How Not to Ancestry

AndyHall

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#1
As I've mentioned often, I use Ancestry all the time, not only for my own genealogy, but for researching lots of individuals that I'm not related to. Ancestry is extremely valuable for easily accessing all sorts of basic records -- census rolls, birth and death records, and so on.

The weakness of using Ancestry, though, is in relying on the family trees compiled by other users. Some of them are genuinely useless, and contain data that is clearly incorrect. Nevertheless, it's out there, and can easily lead you astray in your own research.

I came across this example today. It's an entry for a woman who, according to this tree, was born in about 1520. Her father was born in 1537, and her mother in 1525. Her son was born in 1530, when she was ten:

bewareancestry.jpg


There's a lot of this foolishness floating around on Ancestry, so be careful, and look closely at what you import into your own family tree.
 
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jay gale

First Sergeant
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
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kirkland, washington
#2
As I've mentioned often, I use Ancestry all the time, not only for my own genealogy, but for researching lots of individuals that I'm not related to. Ancestry is extremely valuable for easily accessing all sorts of basic records -- census rolls, birth and death records, and so on.

The weakness of using Ancestry, though, is in relying on the family trees compiled by other users. Some of them are genuinely useless, and contain data that is clearly incorrect. Nevertheless, it's out there, and can easily lead you astray in your own research.

I came across this example today. It's an entry for a woman who, according to this tree, was born in about 1520. Her father was born in 1537, and her mother in 1525. Her son was born in 1530, when she was ten:

View attachment 48048

There's a lot of this foolishness floating around on Ancestry, so be careful, and look closely at what you import into your own family tree.
I signed up a few months ago and have been able to find out some really cool stuff about my ancestors. Yes, there is some incorrect stuff out there, but I have documentation and other sources about my ancestry going back to the late 1700s that I can use as verification, that has helped me a lot and has moved me further back into time.

really cool what I have found out so far, only one Civil War vet that I can trace and that is Michael Stubblefield who served with the 5th Missouri Infantry (Confederate)....he homesteaded to New Mexico after the war and was killed there by outlaws in the late 1880's. I know where he is buried there, in a family plot, and plan on visiting there very soon.
 

James B White

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#3
Very good advice. And errors multiply, so the same thing may appear copied in family tree after tree, until it looks like well known gospel.

One genealogist, back in the pre-internet days, published a book saying a man's mother was Patricia, based on his estate info. It's now everywhere online.

Made no sense, though, because the mother should be Ann, based on other stuff, and I noticed the original genealogist left out his brother Patrick. I looked at the estate book at the courthouse. Sure enough, there were his mother Ann and brother Patrick, clear as can be. Apparently, the genealogist had mistranscribed her notes, turning Patrick into Patricia. Some other genealogists have tried to reconcile the error by saying the mother was Patricia Ann.

But it shows that one really needs to go back to the sources to be sure.

What makes ancestry.com so valuable is that they do have so many primary sources, available easily at home, though unfortunately not that particular estate record.
 

Jamieva

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#4
Very true Andy. One of the main tripping points I found going back in my families is that people are entering name variations. Some put the full legal name in, some are using the person's nickname, or the name they went by etc. and of course not everyone can agree which is the persons first/middle name.

So for example my relative that fought in the civil war is listed by his full name or just his middle and last name. The person that did it by middle name is not the right person but because someone erroneously put it in their tree before, ancestry leads you to believe it's him.
 

IcarusPhoenix

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#6
I see this happen all the time; my direct paternal line is a huge pain right around the mid- to late-seventeenth century, because in addition to an exceedingly common surname, there were four or five generations where they just kept alternating given names (men repeatedly naming their sons after their fathers), and it was right in the period when the family was emigrating from England to the Carolinas. The number of people who confuse men for their own grandfathers is positively maddening.
 

jay gale

First Sergeant
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#7
I see this happen all the time; my direct paternal line is a huge pain right around the mid- to late-seventeenth century, because in addition to an exceedingly common surname, there were four or five generations where they just kept alternating given names (men repeatedly naming their sons after their fathers), and it was right in the period when the family was emigrating from England to the Carolinas. The number of people who confuse men for their own grandfathers is positively maddening.
yep, ran into the same thing. Like I said earlier, what helped me clear the jam up was that I had enough existing info to move past all the repetitive and confusing name issues.

Still cleaning up birth and death dates like what Andy referred to.....I've found a lot of that
 

diane

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#8
My dad's family tree is a gigantic mess. A couple of cousins put it together and stuck it on Ancestry.com. They put down all manner of spelling of the family names, assuming that none of the people could read or write and that there were variations of spellings. There wasn't. All Dad's kin were educated and had been for generations, all spelled the family name the same way. The other spellings were other, totally unrelated people. Wrong tribes, wrong locations, wrong everything! :nah disagree: The same cousins did the same thing for Mom's family... :x3:
 

IcarusPhoenix

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#9
Wrong tribes, wrong locations, wrong everything!
Well the instant you bring "tribe" into it, you're in trouble; I don't even really bother to chase down the Navajo, Apache, Comanche, and Zia relations beyond about two generations, and it was only by luck when looking for something else that I fixed a 4x great-grandmother who had been listed as "Unnamed cherokee" for the past thirty years or so.

Luckily, I had a really good foundation to start on when I got into this; my mother has had this as her main hobby for at least the past four decades, and my father's side is mostly New Mexico Catholics (monks keep fantastic records). Between the two of them over many years of research before I came along, I started with a GEDCOM that had over 1,600 (mostly documented) individuals in it before I even touched the thing.
 
Joined
Jun 16, 2013
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#11
I found one ancestor that sparked my curiousity , known simply as "Thomas the Cheater" a medieval character that I want to know more about but all the hints about him are really vague.
for me I just have to go back to 1800 in Cabarrus County, NC to find my Mary White married Thomas White
(not related, thank you very much) and because there were several men named Thomas White he was listed as
River Tommy.
 

diane

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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#12
Well the instant you bring "tribe" into it, you're in trouble; I don't even really bother to chase down the Navajo, Apache, Comanche, and Zia relations beyond about two generations, and it was only by luck when looking for something else that I fixed a 4x great-grandmother who had been listed as "Unnamed cherokee" for the past thirty years or so.

Luckily, I had a really good foundation to start on when I got into this; my mother has had this as her main hobby for at least the past four decades, and my father's side is mostly New Mexico Catholics (monks keep fantastic records). Between the two of them over many years of research before I came along, I started with a GEDCOM that had over 1,600 (mostly documented) individuals in it before I even touched the thing.
It gets sticky when the BIA wants you to go back to the four by four, who usually doesn't have a name anybody wrote down. We have Mormons in the family so they are about as good as monks for record keeping. Roles are full of mistakes, and on my mom's side we can go back to the 1700s because of an ethnobotanist who took an interest in the tribe back at the turn of the last century. On Dad's side, they were Roger Williams Connection back in the 1600s and kept records in Bibles. The cousins, though, just assumed nobody was Christian, nobody was educated and nobody knew their own name!
 

donna

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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#13
I use Ancestry a lot. I check out the Trees but as you say you have to be careful. I have found several mistakes. I even found mistake for my father. I wrote person and told him what was wrong and that I would know as I was his daughter. The person wrote back I must be wrong.

I just check everything and try to get supporting evidence to back up everything I put about my family.
 

IcarusPhoenix

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#14
I even found mistake for my father. I wrote person and told him what was wrong and that I would know as I was his daughter. The person wrote back I must be wrong.
I had that exact one happen; shortly after my grandfather's death, I found that someone had a tree up showing as his date-of-death the actual date for his second wife (my grandmother), who had passed more than a decade-and-a-half earlier; her, meanwhile, they showed as still living. I sent a message of correction, and they insisted that they were very careful and couldn't possibly have made such a mistake, and I clearly must be incorrect; that I had been at both their funerals - and his less than a week prior - was clearly my memory playing tricks on me.

That they were both World War II veterans and thus had records that were remarkably easy to access was, apparently, no kind of proof at all.
 

Evan

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Canada
#15
I use Ancestry quite a bit... I started my tree about 3 years ago and have accumulated over 2000 people. However, what you said Andy is completely true. A few months ago, I started a new "official" tree in which everyone is 100% true and accurate. It's taking 100x longer, but I know it'll be worth it in the long run.

I even feel sorry for the people who have the invalid information without even knowing somethings wrong...
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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#17
I wish I had y'all's skill at this. Some of you have relatives on your tree from the dang Middle Ages and I don't even know how to get further back than my grandparents. :nah disagree:
Unfortunately, documentation is not spread around evenly. My wife rocks and rolls on most of her genealogy, but she has the benefit of being the child of a lot of latecomers; by about the time the first of her ancestors arrived in this country, mine were all here already!* Frontiers in particular are troublesome, as people tend to be concentrating more on survival than on recordkeeping. My coal-mining and farming ancestors in the Appalachians are a lot harder to track... they didn't leave much behind in the way of paperwork.


* Example: she'd never had to deal with a pre-1850 US Census. When I showed her how sketchy the information on the earlier ones was, she was shocked...
 
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#19
I use Ancestry quite a bit... I started my tree about 3 years ago and have accumulated over 2000 people. However, what you said Andy is completely true. A few months ago, I started a new "official" tree in which everyone is 100% true and accurate. It's taking 100x longer, but I know it'll be worth it in the long run.

I even feel sorry for the people who have the invalid information without even knowing somethings wrong...
Hey Evan, from what part of Canada do you hail? I have a son who shares your name.

Funny thing is that when we chose his name, we didn't know that it is an old family name dating back as least as far as the American Revolution. We just picked it because it was Welsh and we liked it.
 
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Evan

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#20
Hey Evan, from what part of Canada do you hail? I have a son who shares your name.

Funny thing is that when we chose his name, we didn't know that it is an old family name dating back as least as far as the American Revolution. We just picked it because it was Welsh and we liked it.
I'm from Northern Ontario. When my parents picked my name they picked it randomly because they liked it. We found out a few years ago my great-great uncle, who was in WWII, was also named Evan.
 



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