Anyone who does research will testify to how frustrating it is to follow leads up blind alleys.Â In terms of genealogy, this could mean following wrong family lines. Anyone who has had a go at genealogy will undoubtedly be familiar with this scenario. It could be that you have been given a bad lead or perhaps misread some information that you have found. Either way, it mounts up to a lot of wasted time.
So how can this pitfall be avoided? Far from giving you a clever answer, I don’t believe that there are any, there are some general tips that I can give that might help you with your genealogy research. In fact the general principles could be applied to any type of research.
The first thing you should always do is keep a track of all of your resources, every book, every article and every web site. And get detailed information too. If your source was a book for example, get all the detail down to the ISBN number. If your research is by word of mouth, write down names, times and dates. Genealogy is all about information, so backing up your facts is critical.
Following a similar theme, you need to organise yourself and your research. File everything and file things where you know how to locate them. You will find yourself back tracking continuously, so make that side of genealogy as painless as possible.
Check your facts. Not just the literal snippets of information that you pick up, but also the logical order of things. Do the facts that you have collected make sense? Apply common sense to all of your findings and question them.
Do not accept carte blanche research from sources you don’t know. What I mean by this is really the types of research that one often sees advertised, offering to write up your family tree for a fee. Beware of these types of offers. The type of research upon which these tress are founded are often questionable. Save your money and do the research yourself. That is after all, part of the fun of genealogy!
If your family has spread it’s wings across borders, be very careful when collecting facts. As one example, dates can be written differently depending on where in the world you are at the time. Easy mistakes can be made under these circumstances. The date 05/04/75 means something different to people in the USA than it does to people in the UK.
Do not make assumptions about any piece of information that you might come across. Stick with the facts that you yourself have collected. One small assumption can lead you in all sorts of directions that you didn’t really want to go down. Remember that we refer to things differently now than we did in years gone by, so when something is taken from letters 100 years ago, it might not mean the same thing to you as it did to your forefathers.
Join up with web sites that have expertise in genealogy. Talk with like minded people and get the benefit of their experience. Not only will they have tips of their own to share to help you, they will have access to sources you might never have thought of. It is well worth your time talking to other genealogists.