6 common genealogy mistakes to avoid

6 common genealogy mistakes to avoid

Genealogy is the study of families and their history. It involves tracing their lineages and uncovering intriguing stories. Every step a person takes to learn about their family’s past could reveal new relatives and entertaining anecdotes. Those new to genealogy often make some common mistakes, which can lead to inaccurate results. By avoiding such common errors, individuals can succeed in their genealogy research while gaining a deeper understanding of their family’s history.

Common genealogy mistakes to avoid
When researching, people make common genealogy mistakes, which must be avoided to ensure successful research.

1. Not reviewing each document carefully
Even the most experienced readers can make the mistake of ignoring everything else on a document and focusing only on the names and dates. Skimming each document could cause one to overlook vital details that, while initially unimportant, may later prove to be the crucial hint needed to continue the investigation.

It can be avoided by carefully reading every bit of information on every document, including newspaper stories and obituaries. However, it is also important to note that not everything in print needs to be trusted. A family genealogy or record transcription may not always be accurate just because it has been recorded or published.

The majority of printed family histories probably contain one or more minor errors. Books with transcriptions (cemeteries, censuses, wills, courthouses, etc.) may contain transcription errors, omit important details, or even make erroneous assumptions.

2. Not organizing and maintaining papers
Digital and paper files can start piling up fast when starting genealogy research. Although making discoveries and conducting research may be more enjoyable, putting off organizing can cost one money and time. So, plan to update notes regularly and organize paper and digital files.

It is also important to maintain track of the sources for all materials. By maintaining a research log, one can avoid wasting time looking at the same sources repeatedly. Record and cite those genealogical sources, giving due credit to the source’s name, place, and date. Making a copy of the original record or document, or an abstract or transcription, can also be helpful.

3. Not inquiring with family members about what they know
Another mistake most people make is not asking their immediate and extended family members about their history and memories. The biggest risk of delaying interviews is the possibility of losing a family member and their recollections forever. Also, people may experience memory problems and lose the ability to remember names and other details.

Make a list of names and questions that must be asked to persons from whom information can be obtained. However, don’t limit asking family tree questions only to immediate relatives. Make sure to inquire with cousins, aunts, uncles, and other distant family members, such as great-aunts or second cousins. Also, don’t forget about longtime family friends.

4. Copying data from online family trees
With millions of family trees available online, it’s hard not to occasionally look at someone else’s family tree for information. Collaborating with other genealogists and cross-referencing research can help find new leads and possibly even relations while saving time. But duplicating someone else’s tree without verifying its accuracy can lead to inaccurate information. The data the user obtained can be completely inaccurate or relate to another individual with a similar name. This is particularly crucial when it comes to relatives with common names. Adding wrong people or events to the family tree may require starting over, particularly if one cannot remember where the issues started. This may cost hours, if not months, of wasted effort and time researching the wrong people or following false clues.

5. Only using online resources
While the Internet is a valuable genealogy research tool, one must approach Internet data, like other published sources, with skepticism, as not all information may be accurate. One must keep in mind that most family history documents have not yet been digitalized and can only be found in offline sources such as courthouses, libraries, archives, and other repositories. These offline sources contain crucial records like land records, probate records, and military records, which are crucial to learning more about ancestors beyond their birth and death dates.

6. Not being flexible about spellings of names, surnames, and dates
Accuracy and consistency regarding a person’s birthday, place of birth, and the spelling of their name were not as important to people in the past as they are now. This could be due to a lack of formal education or illiteracy. It is also possible that people may have attempted to conceal information about their age or place of birth due to personal reasons. They may have also used different variations of their names.

So, when researching family history, it is important not to rule out individuals who seem related to one’s ancestor but have differences in names, birthplace, or age. Look for more documents to see whether they belong to the same person. By identifying trends and examining multiple documents, one can determine if these individuals are members of one’s family. If there are only a few documents that differ while the others are nearly identical, those few may be outliers.

Researching family history through genealogy may be a fascinating and fulfilling endeavor. However, it has its share of challenges, and novices frequently make mistakes that can cause disappointment. Understanding such mistakes and knowing how to avoid them will enrich one’s genealogy research experience.