02 November 2012

Avoiding 5 Common Genealogy and Family History Research Errors

The Rootsonomy blog recently had a great article about 5 research mistakes family historians want to avoid.

The short list is:
1. Don't believe everything you see or read.
2. Always document WHERE you got EVERY fact in your tree.
3. Avoid making assumptions.
4. Don't rush backward in time.
5. Don't assume you are related to Abraham Lincoln.

And, do read the full article both for the accompanying images and further details about each research mistake.

Let me add my 2 cents (maybe with inflation now 5 cents) to the first item!  Even “original” documents contain errors!  Just because information is found on a “primary” document (e.g. a birth certificate) does not mean it is accurate.  My grandmother’s birth certificate had 1 piece of data that was correct – every other data point had an error of some kind!  Given that, go for a preponderance of evidence before you draw a conclusion on a birth date, a birth place, what a person’s name is.  We so often want to dot the Is and cross the Ts and yet what do you do when every document has someone’s name “differently?”  What is their “real name?”  The one listed on their birth certificate?  The one mom called them by?  The one they used?  The one on official documents? Which is truly their name?

What “common” research mistakes would you like to warn your fellow genealogists and family historians about?

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  1. An Upfront with NGS reader shared this thought ...

    Do not rely on any database if at all possible. A database is compiled by volunteers and even if it was done for a state genealogical library, it can contain serious errors. I have just found that the date shown in the Indiana State Library Genealogy database on Indiana Marriages for Rebecca Mitchell Ketcham is incorrect.

    Thankfully I have a photocopy of the page containing the data for this marriage from Montgomery County, Indiana. There is a two month difference.

    With the increasing use of artificial intelligence and out of country transcribers to enter data into databases, we need to be even more diligent in finding original sources.

    Thanks WM!

  2. Very true...when using sites such as Ancestry.com, do NOT rely on information in other people's family trees without fact checking! I've noticed several people are readily copying misinformation about my ancestors to their tree without proper verification -- watch out!