I was looking for some clues this week about which branch of a family to pursue, while researching someone’s family tree for them.
I did a quick trawl of the online offerings, to see if I could get some pointers as to which direction my research should go and which of two cousins to concentrate on.
We all get taught that we should NEVER take someone else’s research and add it into our own tree without verifying the information in the records.
I may, however, look to see what others may have found before me as a clue to which people I need to research in the primary records. But I always scan to see what sources they have added to their tree, to back up their research. If there are few records cited – or worse still, none at all – then my in built BS meter tends to go off in my brain.
Unfortunately, too many people don’t seem to approach ancestor research with a healthy dose of scepticism for what they have found online and so the web based family trees can be a great example of people’s fantasy being passed off as truth.
I was once bombarded by messages from someone who thought that doing genealogy was simple. They willy nilly grabbed people with the same names as their ancestors and completed their tree in no time at all. When I raised with them the subject of proof they became very annoyed with me. To them “it stands to reason” that X was the father of Y and that there was no need to waste our time proving it.
Sorry, that is so wrong!
I do think that it is acceptable to take a look and see if we can get some clues for our own research from what others have done, but sometimes I am speechless at what I find published in an online tree.
This week I found that someone had made public their family tree with a line going back to the eighteenth century. Supposedly, if you believed their tree, one of their female ancestors had been born in 1779, got married 8 years before she was born, had a son when she was 3 years old and then died in two different places!
Perhaps this was a work in progress and they were entering possible candidates into the tree before checking the records to verify if they had the right person. In this case it must, surely, have been obvious they were barking up the wrong tree. I just wonder how they were not embarrassed to have this nonsense publicly available for all to see?
Lesson from all this, for those new to family history research, don’t make your tree public if it contains daft speculation!
Take a look at Genealogical Proof on the Amazon store, some books are very reasonably priced: http://amzn.to/2lVoZYO
My own English/Welsh family history course includes a module examining genealogical proof.
Compensated Affiliate Link to Amazon.co.uk used above.