There is essentially no wrong way to do your family history. But there are mistakes in genealogy that you may make during the course of your research. Your approach may be to discover names and connections at first. Or you may want to focus your attention on an individual and learn as much as you can before going onto the next person.
I will present some guidelines that you should consider when researching your family tree. This will ensure that your tree is free of errors and that you can be proud of your research.
After all you do not want to be hitting brick walls or abandoning researching your family history. This is something that can be passed down to your children and preserved for generations to come.
Not Asking Relatives
One of the first courses of action you must take is to ask your relations about your family history. They may possess valuable information such as names, dates and stories as well. They may also have documents, interesting photographs and heirlooms as well that will be invaluable to your research.
Your relatives may have birth, marriage or death certificates in their possession. You can ask them to make copies of these or if they are willing to give you the original. This will save you time and money.
You DO NOT want to be wasting time ordering certificates when they are virtually on hand. That time could be best spent researching your family tree.
Also, the money you save could be used to purchase certificates that you do not have.
Your relatives can help you with your genealogy research!
Your relatives may be able to fill in the blanks that you may have in your research. If you are not sure of a name, date, place or you are curious about a story that you have been told then there is no harm in asking. The information that can provide will undoubtedly help you further in your research.
In fact sometimes you will be astonished at the information that they can give you. Details such as a relative that you did not even know existed, or a story that you may not have heard before. These examples can help enrich your knowledge of your family history.
Who knows what help your relations will be able to give you? You just need to ask.
Believe Everything On The Internet
I have always treated the information that I have found on the Internet with a grain of salt. What I mean by this is do not trust everything that you find online. Astonishingly, not everything on there is in fact correct. These are two examples.
Sometimes there will be errors in the transcription of Census records that you find, or any other record for that matter. Enumerators that collected information on Census night may have written in fancy writing. This will leave the transcriber difficulty deciphering what was written.
If you have knowledge of the area, or the person in question you may be able to see the error. The same can be said for parish records. During Census night information about a household may have been sought by the next door neighbour. So obviously errors would creep into these records.
So let me ask you. Can you decipher the handwriting above?
Mistakes on amateur family trees!
Another example is the many family trees that you will find on genealogy sites by an amateur family historian. Checking their sources may highlight to you that their tree is actually incorrect. They may have cited a Census record for a person with the same name yet appearing in a different village for example.
One person may have put their incorrect tree online only for someone else to blindly copy their tree and assume it to be correct. After all if two people have the same information then it isn’t it correct? Not at all.
It is always worthwhile just checking over information before you enter it into your own tree. You do not want to add these errors to your tree so follow this advice and do not take what you find online at face value.
This is similar to the previous case with regard to transcribing records online or even at an archive. Using knowledge of the area or the person in question may help you decipher illegible writing. You may also want to enlist the aid of an archivist or other experienced genealogists online to help read a record.
Find The Wrong Person With The Same Name
I will be honest here and will admit that even I have committed this genealogy sin. I was of course new to family history research. Although I did spend only a little time following the wrong branch. It was time though that I could have better used researching the right branch. So you could say I went the wrong way!
I did find a person with the same name in the right area but it wasn’t long before I realised it was the wrong family and I had found the right one. It is easy enough to check if their spouse, children, occupation, or parish are correct.
You will then know that you are on the right path, or right branch for that matter.
If you are impatient and in a rush to create your family tree, or it is late at night then it is likely that you will make a mistake with your family tree. Just take your time, do the research and check whether you have got things right. It will be so rewarding in the long run.
Not Citing Your Sources
I know about the excitement of finding new information and plugging them into your genealogy program and building your charts. It can be quite impressive to look at a newly created chart that features new people and dates that you have found. For some though it is easy enough to forget to put in your references and you will ask yourself where did I find this information?
So why add references?
Well, you may hit a brick wall with a new individual and decide to come back to it later. If you haven’t cited your research then how can you properly continue where you left off.
You DO NOT have all the details to carry on so have to backtrack to find where the information came from before you move on.
You may want to ask for assistance from someone. If you don’t have any citations then that person will also have to backtrack as well. This will of course cause a delay in the fact finding process.
Fill In Gaps With Mistakes
There will undoubtedly be times when there will be holes in your research. Parts of the puzzle that need to be filled, but the correct piece needs to be used. It is all part of genealogy trying to find that one piece that will fit in the gap.
At times during your research you will come across brick walls, times when you can’t seem to get the information that you are looking for. You therefore DO NOT want to make assumptions and put in data that you think to be correct. This will only compound errors later down the road.
BE SURE what you put in is correct!
As I have mentioned before there is nothing more fulfilling than created something so wonderful like your family history but also that it is correct. Sure you can put together a family tree and people can be impressed by it. But is it accurate? You won’t feel proud at all if you know that something isn’t right with it.
So as I have explained there are a number of mistakes or pitfalls that you can fall into when you start researching your family tree. It is important to be aware of these as they can not only waste your time or also money. You do not want to be wasting time researching a branch of the family that isn’t even really yours.
Genealogy is though a fun and exciting hobby. Everyone seems to want to know where they came from and who they are related to. You just don’t know what you will find along the way. And that is part of the excitement. It is a long journey and coming along these gems along the way can be quite rewarding.
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