Frequently asked questions

How do I become a member?
Why can't I see the whole Family Tree
Why do my changes need "Approval"
How can I get Help for this site?
General Principles for Data Entry
How do I input data?
What are Source References, and why are they SO IMPORTANT?
Where does the name "Spears" come from?

How do I become a member?

To be part of the Spears family tree project in Australia, simply show a relationship to our family.  When you apply to become a member, the administrator will attempt to view the family tree from your relationship.  Therefore please provide as much information as possible to help us define that link.

Why can't I see the whole Family Tree

Take your time learning to navigate around the program.  Start by checking that your close family details are correct (usually within 4 generations).  Once you are ready, send an email to the Administrator and full access to the rest of the project will be enabled.  You may not be able to see some living members, for privacy reasons.

Why do my changes need "Approval"

To protect the integrity of the data, it is wise to have an administrator confirm that any changed details are reasonable.  Whilst the data is backed up regularly, there is nothing more frustrating if a change is incorrectly made. 

How can I get Help for this site?

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 throught the site have a small Help icon beside their title or description.It looks like this: Help icon Clicking on that 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 WIKI: Using that same webtrees link to, you can also find the webtrees WIKI pages. These contain many helpful articles for users, administrators and developers. 

General Principles for Data Entry

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 years time to look and say, "Ah, so that's where that bit of information came from!".
  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 simply misrepresent their age. So use the date options like ABT (about), or EST (estimated), or CAL (calculated) to show how you arrived at the birth date you enter. 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). 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, so the death might be recorded as BEF the date of the burial. 

How do I input data?

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: We try, wherever known, to include the city or town as well as the County and Country. The format we prefer is: along the lines of e.g. 'onbridge, Kent, England.
    Note that the Country is always required at the end. For American addresses we prefer USA ( not US, U.S., or U.S.A.) after the state name, but for other countries we do not use abbreviation, but just use the full name; e.g. Ireland, Australia, Canada, etc.
    We do NOT abbreviate American STATES to the two letters, and do spell out the entire location, and we generally don't use periods (.) anywhere at all in names or locations. For example Shelbyville, Addison Twsp, Shelby Co, Indiana, USA is good, while Shelbyville, Addison Twsp., Shelby Co., IN, U.S.A. is bad. One reason for this is to allow Google Maps to find your location, and to ensure all people from the same location can be found together in searches.
  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!
  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 are struggling to do it alone, send your digital images to us by email and we can add them for you. 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. 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.

What are Source References, and why are they SO IMPORTANT?

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. We know from bitter personal experinece how frustrating it is when you come across a fact you entered years earlier, but have no idea how you came by the knowledge.
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. 

Where does the name "Spears" come from?

The surname Spears appears to be occupational in origin.  According to research done by Family Heritage Australia Pty Ltd, it indicates that the surname "Spears" can be associated with the English, meaning "one who was a watchman or lookout man". 

According to the Spears surname comes from the Old English word "spere," meaning "spear."  It may have originally been a nicknmae for a tall skinny person, or perhaps for a hunter skilled at using the spear.

According to early records of the name mention Walter Spear who was recorded in County Somerset in the year 1185. Henry Spere was documented in 1246, County Lancashire. William le Spiour of the County of Cheshire was recorded in 1302. Robert Spyer of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Richard Spyre registered at Oxford University in 1515. John Spier of County Oxfordshire and Jane Price were married in London in 1662. Robert Spear and Maria Baker were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1802. George Spier is recorded in Stirling, Scotland in 1548. The name was taken to Scotland by early settlers, and George Speris is recorded in Stirling in the year 1548. Janet Speirs appears in Farniknowes in the year 1679, and Thomas Speirs in Torrieburne, complained against his minister in 1689. The name has many variant spellings which include SPEARE, SPEARS and SPEER.

Spears Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • William Spears, aged 27, a private in the NSW Corps, arrived in Sydney Cove on 12 Jun 1801 aboard the ship "Earl of Cornwallis"
  • Gregory Spears, aged 20, a labourer, arrived in South Australia in 1851 aboard the ship "Navarino"
  • William Spears, aged 32, arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Bucephalus"