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WIDOWER ANGRY AT ILLEGITIMATE SLUR ON FAMILY TREE SITE; EXCLUSIVE.

Byline: MIKE LOCKLEY Sunday Mercury Writer

AWIDOWER has launched a battle to defend his dead wife's honour after she was wrongly branded a bastard on a family tree website. And Lawrence McGowan is furious that those who manage the site - used by millions who are tracing their roots - have refused to put right the blunder.

On Ancestry.co.uk his wife Anne - she was Anne Eivors before she married - is listed as "father unknown".

So are two other siblings in the family of seven, who were raised in County Meath, Ireland.

What's more, the three children branded illegitimate do not follow a chronological bloodline: their births did not come in sequence, one after the other.

That suggests Anne's mum, Julia, was a serial bed-hopper, says 78-year-old Lawrence, from Huntington in Staffordshire. The truth is that Julia was happily married. She and husband James were deeply religious and devoted to each other. Married in 1936, they were inseperable. James died in 1966, his wife four years later. "It was a very happy marriage," says Lawrence. "He will be spinning in his grave about this."

Lawrence lost 72-year-old wife Anne to cancer in 2014. They, too, had been very happily married for 54 years.

He is angry that her family has been besmirched.

"Anne would've been furious to be classed illegitimate," says Lawrence, a former leading light in the local RAF Association branch.

"I'm certainly angry. That record is now in perpetuity. In 100 years' time, someone will look at it and say my ancestors were having a bit on the side. Given 100 years, fiction becomes fact."

He has, he says, sought legal redress, but has been informed that the dead cannot be libelled.

The error was discovered when Lawrence clicked on Ancestry's "hints" section, a useful guide to family trees compiled by other members. There, he discovered the fruits of "Nicomaher 30" - a tree following another branch of the family.

The user wrongly dubbed Anne and a sister and brother as illegitimate. Nicomaher 30 is no longer a member of the popular site, so cannot alter his detective work. Desperate emails from Lawrence have gone unanswered.

"The site tells me the last time the guy used Ancestry was a year ago," he says. "That tells me he is no longer paying his fees. He can see his tree, but can't make alterations.

"I think I know how it's happened. This guy has put his finger on the wrong key. It happens, it's a mistake.

"But I've spoken to Ancestry. They are helpful, but they say they can't change a person's family tree. It is up to the person to change it."

That is a clear glitch in the system, Lawrence feels. Many online census sites allow visitors to make alterations. Lawrence knows that all too well: he has been allowed to correct erroneous details about one forebear's prosecution for burglary and the "fact" that another became a dad at the age of 90.

"Surely they can put up a note to warn people the information is wrong?" he says. "You should be able to say this is an error. If a name is spelled incorrectly, you should be able to rectify it."

A spokesman for Ancestry.co.uk told the Sunday Mercury: "I am happy to look into this further and see if there is anything further that can be done.

"However, it appears this may be an occasion where an Ancestry member has input information into their own tree that may be incorrect.

"Ancestry is not responsible for User Provided Content and, as detailed in our Terms and Conditions, the user is fully responsible for any content they post."

CAPTION(S):

| Widower Lawrence McGowan and inset, his late wife Anne
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Feb 17, 2019
Words:621
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