers.

webtrees works on a variety of screen sizes but some pages may require you to scroll sideways to see all of the information. This is especially true with many charts like the Pedigree Tree. I recommend using a screen size of at least 1280 pixels in width.

4 - Use of data and media  -  May I use information obtained from this site elsewhere? This site, its contents and presentation are all subject to varying copyrights and licensing. While much of what is written and exposed to casual visitors was obtained from public sources, some data is still of a personal nature and may contain notes written by us or others. If you copy this information elsewhere, it is important to document their source and provide appropriate credit. Visual images (photos, pdfs, documents, certificates, census images and more) are copyrighted by us or others. You are expressed forbidden from using images from our site on your own online or printed versions. If you are intending to use any data ot images on this site for commercial purposes, then do not even bother to ask as the answer is very emphatically - NO.



Many people have been amazingly helpful filling in blanks in particular branches of this great tree and we anticipate you'll enjoy doing so too. Here are a few pointers:

  1. HELP: It is prolifically provided on the site, in the header and everywhere behind most links and terms with the "?" image. Otherwise, if you are still confused, simply ask us via an email.
  2. DATES: We use the Gedcom v5.5 standard format. DD MMM YYYY or 01 JAN 1822 and 22 DEC 2004 instead of January 1, 1822 or Jan 1, 1822. Abbreviations such as BEF ("before") and ABT ("about") can also be used - e.g. ABT 1795. Other options include BET (used like "BET 1900 AND 1910"); CAL ("CAL 1900") meaning "calculated as 1900"; and q1 1900 (displayed as "between January 1900 and March 1900" for dates that are only known to within a quarter, such as BMD index data.
  3. PLACES: Include the city or town as well as the county, state and country. The format is: Auburn, Lee, Alabama, USA. If you know the city but not the county ...look it up, it's not hard to find. Otherwise just the known locations, Lee, Alabama, USA. Using these naming conventions will allow Google Maps to find the location. It reads right to left and stops at the first unknown location. ie. USA, Alabama, Lee will display Lee county in Alabama. Note that the Country is always required. For American addresses we prefer USA ( not US, U.S., or U.S.A.) behind the state but for other countries we do not use the abbreviation, but rather Ireland, Australia, Canada, etc.
    We do NOT abbreviate American STATES to the two letters, rather spelling out the entire location and we generally don't use periods (.) in names or locations.
  4. NAMES: Entering of a name is pretty straight forward on the form.
    The INDI ENTRY BOX should already have expanded name fields. If not, both it and the places box expand by clicking the + sign.
    Name PREFIXes are Dr, Rev, Hon, Judge, etc.
    GIVEN names are the first and middle names.
    SURNAME is the family or last name. This is the maiden name for a married woman.
    SUFFIXes are Jr, Sr, III, etc and NICKname is the name commonly used for the person if different from their Given name. i.e. John "Alec" Leigh would be a nickname of Alec, Daniel Wilson Avery had a nickname of Tuggy, and many Margarets had a nickname of Maggie, Nancy, Peggy, Polly or other, etc.
    If you have a person whose preferred name is not their first GIVEN name, then you can add an asterisk after the preferred name. This will cause that name to be underlined on the display.
  5. CHANGES and ENTRIES: The changed or added data for an INDI (individual) or family will not correctly appear until approved by an administrator. Although we frequently check the site, send us an email if you want us to review and approve additions or modifications more rapidly.
  6. OTHER TIPS: Facts concerning the creation or modification of a family unit are entered on the Family Members tab or Family link page. This is where you note marriages, divorces, children, family census - anything affecting the family unit. We find when adding several children, its best to bring up the VIEW FAMILY link for that husband/wife and add each child via the link at the bottom, 'ADD a CHILD to this Family'. It is faster than using the Family Members page as with each addition it defaults back to the Individual Details tab rather than the Close Relative page.
    Any questions? Just ask if you don't understand.
  7. MEDIA: We really appreciate your addition of pictures, Birth Certificates, Marriage Licenses and Certificates, Death Certificates - anything you've got for support. It's easy to add these from your own hard drive by using the MEDIA tab, ADD MEDIA link and UPLOAD/Browse feature.
    If you have questions, suggestions, or simply wish assistance, send your digital images to us by email and we can add them too. But please respect the document owner / originator's copyright where required.
  8. NAVIGATION: We love to navigate using the FAN CHART function and the ancestor and descendancy charts. Try them.
    We particularly recommend the "Relationship to Me" view. It should ALWAYS show a link between you and any other person on the tree. Let us know if it doesn't, as that might indicate an error or broken link.
  9. MAPS: The Maps tab is a fairly recent fascinating addition. It will show where all the events of an individual and their immediate family occurred. It is however dependent on you adding the place names correctly (see PLACES above), and the system having a record of that place's latitude and longitude coordinates. I have already entered just about every county and town (with the state flag) in the USA so it should be there if not get me the coordinates and I'll be glad to add it.  If a place marker looks wrong, or is missing please contact admin so it can be corrected. We have also recently added a further map object under the Charts menus, to display the birth locations for an individuals direct ancestors.



We believe it is VERY IMPORTANT that whenever possible anything recorded on a family tree should include some evidence about where the information came from - in other words a SOURCE or references for it. In this FAQ, we describe why sources are important, and give some specific help for adding source references to data on the family trees of this site.

Dick Eastman describes the issues well in his Genealogy Newsletter.

"... I well remember my early days of family tree searches. I would record new information into three-ring notebooks. (This was long before the invention of the personal computer.) I would write down names, dates, places, and perhaps a bit more information that I was lucky enough to find.

Unfortunately, in those early days I did not write down where I obtained the information. Nobody told me that I needed to do this, and I wasn't smart enough to figure it out for myself. I simply assumed that everything I found was accurate. After all, it was printed in a book, wasn't it?

As time passed, I frequently found new information that contradicted what I found earlier. When I discovered these discrepancies, I needed to determine which piece of information was more accurate. The question that arose time and again was, "Where did I find that information?" Sadly, I often did not know.

The better solution would have been to always write down where I found the information along with the data itself. This is known as citing your sources. To quote author Elizabeth Shown Mills in her excellent book, Evidence! Citation Analysis for the Family Historian: "Any statement of fact that is not common knowledge must carry its own individual statement of source. ...Source notes have two purposes: to record the specific location of each piece of data and to record details that affect the use or evaluation of that data."..."

Entering source references on family trees here is incredibly easy. They can be included with any event (e.g. birth, marriage, death, divorce, migration etc.). In many cases you can re-use an existing source reference. If the one you need hasn't been created yet, you can easily add a new one. You can look at any of the many existing source referecnes to get an idea of how they work.
The basic steps are:
After adding the normal date, place etc for the event, before you click on Add or Save, look at the bottom of the edit screen for the line that says: "Add a new Source Citation" and click on the '+' to its left.
This opens some new entry fields. The first is "Source". Here you type the reference number for the source, which coulld be a web site, a census, a book etc. We have over 250 sources already referenced for your use. The full list is under Lists - Source List. If you don't know the reference for the source you found, click on the  . If your source is not on the list, click on   to add it.
The next field is the "Citation". Here you describe, in a formal way, where in the source you found the information. This is often a list of information such as Volume, Page, Date, Place, or similar references. The important thing to note for citations is that each element should include a ':' (colon) after its descriptor, and a ',' (comma) after each section.
In some cases there is no real "citation", so that section can be ignored if necessary. In fact for many sources, all that is required is the reference number (e.g. "S25"). This is often the case when information is supplied by another researcher, particularly in the case of photographs.
The final section is called "Text". This is again an optional field. It can be used instead of the citation (if there is no formal reference); or as well as. It allows for free text entry, but no fancy formatting. Often useful for explanatory notes related to the citation.
Once all this information is entered, simply click 'Save' or 'Add' and the job is complete.


It can be a laborious process to enter a good record of census data to every member of a household, especially one with many family members present. Thankfully webtrees has a very effective tool called the "census assistant" to help you through that process. In addition, it displays most of the data from the census page as a tidy tabulated transcription, like this:

Census transcript

In the same single process the assistant creates the CENS event, a shared note containing the above transcript, adds any media item you want to include, and copies the same to all individuals listed on the page.

When you use the assistant here we recomend:

Next add a Source Citation for this event, by clicking on the Add a new Source Citation option and entering the appropriate details. At this point there are two options for adding the Shared Note containing the census details:  1. By clicking on Shared Note using Assistant within the Source details area. This will add the census details as a note to the Source record.   2. By clicking on Add a new Shared Note below the Source details area, then clicking on the Shared Note using Assistant in this area. This will add a shared note at the same level as the Source.

If you use option 2, and create a separate, rather than sub-note as this is easier for visitors to see. 

The census assistant has templates to use for all UK and US census pages.



There are a number of different ways that you can be helped to do or find anything on this site. The following are the main ones, in the order we recomend you use them:

  1. Help links: Many options throughout the site have a small Help icon beside their title or description. Clicking on It will pop-up a small window with a description of the item.
  2. Email site admin: At the bottom of every page there is a link to the site administrator. "For technical support or genealogy questions, please contact Site Admin" Click on that to send an email explaining what assistance you need. We will endevour to answer as quickly as possible, but please remember that we might be in a completely different world time-zone to you, so it might take a few hours in some cases.
  3. webtrees forum: Also at the bottom of every page there is a webtrees logo. Click on that to go to the software home page ( There you will find the webtrees Forum pages, where a large number of experts, developers and other users will be more than willing to give you lots of help and advice.
  4. webtrees Manual: Webtrees Manual