Don’t Believe Everything That’s Tree’d

One of my goals for this blog is to share best practices and lessons learned (aka mistakes made).  I’ll start off with my biggest mistake.  All of you experienced genealogists feel free to roll your eyes, because I certainly am.

I don’t remember exactly why, but one day I signed up for Ancestry.com.  As prompted, I entered in all the information I knew of my parents and grandparents.  Voila!  A magical little leaf appeared leading me to more ancestors.  I was clicking “review hint” and “save to tree” faster than you can say Jack Robinson.  Days of this mass addition of information went on when finally, I stumbled across a surprising detail.  What a glorious discovery, a great grandfather of mine served in the Revolutionary War!  It had never even occurred to me that my American roots could go back that far.

Before emailing my family of this wonderful discovery, I figured I’d better double check it first.  I quickly came to the realization that Ancestry.com has two types of sources: 1) actual sources, and 2) other people’s trees.  Unfortunately, most of my information came from the latter and I had no real documentation.  This was probably the moment that genealogy became an obsession.  I was completely enthralled in sorting through the details and accumulating as many legitimate sources as possible.  Over a year later, I still come across details in my tree that make no sense – all because that first week I was blindly copying other trees.

Lesson Learned: When you accept other trees without documentation, you are missing out on all the fun, not to mention a lot of correct information.  Spend some time verifying the details; you can always message the person with the tree and ask about their sources.  After all, connecting with people who share the same ancestors as you is another great part of doing genealogy.

Here’s a great article on Ancestry.com that addresses the issue of working through other people’s trees.

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