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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 So you found your Ancestor's Name on a Historical Document?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.

Genealogy Family Progress Rating

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 family research 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 genealogy websitesthat 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 yourself.

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 genealogy family information 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.