Facts and Events—Levels of Confidence

As our genealogy skills have developed, particularly over the last year, we are more often documenting our level of confidence in the facts and events we add to our family tree, or discuss in our posts here or in other documents we author.

There are many terms we could use to express our level of confidence, and many schemes to rank these terms relative to each other. No point in reinventing the wheel, though.

After purchasing a copy of Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained [1], we chose to adopt the hierarchy of terms presented there in Section 1.6 Levels of Confidence.

Certainly: The author has no reasonable doubt about the assertion, based upon sound research and good evidence.

Probably: The author feels the assertion is more likely than not, based upon sound research and good evidence.

Likely: The author feels some evidence supports the assertion, but the assertion is far from proved.

Possibly: The author feels the odds weight at least slightly in favor of the assertion.

Apparently: The author has formed an impression or presumption, typically based upon common experience, but has not tested the matter.

Perhaps: The author suggests that an idea is plausible, although it remains to be tested.

Being more mathematically and visually inclined, here is how we tend to apply these terms in our own use.

We usually keep possibly and apparently to ourselves until we have done a little more research.

When we estimate an individual’s birth year, based on a parent’s, spouse’s, or child’s birth year, we indicate this with, for example, “Estimate based on her mother’s Birth.”

We assume the mother is 3 years younger than the father, and the mother is 22, 31, and 40 years old at the birth of their first, middle, and last child. These average ages were found in a reference that we unfortunately failed to record at the time. The reference though was for 1600–1900 America when the economy was largely agriculture-based.

And, if we copy something from someone else’s tree to preserve it until we have time to look at it, we now attach a source entitled “(copied from the internet; no source provided)”—copy these at your own risk!

[1] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained, Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, Third Edition, Revised (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2017), 19-20.

Our Genealogy FAQ

  1. Why can’t I see the information for some of the individuals in the family tree?
  2. But I’m family. Can I please see the hidden individuals?
  3. How do I create a user account?
  4. If I see a mistake in the family tree information, can I correct it?
  5. Where can I find issues of the ten Krazy Ken’s Kin Newsletter published in 2017?
  6. What doesn’t work yet?

Q. Why can’t I see the information for some of the individuals in the family tree?

A. There are two categories of individuals hidden from view in the family tree—those Living and those Private.

Individuals are marked Living by the software based on their death date. However, there are many individuals in the tree missing their birth or death dates, or both. In that case, these rules are applied:

(a) if their record does not contain both birth and death dates, they are assumed to be Living,

(b) if their record contains a birth date, but not a death date, they are assumed Deceased if older than 110 years of age based on their birth date.

For individuals clearly Deceased (they appear in the tree more than several generations ago) but for which no birth and death dates have been determined, we have begun arbitrarily entering a death date of Bef. 2010 in order to make them appear as deceased. We are slowly working our way through the tree updating the birth and/or death dates for this case.

Individuals are marked Private if they are Deceased and have not been deceased for at least 7 years. This is an arbitrary decision to temporarily protect their identity.

Note: This concept of Living and Deceased, which is obvious to most of us, will be the topic of a future genealogy post. We were surprised to learn that the standard file format for family trees—GEDCOM—does not contain the fact of whether an individual is Living or Deceased. So genealogy software applications each have to implement rules like those described above. So if we mark an individual as Deceased on Ancestry.com but do not enter a death date for them, and we then export the family tree to another application, the Deceased fact is lost and that other application determines whether the individual is Living or Deceased based on its own rules.

Q. But I’m family. Can I please see the hidden individuals?

A. To see the Living individuals, you must register for a user account. Read here about user accounts.

The Private individuals will remain hidden. Contact us for more information.

Q. How Do I Create a User Account?

A. This website requires registration for user accounts associated with two different areas of content:

Two separate accounts are necessary because these areas of the website use two different software applications (WordPress for the blog, and The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding for the family tree), and these applications unfortunately do not currently share login credentials. You are encouraged to register for these two accounts with the same user name and password to simplify things.

Important notes:

  • You can register for one, both, or neither of these accounts—it is up to you.
  • If you change the password of one user account, it will not change the password of the other account.

Q. If I see a mistake in the family tree information, can I correct it?

A. Mistakes?! Well, we have too many of those to count. Yes, please help correct our mistake.

The information page for each individual has a Suggest tab that allows you to send corrections or comments to us. We’ll review your information and update the Ancestry.com tree as appropriate. That information, if incorporated, will appear in the family tree on this website in a future download from Ancestry.com.

Q. Where can I find issues of the ten Krazy Ken’s Kin Knewsletter published in 2017?

A. After you register for a Family & Friends Membership and are accepted, you can access them in this post.

Q. What does not work yet?

A. Well, we’re not totally sure! Here is what we know about:

  1. Find > Search Site will not work until Google has indexed the new genealogy portion of the website. This is now working.
  2. Find > Cemeteries and Media > Headstones have not yet been populated with headstones (see #3 below).
  3. Media > Photos and all other similar places that would display photos or other documents have not yet been populated with photos and documents. These must be downloaded from Ancestry.com and uploaded to this website. That’s for another day.
  4. Mobile Mode, which is the layout used for smaller devices like iPhones, has not yet been customized for this website. Pages may therefore not look good or even be usable. This is now working.

(10 May 2018)

Abbreviations, Acronyms & Definitions

Abbreviations & Acronyms

abt. — about (meaning “within a few years of”)

aft. — after (meaning “on or after this date”)

atDNA — autosomal DNA is DNA from one of our chromosomes located in the cell nucleus. It generally excludes the sex chromosomes. Humans have 22 pairs of autosomal chromosomes and a pair of sex chromosomes.

bef. — before (meaning “on or before this date”)

bet. — between (meaning “on or between these dates”)

BGTF — beyond genealogical time frame

BHTF — beyond historical time frame

GGF, GGM, GGP — great-grandfather, great-grandmother, great-grandparent

MDKA — Most Distant Known Ancestor, the earliest known, documented ancestor on a specific genealogical line

MRCA — Most Recent Common Ancestor between two people in the genealogical time frame (e.g. NOT Adam and Eve!).

mtDNA — The genetic material found in mitochondria. It is passed down from females to both sons and daughters, but sons do not pass down their mother’s mtDNA to their children.

NN — Latin, nomen nescio (“I do not know the name ”) is used for unknown given names and surnames (e.g. John NN or NN Doe).

unk. — unknown

Y-DNA — A Y-DNA test looks at male inherited Y-chromosome DNA.


Remove — change one’s home or place of residence by moving to (another place)—“He removed to Wales and began afresh”.

Our Family Tree Standard Practices

Master Tree

The Spratlin-Knight-Wetherbee-Watne family tree is maintained by Ken Spratlin on Ancestry.com.

Other Trees

The master tree is periodically exported from Ancestry.com as a GEDCOM file and uploaded to the The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding (TNG) application on this website. The description field for the tree on this website contains the date and time of export from Ancestry.com. The most up-to-date information is therefore found in the tree on Ancestry.com.

The master tree is also synced with the Family Tree Maker (FTM) [macOS] application. FTM is primarily used to perform find-and-replace operations, manage custom event types, and manage place names.

Naming Conventions

Birth name (including maiden last name) entered as preferred name fact. Unknown maiden last name usually entered as NN (MarriedLastName), if married last name known.

Subsequent name change (e.g. last name Smyth changed to Smith) or alternative name spelling entered as alternate name fact. Note that Ancestry.com‘s search function appears to ignore text in parentheses (e.g. Smyth (Smith)).

This convention was adopted as we are generally researching back in time, up the tree, so birth name is usually of more interest than a name an individual may have used later in life.

Title (e.g. Doctor, Reverend, Private) entered as title fact.

Nickname entered as also known as fact. Nickname alternatively (legacy) entered as alternate name fact in parentheses instead of quotation marks (e.g. John (Johnny), instead of John “Johnny”).


Place (called location on Ancestry.com) name entered as current, rather than historical, name so will appear in the correct place on mapping services (e.g. Google Maps, OpenStreetMap, Apple Maps). Historical place name, if listed in a source, entered in the description field of the fact.

Despite using current place names, many places are not known by the geocoding services (converts address into latitude and longitude) used by these mapping services. Also, most geocoding services easily confuse towns and counties sharing the same name. Therefore, correct latitude and longitude have been entered into many of the place records in the FTM and TNG databases for the family tree.

Preferred and Alternate Facts

Alternate facts entered for name facts, birth facts, and death facts instead of adding the information to the name fields of a preferred name fact or to the description field of a preferred birth fact or preferred death fact (e.g. alternate name spelling entered as alternate name fact).

Note that Ancestry.com does not provide the preferred and alternate feature for marriage facts, so multiple marriage facts may appear with no indication of which is preferred. If multiple marriage facts are added, and one is preferred, the words Preferred and Alternate are entered in the description fields of the marriage facts.

Custom Events

We use several custom event types. These are all indicated by custom event fact labels ending in ““. This makes them easier to find within the Family Tree Maker application. Most are self-explanatory; perhaps these are not:

Interesting …famous, distinguished, notorious, interesting, etc.
ISSUE …identifies an issue in a profile needing resolution
Relationship …provides additional relationship information
RESEARCH …identifies a (non-issue) topic for future research
WARNING … often identifies a non-person in the tree

Last Name Symbols

Despite numerous recommendations against doing so, we use a few symbols in the last name field of the name fact to make up for deficiencies in our research tools or our own memory.

People with these symbols in their name may be found using Ancestry.com’s people search functions on their website . The search behavior seems to vary. Tree Search at the top of the profile or tree windows is not order sensitive as long as the name text is first (e.g. NameText + | or NameText | + gives the same result). The List of all people search is order-sensitive. The search function on Ancestry.com’s iOS app is different, and this appears to not work at all

NN   Latin nomen nescio (“I do not know the name”) used for unknown first and last names (e.g. John NN or NN Doe); started using this instead of tbd after seeing NN as a standard for at least one world tree project

+   Direct ancestor of MKS

++   Direct ancestor of MKS with multiple descending lines

?   Confirmed by weak facts; something fishy needs to be resolved

??   A clue, not yet confirmed by facts (e.g. usually only saw name in someone else’s tree without supporting facts)

p??   Same as ?? but the parent (father and mother) relationships not yet confirmed
f??   Same as ?? but the father relationship not yet confirmed
m??   Same as ?? but the mother relationship not yet confirmed
s??   Same as ?? but the spouse relationship not yet confirmed

up??   Same as ?? but the ascendant relationship not yet confirmed (discontinued use)
dn??   Same as ?? but the descendant relationship not yet confirmed (discontinued use)
sp??   Same as ?? but the spouse relationship not yet confirmed (discontinued use)

???   Probably incorrect based on available facts; something VERY fishy needs to be resolved

#   Married a close cousin

|   Immigrant (usually to North America)

_   Not a member of the family, but included in the tree for reference (e.g. friends, neighbors, purchasers of family property)

Special Symbols

{{   Private note (e.g. phone numbers, email addresses)—The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding (TNG) application on kenspratlin.com is configured to treat the description field of facts beginning with {{ as private, and the information is not displayed.

^   Military service is indicated with this symbol at the beginning of the description field of a title fact. If the military rank is also known, the title follows the symbol (e.g. ^ Private).

/ We attempted to use the / (division) symbol in name facts at one time. We then learned that GEDCOM files use / to separate the prefix, first name, last name, and last name suffix fields of the name fact (e.g. John/Doe/). Using this symbol in the fields of a name fact caused serious problems when importing and exporting trees between various genealogy applications. So we do not do that any more!

(23 Jan 2019)

Danger! Construction Area

func integrateWordPressAndTNG() {

if me.amNotGenealogyNerd { return }

if me.amNotWebsiteDeveloper  { return }



func continueReading() {


This website was originally hosted on WordPress.com and used the Twenty Ten theme.

Then in Feb 2018, we wanted to add new functionality to the website to support sharing our family history and family tree—functionality that was unfortunately not supported by WordPress.com. This led us to move to a web hosting solution that would still support WordPress well.

The website is now hosted on SiteGround.com and built using the following:

The TNG content was wrapped inside the WordPress theme using these instructions (or alternatively these instructions) which document the Cees Kloosterman method.

It took us about 5 full days to learn enough TNG, PHP, and CSS during two unsuccessful attempts at configuring the website on a local host to then incorporate TNG into the website for real.

The successful integration took about 8 hours, resulting in a TNG template 12 mytngstyle.css that was good enough at matching the look-and-feel of TNG template 12 to the WordPress Twenty Seventeen theme.

Extensive customization of the CSS was required to reconcile conflicts between the WordPress Twenty Seventeen theme style.css, the TNG genstyle.css, and the TNG template 12 templatestyle.css, and was accomplished all in the TNG template 12 mytngstyle.css.

T.N.G Colouring Book was used to generate a first cut at the color palette changes to match TNG template 12 to the WordPress Twenty Seventeen theme. But we then just used its generated CSS file as a guide for the next step below.

Lots of manual tweaks were then made using Apple’s Safari Web Inspector to figure out what needed to be changed. Just check the checkbox for Show Develop menu in menu bar under Safari ‘s preferences advanced panel, and then enter option-command-I to enter the Web Inspector. This is a great way to learn CSS also.

Then a couple hours to fiddle with the .htaccess file, fix a few things with the URL structure, and finally flip the switch on the DNS from WordPress.com to SiteGround.com.

TNG is currently used on the pages reached at :

Menu > Our Genealogy > Our Family Tree

Menu > Our Genealogy > Tree Starting @ MKS

Feel free to contact us via the contact page for more info.

Update – 20 Apr 2018: The TNG Ancestor Map mod has now been installed on the website. This mod displays a map with all the places associated with an individual’s ancestors.

Update – 9 May 2018: TNG Version 12.0 has now been installed on the website.

WARNING: This website has only been tuned for desktop use, and admittedly only for Safari at this point. It needs some work for mobile device use, but does work pretty well already on an iPhone and iPad.