7 Genealogy Pitfalls to Avoid when Building your Genealogy Family Tree
Whether you are a novice or seasoned genealogist a little bit of genealogy 101
can help you avoid some of the pitfalls that all of us have encountered when creating
our personal history and recording our ancestors' genealogy.
1. So you found your Ancestor's Name on a Historical Document?
Your great grandfather was living in a certain county, and you found a document
that has his name on it, now what? Remember, surnames are not unique. Also, families
migrated together and often used the same names to honor family members. Be sure
to verify the data is indeed about your ancestor. You will need to find several
sources to verify if this document is indeed about your relative. Like a reporter,
you need multiple sources to back up the evidence. If you only add the one record
that you found, don't be surprised if it ends up sending you in the wrong direction,
to where you start to add people that are not related.
2. How Many Primary and Secondary Sources have you Collected?
Seek out a variety of written facts to verify the person belongs in your tree.
Not only does this help confirm you have the right person in your tree, it also
makes for a well documented history. Seek out primary sources to validate birth,
marriage and death information. Complement them with secondary sources such as:
census, birth, marriage, and obituary announcements to round out your heritage.
When do you have enough sources? When you can conclude the person belongs in the
tree - you have enough documentation.
Set goals for yourself to find relationships between family members: parents,
children and siblings and their spouses is one approach. Another is to incorporate
the dates and locations of each important event: birth, marriage, and death.
The best documents to acquire for genealogy purposes are filled out by the ancestor
themselves. This doesn't mean there won't be inaccuracies, but they are usually
the most reliable, unless they erroneously reported wrong data to get into the military
or get married when they were not old enough. Wills, marriage licenses SS-5 forms,
naturalization, military pension, or enlistment records, are some of the more common
documents that you can find that are filled out by the person themselves. The next
best sources are related to birth and death events - birth announcements, birth
certificates, obituaries, and death certificates. Use a variety of historical documents
that can help prove your ancestry.
Our program has a built in progress rating chart that helps you to see where you
are missing genealogical data based on tracking the events that are important to
you. It helps you to see the big picture for your genealogy and family. From the
missing information, you can create a task list to keep you focused with your genealogy.
3. Have you Used Migration Maps to Help Locate your Ancestors?
It is important to use maps that point out when counties were formed and how they
changed through the years. Understanding this information is going to help you tremendously
with your early genealogy roots. Get acclimated to using county formation maps for
the time period you are researching. If you can incorporate railroad, waterways,
and old trails this is going to boost your understanding of how an ancestor migrated
and might lead you to a new historical fact.
Use a timeline to understand how and when family members migrated and counties
changed. If your timeline includes sources, it can help you to see where you are
missing genealogy data.
4. Have you Validated your Ancestor's Information?
Your genealogy tree can be more accurate and point out possible incorrectly recorded
data by verifying birth, marriage, and death events by making sure you have recorded
event information in the proper order. There are some exceptions, but for the most
part if you check your data, you can capture details that may be wrong. Our application
automatically checks your data for 15 different possible errors.
5. Are your Genealogy Sources Cited?
All of us at some point has done some digging and don't remember where we found
the data. This is because we did not cite the source properly with where we found
it (the repository) and where the information came from - film #, film title, and
the more granular details such as the page number. This applies to books, images,
etc. Sometimes we misplace or forget to copy a page that is important. Without knowing
how to find the data, you might have to do the same again.
Our program has a built in Source examples to follow when adding various details
from books, films, photographs, original and indexed records, and more.
6. Is your Research Log up to Date?
Keeping a research log of what has been researched both successfully and unsuccessfully
will keep you from tracing the same thing multiple times. It is almost guaranteed
if you do not take the time to create an accurate log and keep it up to date, you
will end up doing the same legwork years later.
If you forget to cite your source properly, but have an updated log, you should
have a good idea on how to back track and get the missing data. Another good idea
is to create a task list from your research log to help keep you focused with your
tasks at hand.
7. So you think the Internet has everything you need to know about your Ancestors?
The TV show Who Do You Think You Are, as well as all the internet genealogy sites
has helped to make this a popular hobby. Some of them have made it seem like you
can find your family's history all on line, with a click of a button. You can certainly
find information from that are not SSL secure. Pages are spidered and
indexed by browsers on a daily basis. It is intriguing to see what you can find
about your heritage, without leaving your house. The data mostly found on these
websites are not recorded with factual evidence. And if they are, usually it will
only contain census records. Never use or copy anything that you have not verified
Thinking you can build a reliable family tree quickly and entirely from the internet,
is just not possible. Don't believe everything you read, always ask where did the
information come from? Who provided the details? Did they cite and provide sources?
Grow a Reliable well Documented Genealogy Tree
If this is your first time creating a tree, start with what you know. Ask your
relatives for such as: historical documents, photos,
and videos that will help you with building a family story filled with history and
memories. If you have been working on your heritage for a while and are stuck with
an issue, look for assistance through message boards or historical groups or societies
to give some guidance to solve your brick wall. Keeping track of your research and
being able to explain what you have researched to others is a tremendous help. Collect
stories and heritage details; analyze your documents; and write conclusions based
on facts. Good luck with building your family tree, and try to avoid some of the
pitfalls outlined here.