Discovering and tracing your family tree can be a wonderful hobby. There is just so much that you can discover and it can be so exciting as well. But with all that said there are reasons why I hate genealogy.
Before I continue with this post I do want to say that I do LOVE genealogy. There are just times when I hate it as well.
If you have taken up any hobby you may sometimes get frustrated by it.
Whether it’s not being able to hit that golf ball where you want it to go, or maybe being outplayed or outclassed by another person.
But you carry on with that hobby regardless because it does give you so much enjoyment.
My father’s interest!
I mentioned countless times on this website how I became interested in genealogy. But for those of you who are new to my site, I will just briefly explain why I first started to trace my family history.
I was blessed with many, many family stories that have been passed on to me thanks to my father. These stories came from both his father and mother’s side of the family, although predominantly from my paternal grandmother.
Before starting my research, my father had begun doing his digging.
No, not grave digging!
Anyway, taking these stories and his research I went further with my investigations, and in the process, we documented what we found together in a most-cherished family history book.
So, why do I hate genealogy?
Find out why below.
9 Reasons To Hate Genealogy:
- It’s A Learning Curve
- Many Distractions
- Information Overload
- When To Conduct Your Research
- It’s Addictive
- Hitting A Brick Wall
- Finding Unexpected Information
- Not Everything Can Be Found Online
- Incorrect Records and Information
Express Your Thoughts Below!
I would love to hear from you.
1. It’s A Learning Curve!
When you first start on your family history journey you are excited about who you will discover and what you will find out about your ancestors.
It’s an adventure!
You just don’t know who or what you will unearth. No, again I’m not talking about grave digging.
But as you start on your adventure there are so many genealogy resources available to you and plenty of strategies and techniques for you to master.
When I took my first step into this crazy world of family history my first task was to find a software program to enter all the charts that my father had painstakingly hand-drawn.
So, that involved plenty of research on my part to find the best program that suited me.
Where next to look for records?
Then the next question remained where to find new information?
I thus turned my attention to Ancestry, (as it is so well-known and popular), and found plenty of information. But there were plenty more other genealogy search websites that I soon discovered.
As you can see by checking out the Genealogy Resources & Tools section of this site you will see there are so many avenues of research that you can take.
This leads me on to the next reason why I hate genealogy!
2. Many Distractions!
As you find more and more information about your ancestors it can soon take you in so many directions. But which way do you go?
Do you follow the trail?
Or, do you stick with one ancestor and find out as much as you can about them first?
It’s up to you!
My approach was to build my family tree. I did this by checking out birth, marriage, and death records that I found on Ancestry, and census records as well.
I cannot emphasize enough how useful census records are for your genealogy research.
They can extensively help you to build your tree in all directions. Today, I have over 2,000 people in my family tree and it could have been so much more if I was obsessed with this hobby.
But you need to pace yourself and not get too carried away with your research.
You may want to follow my method of following the branches and recording information such as names, dates, places, and maybe one or two details.
Creating and building out your family tree is a great way to get a feel for genealogy.
Once you are confident with the research process you can then go back and check out other resources for more information on your ancestors.
And then use what you have learned while climbing up your tree.
Be careful though as it can get dizzy up there, lol.
3. Information Overload!
The important thing is not to collect too much information. I found out this the hard way, which nearly caused me to give up on this wonderful hobby. Let me explain.
As I was researching my ancestors the cheap way I hit on a great idea to get my genealogy information for free.
But how can you do that?
Well, by visiting your local library where you have free access to their computers and genealogy sites such as Ancestry and FindMyPast.
I didn’t make my job easy though!
I would spend up to 4 hours at my local library collecting countless details about my ancestors and storing what I found on my memory stick.
Then I go home and then try to assimilate all that information into my family tree.
You can imagine how overwhelmed I was when I sat down at my computer and saw all that information staring back at me. Probably gloating to itself!
Argh! What a headache!
Just where do I even start I thought to myself. I thought by spending as much time as I could at the library and collecting all that would help me as I wouldn’t need to visit the library as much.
But with so much information to assimilate it did make me wonder why I bothered with this hobby in the first place.
Why do I even bother?
So, I had to remind myself why I even cared so much for this hobby and immediately thought of two reasons.
- It’s exciting – You just don’t know who you will discover and what you will find out. It can be really exciting.
- A legacy to pass on – What you discover and record can be passed down to your children, their children, and thus through the generations.
My advice is to just take your time. Gather bite-sized chunks of information, work with what you got, AND THEN gather more information.
4. When To Conduct Your Research!
If you have already started to trace your family tree I can’t tell you how exciting it can be to build it upwards and outwards. It’s a mammoth task though, so when do you find the time to do it.
It takes more than 5 minutes!
Genealogy is not something that you can do in just 5 minutes or even a weekend for that matter. Some people have been doing it for years, even 20-30 years. And they’re not even completed their tree.
No one will ever complete their tree as there is so much information available to you and there are more and more records being uploaded to the Internet all the time.
Anyway, I have digressed.
Find a quiet area!
If you are like me then you will appreciate a nice quiet area where you can concentrate and work on your research. That’s the way that I work.
It does take a level of concentration and mind work to join the dots.
You will have plenty of facts in front of you and your job is to make sense of it all.
Make the time!
My next point is to give yourself time for your research.
Again, if you are like me then it will take time to set yourself up and begin your research.
You will have to switch on your computer, load up your genealogy program and tree, websites, and whatever tools that you need.
If you have a family then you will have to let them know that you will need some quiet time to do your research.
Or, you may want to work on your tree when they have all gone to sleep.
This makes me come to my next reason why I hate genealogy.
5. It’s Addictive
Genealogy is exciting as it’s just incredible what you will find out about your ancestors. My family’s stories are fascinating, but the discovery of ‘new‘ facts and revelations about my ancestors can be quite enjoyable too. Even addictive too!
Many distractions will turn your focus away from your current line of inquiry. If you have already begun researching your genealogy then you will know what I mean by this.
When to stop?
The problem though is when do you stop.
When do you call it a day or night?
My only quiet time though was when I got home late from work and the kids and my wife were in bed and asleep.
By this time it’s midnight. It takes time to get yourself ready as I have already mentioned, so once you are ready you don’t want to stop just yet.
And then 2 am comes along and goes. This is soon greeted by 3 am, and then you know that you probably should head off to bed otherwise you will be grumpy when you wake up. Probably in a few hours.
It’s just too easy to get engrossed with your research and follow the branches. One piece of information just leads on to the next, and the next, and the next, and the next. You get the idea.
Save it for next time!
So, just know when it is time to stop, get some rest and save it for another day.
Plus, the good thing about this approach is that you will have a fresh pair of eyes when you next sit down and work on your tree.
6. Hitting A Brick Wall!
My next reason to hate genealogy pretty much follows from my previous point. If you are so engrossed with your research you probably don’t want to quit just yet. Especially if you are trying to solve the problem of finding an elusive ancestor.
There will inevitably come a time though when you will hit a brick wall. And that can certainly be frustrating.
Luckily for you, I have written 3 posts where you can get help if you ever find yourself in this predicament.
- Breaking Through Brick Wall In Your Research
- Top 10 Tips For Breaking Down Brick Walls
- 10 More Tips To Breaking Down A Brick Wall
The important thing to note is that there are ways that you can use to break down that brick wall that has stopped you right in your tracks.
So, DO NOT get disappointed!
7. Finding Unexpected Information!
Personally and truthfully this is not a reason why I hate genealogy. I thought though that I would include it as I know many of you may become annoyed when discovering something unusual or unsavory about your ancestors.
Expect the ugly truth!
For example, you may not like to discover that your ancestor was a bit of an alcoholic and even got arrested. A case in point is my 2nd great-grandfather Henry Couch who did have a couple of altercations with the law.
I discovered this fact by checking newspaper archives. It was great seeing this side of my family tree. I just didn’t know anything about this story so it was exciting to show my father these articles.
These were though minor offenses, but even still I accepted what I found.
And so should you!
You just never know what you will find when tracing your family tree so you need to be prepared for anything.
DNA genealogy testing!
The same can be said for DNA genealogy testing, which is a fairly new area of family history research. Many of you though may become disgruntled with not getting the answers that you were after once you have received your test results.
For example, your results may throw up unexpected estimates for regions of the world that you have been matched with.
A case in point with this frustration is Jessica Alba who was disappointed with her European ancestry. Please check out the following short video.
The important thing is not to lose hope and again accept the unexpected.
As new tools and features are added to the site that you got your site from this will open up new results and areas of research for you.
And on top of that, you may make new family connections with living cousins as well.
8. Not Everything Can Be Found Online!
One reason that you may have hit a brick wall is that what you want to find out is not even on the Internet at all. But there is hope for you.
New information is continuously uploaded!
Genealogy sites such as Ancestry and FindMyPast are adding records to their collections all the time. So, if you cannot find what you are looking for then you may have to wait until it is available.
There are plenty of branches and ancestors for you to research in the meantime.
But there may be the possibility that that information may never be uploaded to the Internet.
As I have researched and written posts for this site I have discovered that there are many sources of information available at home that you can use.
These can be the typical certificates and records, but also journals, diaries, and letters that can be gleaned for useful information.
But you face the fact that you just cannot find out any more about a particular ancestor or that you can’t go back a further generation.
The important thing to note is that you have tried. And who knows maybe one day you or your descendant may indeed make progress.
9. Incorrect Records and Information!
My last reason centers around valuable records that I have discovered yet contain incorrect information. These errors come from transcripts of original records and also from family trees submitted by members of genealogy sites.
These two sources of information can help you immensely with your research, but you NEED to treat them with a grain of salt.
Unfortunately, transcription errors will creep into the records. Like brick walls they are inevitable.
The reason for this stems from either the fancy writing from people who have recorded details about your ancestors or maybe it’s just a scribble that is difficult to read.
You will see a lot of this if you use census records to build your tree.
The transcriber will not know nearly as much about your ancestors as you do. So, you will need to factor in misspellings of your ancestor’s name, birthplace, and other details.
You will have more of an idea of what is correct and what is simply a mistake.
It can though slow down your research if you stumble upon an elusive ancestor. In that case, you can try entering alternative spellings for your ancestor on the genealogy site of your choice.
Incorrect family trees!
I cannot tell you enough how valuable family trees have been to me that I have found on Ancestry. Whenever I have become stuck I have to turn to this useful resource.
The problem though is that they may contain incorrect information.
This may be because they have entered transcription errors into their tree without even realizing it.
The other cause of these inaccuracies results from being too keen to enter information that contains an ancestor with a similar name.
Too many times have I found a family tree that references a different family, but shares the same name as one of my ancestors.
I know that some information within the tree is correct and that I HAVE FOUND my ancestor. These members have cited census records that show me that this is the case.
But then they reference other census records that contain a person with the same name, yet with a different partner and children.
The important thing to take from this is to treat this resource with a grain of salt. Use it by all means but make sure you check their sources of information before you enter what you find into your tree.
My Final Thoughts
My reason for writing this post was not to discourage you from researching your ancestry. It is a wonderful hobby that you can do.
The problem though is that there will come a time when you will get frustrated. But that is the same with any pastime or activity.
The important thing is to not give up and enjoy the experience of finding your ancestors and everything about them.
New to genealogy?
If you are new to genealogy then you may wish to check out the ‘I Hate Genealogy‘ book written by Jeannette Woodward.
In the book, you will discover why genealogy matters and what drives us to continue searching for our ancestors. It is from the personal experiences of the author.
It’s a Kindle book, so you quickly buy it and start reading straight away.
If you enjoyed this post then you may like to check out the I Hate Genealogy Snobs article that I found on the Huffington Post website.
The author, Scott Phillips, is a genealogical historian who loves the hobby but yet distastes certain types of genealogy folk.
It’s just a different take on what I have been talking about here but it’s still worth reading.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
I hope you enjoyed reading about why I hate genealogy. If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.
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12 thoughts on “9 Reasons Why I Hate Genealogy!”
I agree that while looking for new information you can face many distractions which can lead to an unsatisfied result. But, in my opinion, these problems make you move forward and learn about something interesting.
Definitely. Who knows what we will find when doing genealogy research.
Thanks for the (recognizable) read 🙂 The incorrect assumptions of people wanting to “fill the tree” by jumping to conclusions is the reason that I had to start 20 year of research from scratch, and THAT really is a reason to hate genealogy 🙂 I have entered information, some given to me by family and/or newly found treelimbs, and expanded my search from there, only to find out, that the sources they cite are not correct and they took dangerous shortcuts, like you said, similar names, nothing else matches from the source, but the filled in information is correct for the ancestor, so which part is true, and which part is wrong? After trying to sort thru 3000+ ancestors and straighten things out, I decided to start over, entering the known truths (census, birth, marriage, death and burial information) that I personally found, and generously received from an uncle I know is meticulous in his note taking…. I just hope I reach a 100 years in age, so I can get it “done” 🙂 I guess my point is…. don’t put information “out there” that is not corroborated by facts, sources or proof 🙂
That sounds like a lot of work Erica, 3000+ ancestors, wow.
I carried on the research that my father did a number of years before me. Even though I did trust what he had done there were a few holes in his research, so it did help to be thorough.
I can though understand that it can be somewhat overwhelming so errors are bound to pop into our notes.
I started genealogy some 35 years ago. Initially it was visits to London or visiting graveyards or local libraries. It was interesting but slow. Then came the great change – computer-based genealogy with all the bells and whistles. I started to spend hours checking ‘hints’ and suggestions which were usually pointless or about someone else. Often the person hadn’t done their research and were believing silly stories about buried treasure or lost celebrities. Often the real stories were much more interesting: the soldier who helped train Russian ‘White’ soldiers in Cambridge in 1917 or the ancestor who was shipwrecked off the coast of Australia in the 1890s or the stories of kindness such as the man who cared for his physically and mentally ill brother for 82 years.
My research has slowed lately due to the fact that the companies are becoming very expensive and they keep changing their mode of presenting ones research. One company stopped my link with their main database and kept telling me I was mistaken. Another company’s method of showing research is so complicated I’ve given up despite paying my fee and buying their ‘how to’ book. Of course these companies are privately owned and need to make a profit. However one must congratulate the GRO in England who are very helpful and efficient and a word must go to the French archive system. If you have French ancestors you will find the French system of records very, very efficient and comprehensive.
Thanks for commenting. As I started to read your comment I thought to myself how lucky that I am that I have grown up with computers, and how easy it is to trace my family history online.
It must have been such a pain and so slow in the past, visiting all those places getting clues about our ancestry. But we still do need to actually from time to time.
I too have become frustrated when sites change their layout. You then have to get used to a new look and how to find whatever you are looking for.
Some sites though are getting greedy, but with people willing to pay the money then they will continue to keep high prices.
Owain, maybe it’s my age showing, but there is nothing more exciting than going thru the records yourself. The birth, marriage and deathbooks, that have the information you seek, and knowing that it was written at the time it happened…. And, as far as your ancestor knew ALL the information was correct. If his father told hem he was from Pennsylvania, and he wasn’t that’s not on the clerk or the ancestor that provided the information… However, if the transcriber reads or types IA instead of PA, your search becomes a brick wall. Also, I’ve noticed that transcribed records don’t necessarily take down all the information from the original records, just what the transcriber thinks is relevant, and we both know that your “relevant” doesn’t have to match mine 🙂 So, if you have a chance, DO go to the place that has the original records, spend some time, and even if you only look for one ancestor and call it good, you’ll never forget the experience but it might add a dimension to the addiction.
We found family we didn’t know I had, because I went thru the births books, and just looked for the parents of one ancestor, and found 6 siblings….. 🙂
That’s great that you were so thorough. I have mostly done my research online. I have always checked the scanned image as well as the transcribed records. You just don’t know what errors may creep in so it does help to check the original as well.
Wow! I’m a little bit overwhelmed by genealogy after reading your post. I know it is not the same, but I have a short story about one of my history professors in high school who was doing something like this as a hobby. So, on the first day of school, he would make a list of all students in his class, writing down their last names. In second class he would show up with information about your origin, based on your last name. I found out I’m pulling my roots from Ottoman Empire haha!
Your post is very insightful and informative. I see you know a lot, and I must agree with your points here. Sometimes as we dig in deeper into a specific knowledge we can get a bit frustrated, however, eventually, it will “sit in,” and we will gain much more valuable understanding.
In the end, it is a love and hate relationship! I think it is Carl G. Jung who wrote this: “Even a happy life cannot be without of darkness, and the word happy will lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.”
I enjoyed your work here. All the best in the future!
I am glad that you liked my post and sharing your story and the quote. That’s great that your professor shared that with your class. I hope that it inspired your friends to look further into their family history.
I must say that this post wasn’t meant to discourage people from researching their ancestry. But it did give an insight into the ‘darker world’ of genealogy. If you can call it that.
That quote is so true.
Take care and all the best.
Thank you for the information about genealogy.
I actually did not know that there were actually resources out there to assist with finding your family history.
I am wondering if all family history can be done using research because some ancestries I would imagine would have been hidden like the African tribes/culture specifically.
Are these genealogy resources covering mostly the Western culture or they also incorporate African tribes? I am interested to know because if yes I know a lot of people who can benefit from this information.Thanx
Thank you for your comment and query. Yes there are certainly a lot of resources out there that can help you to trace your family tree.
You will be overwhelmed with it all. So just pace yourself.
I have mostly concentrated on Western cultures with this site, although I did check and see that AncestryDNA can trace your African heritage and breaking it down to 9 regions.
Hopefully the number of regions will increase and you will get more detailed results.
In time I will cover more about tracing African ancestors on this site. You can still though find plenty of useful guides and tips here that will help you.
All the best with your genealogy research.