One of the factors motivating me to publish my two-volume book on Pettus family history (2011, 2013) was that all published sources I could find contained misinformation or sheer conjectures regarding early generations of the family in Virginia. I can say this with complete assurance after spending over four decades of study into extant, original records I found in repositories on both sides of the Atlantic. Unfortunately, many of the early mistakes have been copied into pedigrees published online. Most compilers don’t bother to cite their sources, but I can usually figure out what they were through my own familiarity with the earlier publications. Here are some red flags: 1. Thomas Pettus, member of the Governor’s Council of Virginia, was the son, born in 1610, of William Pettus and Mary Gleane of Norwich, England. 2. Thomas was the son of Sir Thomas Pettus or Sir John Pettus. 3. Thomas had fought in the Thirty Years War under Sir Thomas Dale. 4. Thomas came to Virginia with the rank of captain in charge of forty men to fight the Indians. 5. Thomas married Elizabeth Mouring. 6. Thomas’s son Thomas II held the rank of captain. 7. Thomas II married (1) Elizabeth Dabney and (2) Mourning Glenn. 8. Thomas II had a son named John Dabney Pettus. 9. Mary Mann and Ann Hunley were Thomas’s daughters.
I could go on, but I want to caution family historians that the compiler of any web page containing one of the “red flag” statements mentioned above has not done independent research. I recommend that anyone unfamiliar with the subject ignore sites that don’t cite their sources or that cite previous publications instead of original, valid records (county, church, bible, etc.). Even when a site does cite valid sources, check them yourself to make sure that the compiler interpreted the information in those sources correctly. Proving a negative where records are lacking is often impossible, but I did succeed in finding evidence that contradicts many of the “red flag” statements. By the way, if anyone knows of any records that confirm any of those statements, I would like to hear about it. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.