Family Trees—To Use Or Not to Use!

QUESTION:

When building your family tree on Ancestry.com, do you ignore suggested member trees or do you review them? If you review them, do you ignore siblings of the person you’re reviewing?

NOT-YOUR-GRANDMOTHER ANSWER:

For the first part of your question, I am all in favor of collaboration and sharing research—it saves time and effort and makes my and your hard work available to others. I love having cousins review my research! Maybe they’ll catch something I missed.

BUT—

Ancestry family trees can be such a mess. Some are beautifully curated, with documentation, photos, and sources. Others have multiple entries per person, obviously wrong documents attached (How did Uncle Burt get to Australia for that marriage and did Aunt Delilah know about that?), and lots of references to Ancestry trees that have long disappeared.

Here are my suggestions for using Ancestry member trees. Before gobbling up someone else’s research and adding it to your tree, ask yourself:

  • Is there solid documentation?
  • Does it contradict itself or something you already know as fact?
  • Are the names common, and could this be a people mixup?
  • Do other member trees contradict the information? (Not that that disqualifies, but it’s good to hear all opinions!)
  • Do I practice good tree hygiene myself? Personally, I keep relationships and facts I am not entirely certain about in a private tree so bad data isn’t copied, propagated, and become fact by repetition. I keep a separate, public version of my trees that only includes information I have high confidence in.

For the second half of your question, DO include siblings of your direct ancestor. Researching them will often prove valuable to supplement missing records on your direct line. Maybe Great-grandpa Fred’s marriage certificate doesn’t list his place of birth, but brother Billy’s marriage certificate does. That may lead you to finding Fred’s birthplace. Maybe Billy had Grandma Sally living with him and that’s how you get back another generation. All information helps!

Remember the golden rule of family history! You wouldn’t want your name, achievements, or relationships recorded wrongly for posterity! Pay your ancestors the respect of making sure you got it right!

Do you have a question you’d like Not Your Grandmother to answer?

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