I tend to look at an awful lot of genealogy and some of it is really awful. Here is a compilation of a few of the most obvious and easily rectified errors:
1. Failing to look for and record the correct full name of an ancestor. One of the side benefits of looking at a large collection of user submitted family trees is that it is fairly easy to compare the submissions of any one individual and see the variations. In this case, I have used Ancestry.com's Public Member Trees and New FamilySearch for the lists. All of the individuals I examine in this post as well known and accurate information on the individual is extremely easy to find. I can verify a name of any of these individuals from several online free original sources. Here is the classic example from my family: Henry Martin Tanner. Just to get an idea of the number of submissions, Ancestry.com's Public Trees show 37,110 returns on a search for his name. The name variations are as follows:
Henry Martin Tanner
Henry M. Tanner
Henry W. Tanner (obviously wrong)
I started with someone who is well recorded. Here is the second example: Henry's father, Sidney Tanner.
None of these variations are a reflection of the common problem of a lack of a standard spelling. The name variations do not appear in any source records that I have seen. Next example: Ove Christian Oveson.
Ove Christian Ovesen
Ore Christian Overson
Ove C. Oversen
Ove C. Overson
Ove Christian Jensen
Ove Christian Overson
Ove Christian Oveson
Ove Christian Oveson (Overson)
Ove Conrad Overson
I think you can get the idea. Some of these are probably the wrong person. It might help to know that Ove Christian Oveson changed his name to Overson when he came to the U.S. from Denmark.
2. Failure to record the complete or correct location for an event. This is really common. Usually, the submitter merely leaves out the county or other larger geographic designation. In places like Denmark where identical names are common, failing to identify the exact location of an event usually ends up with the wrong person. Here are the places listed for Henry Martin Tanner's birth in 1852:
San Bernardino, Los Angeles, California
San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California
San Barnadino, California
Joseph City, Apache, AZ
Joseph City, Arizona, USA
Toquerville, Wash. UT
St. Joseph, Navajo, Arizona
Date and place not provided
Can you guess which one is correct for 1852?
3. Failure to provide a correct date or giving an approximate date when the actual date is known. Back to Henry Martin Tanner, his birth date is well documented and correct, 11 June 1852. Here are the variations:
11 June 1852
11 July 1852
Date and place not provided
Come on, there is really no excuse for the variations. There are no records that show different dates for his birth other than those sloppy submissions.
4. Failure to provide a name or date when the name or date is well known. I can't really give an example of this because the information is lacking from the submitter's file. For example, it is common to find an unknown spouse for someone whose spouse's name is readily available. It is also common for submitted family trees to have the first name of the wife when her maiden name is known. The submitter commonly cops out by using Mrs. Jones or Miss Jones where the Jones is the husband's surname. This may be an acceptable practice in some circles but it is unacceptable to me.
5. Considering two individuals to be the same person, merely because they have the same name. What can I say about this except that it happens all the time.
Well, as you can imagine, the list could go on and on and perhaps it will in the future.