Article by Paul Duxbury.
I bet I know the answer to what those who are actively involved in discovering their family tree, which is otherwise known as genealogy, find most frustrating! I am sure that they will tell you that there is nothing more frustrating than spending hours and sometimes days researching only to discover that you have been looking at bad information or even in the wrong family!
It is a problem that plagues everyone who has ever started to investigate their family tree and one that you should try to avoid. Obviously it wastes your time, it can lead you down long incorrect roads, and it can really be frustrating. So how do you avoid this pitfall? Well there is no one magic answer to keeping yourself from barking up the wrong family tree, but there are some tips that may help you end up on the wrong path a little less frequently. Take a look at these eight tips and you will lessen your frustrations as you seek out your family history and heritage.
Firstly you should always keep track of all of your resources. When you get new information, write down where you got it. If it was a book, get the title, the author, publisher, and even the ISBN or ISSN number so that you will know where you got the information and where to get more if you find yourself in need of more information down the road from the same resource. If you get information from a relative, write down from whom you got it and when you conducted the interview. Information is a big part of this hobby so make sure you know where you are getting yours.
Second, along those same lines, keep yourself organized. When you are organized you are less likely to mix up information and get yourself off track. Put together some sort of filing system, both for print and for your computer documents. That way, when you need a birth certificate you are sure you have, you will know where to look for it. Also, if you want to review information you have previously recorded, you will know exactly where it is on your computer or in y our files.
Third, double check everything. That is, make sure that things make sense before you just assume they are right. For example, if your great, great grandmother was born in 1810, she probably did not get married in 1815 and was likely not a mother in 1820. The same goes for any other chronology of dates or events. Just always make sure things are making sense before you keep going down a wrong path.
The fourth thing you should do to keep things straight is to be very careful about scams. There are a lot of scams out there that are designed to take advantage of those who are into genealogy. For instance, you may get the mail order brochure that offers to get you all the information you need on whatever family you are researching. Do not fall for this, since most of these are not researched and use only phone listings and other unreliable information to come up with what is supposed to be a family history. You are always better off doing your own research. In addition, remember that anything you hear about that sounds too easy, is probably a scam.
Fifth, make sure you are very specific when you make notes and share information. Date formats vary from country to country so make sure you are clear about month, date, and year. Also, be very clear with your writing and with which names are surnames and which ones are given names. That way, when it comes time to ask others for help, everything is clear.
Sixth, to keep things accurate make sure you are not assuming things about families and relationships. In earlier times, a step child was sometimes called a son in law or a relative that was not a sister or brother was called a cousin no matter what the actual relationship was.
Seventh, in order to avoid following down paths you are not sure about, make sure you review and verify conclusions you have come to. There is often a lot of conflicting information within families as you do your research, especially if it from farther back. By taking time to verify, you may actually save yourself more time down the road.
Finally, give yourself the opportunity to succeed by advertising the surnames for which you are searching. Post them online with genealogy websites and get the information to any genealogical societies to which you belong. If you do not belong to any, it is something you might consider since they often have resources you may not be able to get on your own.
Genealogy is fun, but it can also be frustrating. To avoid the frustration of chasing bad information or the wrong family, follow these eight tips. You will enjoy genealogy much more when you know you are looking at correct information.