Saturday, April 28, 2012

Just because you see it in print doesn't mean it is true

Okay, one thing I have to say is what gets me so aggravated about genealogy research today is a feature that was offered to people who posted their trees online. They could then use a tool to search out famous relatives. It had a disclaimer saying that it was only as correct as the information posted by others. (Which was probably not read or ignored by most) So, think about this... any Tom, Dick or Harry can go add a tree saying they are related to Merlin the Magician and somewhere in their family tree they have a name that is also in your tree, it will now connect you to having Merlin the Magician as your such and such relative.

Not very accurate right? Well, there are those out there that will take this at factual evidence, and not actually sit down and try to figure out if this is correct or not.

So, for instance let me pick out one famous person I am related to according to the data received after I do the famous person search. Mine says I am related to Geoffrey Chaucer. So, this is a really famous person. His lineage is well noted. So, once I start tracing the line back from myself, the further I get, I suddenly find, that this person listed as my great grandparent has a different named parent than I have in my actual tree. So, I go with it and continue back till I get to Chaucer himself. So apparently I am supposed to be related to him, yet my line suddenly changed on my way back to him. Red Flag! Now on to the next portion of real research work. See what information I can find on Geoffrey Chaucer and his children. It did not take long to discover that somewhere someone had added the name of Agnes Chaucer to their line and somehow it was matched with my line. So, not after any disappointment I conclude that Chaucer is not my 6th great grandfather after all.

I honestly think I could make up a family tree and put it online and in a few days time others with my same family ties will have quickly copied it and placed it into their tree, and accept it as true and factual information.

I myself am related to Brett Favre, who some of you may know played professional football for many years. You would not believe how many request I get from people who wanted to trace their tree to him. I could not for the life of me understand this need to have a famous person in your tree. Some were so disappointed when I told them they were not related and others ecstatic to be 13th cousins.

I LOVE LOVE the fact that so many people are getting into their family trees now. BUT DEPLORE the fact that they are just copying what others have put out there and believe it as true. I have seen my whole family tree copied, pictures and all by those not related to an entire branch. WHY? Why copy people you are not related to? Just use the information you find as a guideline. Do NOT accept any information as factual unless you see actual proof. (And I don't mean PROOF to be a family tree posted on an ancestry site saying you are related to so and so to be factual, show me the evidence) I mean obits are even wrong sometimes. So be careful what you add to your trees. Because it is just going to make it harder in the years to come for others to find the correct information when so many people are adding the wrong stuff.
If you want anyone to take you seriously as a genealogist, then do actual research.  Source your information. Find records of proof. Back up our claim. Don't post that you are related to 20 different very famous people with out being able to actually go through on your own and show exactly how grandparent by grandparent you are related, with verification by historical documents.

I have heard people say, "Well how can I go back that far? There were no records." Not always the case, many times you will have to go back to the country of origin and get the baptismal records, marriage, or death records. This takes extra time and effort that not many people either have time for or can afford. This is where it is great to have friends in other places that can do the footwork for you. There are so many people out there willing to look things up for you. You can go to a message board and ask for help or post in a genealogy group.

Just do not trust what is there in black and white as being factual unless it is a well documented source. Somewhere, somehow, I am sure you may find a famous relative, and that is awesome. We all have them lurking somewhere in our trees. We just need to make sure they are there the right way, through much documentation that can be backed up!

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