Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, November 18, 2016

Jumpstart Your Family History in Ten Steps: Step Seven -- Constantly evaluate the entries in your family tree

At this stage of the process of beginning a family tree, you should already have at least some basic information in a family tree program. Ideally, you should also have supporting documentation for each of the conclusions you have made about your family relationship. Many beginners mistakenly feel that information they know from memory or obtained orally from immediate family members is inherently reliable. This is certainly not always the case and it is a good idea to try to document all of the information you have obtained even about your own parents and immediate family members. The concept here is that you are building bridge to the past. If you need to think about this bridge, you should think about it being built with Legos or the equivalent, i.e. piece by piece.

The bridge annalogy is not entirely appropriate because each succeeding generation in a family tree depends on the accuracy of preceeding generation. If I get one generation wrong, the rest of the pedigree is totally wrong. But if I left out one brick in this bridge, the bridge would not necessarily fall down.

What do I mean by evaluate? I mean that you need to carefully check and find records to support every conclusion. This is particularly true for conclusions involving the location of events and the birthplaces of children. I commonly find children included in families merely because the name happens to fit in the sequence of the children when the birthplace is not consistent with where the parents lived.

For some, the idea of evaluating every entry seems like a repetitious process that only slows down the research. But what good is it to advance rapidly if you are going down the wrong road, i.e. pursuing the wrong family line? Some genealogists, as I have written before, like to try to impress people with the number of names they have in their file or family tree. This is the equivalent to the people who used to teach classes in the old days and who carried in huge stacks of family group records and pedigrees to illustrate how much work they had done. We have spent too much time looking at numbers when we should be looking at the quality of the entries. If I wanted to copy other family trees without verification, I could double or triple the number of people I presently have in my master list in about an hour or two of copying. So what? How many of those names would be people I am not even arguably related to?

Quoting from Proverbs 17:1: "Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife." We need to be at peace with our selection of our ancestors and the only way to do this is through constant evaluation based on as many valid sources as we can discover.

I just published a long post that gives two illustrations of what I mean by evaluation. See the following: I was writing about the need to verify locations, but the examples apply to this step in getting a jumpstart on your genealogy. Anything worth doing is worth doing right.

Here are the posts in this series.

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