Unsourcing Your Family

One of the things that annoys me to no end are unsourced, undocumented facts about family members in a family tree. Unfortunately, that is the way of the world at times. Many early 20th century genealogist didn’t bother to source with documents because they weren’t always readily available. They didn’t often even source their information well, because the study of genealogy was truly in its infancy at the time.

Today, we have a wealth of online pay and free resources. We are at times overwhelmed by these sources and readily attach them to our trees. That leads to other problems and many don’t bother correcting these issues before supplying their findings to the online masses.

You see a little geeen shaking leaf on your Ancestry.com online tree for your third great grandmother. You click on it and add the information and the source. Now, suddenly, your third great grandmother, a lifelong resident of Vermont has a place of residence in Chicago in 1914. And now that you’ve attached that information, all of your relatives looking at your family tree, are connecting it to their tree, and then some ancillary relative seeing all of you using it adds it to their tree.

And, also now comes someone, like me, that says, how can this be possible and your actual lack of research calls into question all of your research on that person, and in many ways, the integrity of your family tree.

I’m not saying your research is worthless. I’m saying you should confirm all of your direct line relatives. Make sure your sources are actually your sources. An anomaly like an elderly family memeber moving from Vermont to Chicago and back, inexplicably, could be a red flag. Or, it could simply be that the elderly relative lived there, with a younger relative, during an illness or an injury while recovering.

Make sure to understand your sources and documents. Always document your sources with original, direct images, when possible. Use multiple sources for the same information, when possible. And, organize your source information so it tells the story of the source and the document. That will be important to future family memebers that won’t know your thoughts.


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