Not all online family trees are created equal; beware of inaccuracies

Credit: Special

Credit: Special

Many readers have told me that, while researching their ancestors, they’ve come across online family trees, created by someone with whom they share lineage, that have incorrect information.

This can be the case especially for those using Ancestry.com, they say. Sometimes, the family tree is hastily put together, and not all the information has been verified. Diane Haddad, former editor of Family Tree Magazine, wrote about this in 2018 in an article that you can find on the publication’s website familytreemagazine.com. She has rules to follow when reviewing such trees. Among them:

Take your time looking over hints you get. Not every hint should be part of your tree — they are generated automatically.

Look at any attached image to verify the facts to be sure they fit into your tree. If you don’t know much about that particular relative, be extra careful. It does not hurt to wait and see, or try to research that tidbit yourself.

Look at each hint individually. You don’t have to accept a whole list of things; they will pop back up again.

If you come across a person with an error in his or her tree, Ancestry.com now has a way to leave a comment.

Hints can help you fill out the documentation on your own tree, one that you have researched. When accurate, these can save a lot of time. But it’s best to research the line yourself and add in the documents you know are correct and not wait for the automatic hints. Some hints can get you looking at a person you may not have discovered before and then you can research that hint to see if it’s a valid clue. Many times it is.

Moral of the story: Be careful, understand research, and don’t look for a quick fix when it comes to gathering information.

Genealogy gift giving

Looking for a holiday gift for your favorite genealogist? How about DNA tests, a genealogy book, or a subscription to a genealogy magazine. Giving a membership to a genealogical society is also good. You could give a family heirloom or a scan of a family picture.

Cemetery visits

Visit a family cemetery or family cemetery plot during the holidays, in person, or virtually, to help younger family members connect to their ancestors. You could add the family plot or cemetery to Find a Grave and other sites.

Contact Kenneth H. Thomas Jr., P.O. Box 901, Decatur, Ga., 30031 or kenthomasongenealogy.com