How Not to Ancestry


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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 226142

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've had to remind my family members of this. It was awesome when a couple years ago, a few became really interested in the family history and got on Ancestry...then started just copying information from other people's trees, and the information is incorrect. It's hard to make the correction without bursting their bubbles about getting involved and wanting to know the family history, but at the same time, if it's ignored it snowballs very quickly as other people start copying trees. All it takes is one wrong turn, and the wrong branches are being fused in the wrong places! I was taught even at a young age when I first started getting involved was documentation, documentation, documentation! I love Ancestry for leads and ideas, and sometimes people do have documents I was missing, but that's the key!
 

AndyHall

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@kasey00 , all the old, pencil-and-paper rules of genealogical research still apply. Don't get seduced by easy clicks.

The most ludicrous thing I've seen is someone who found -- and Lord only knows whether this is correct or not -- that he or she was kin to someone in the British royal family 500 years ago, and went and changed every single person's avatar right down to the present to the royal coat of arms.

Hundreds of them. Every. Single. One.

Such grandiose foolishness.
 
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Zella

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The most ludicrous thing I've seen is someone who found -- Lord only knows whether this is correct or not -- that he or she was kin to someone in the British royal family 500 years ago, and went and changed every single person's avatar right down to the present to the royal coat of arms.

Every. Single. One.
:roflmao::laugh:

Guess pointing out that the modern royal coat of arms wouldn't be appropriate for a royal connection from 500 years ago wouldn't go over well? :whistling::wink::angel:
 
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I agree that too many users post misinformation on Ancestry.com. You can likely get off to a good start if you have older generations who can help with first hand information. You need to understand that many Counties in the Colonial States were subdivided into new Counties, as more settlers arrived. Immigration/transportation, land patent, military service, probate and civil court case, birth, death, marriage bond and marriage records, and finally census are necessary to isolate your ancestor from others with similar names. In my research I found that in both the New England States and old Virginia early local histories helped confirm official records maintained on Ancestry.com.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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That's an ad for Ancestry? A little awesome, like backwards advertising. Don't see much of that.

Still laughing over the post about the crest. Had someone notice we have the name ' Howard ' in our tree. Goodness. Hadn't given this 6 or 7 times grandparent much thought. This member was a little hostile, emailed us out of the blue apparently just to ensure we had no grand notion ' our ' Howard was one of the Howards. Hadn't, so declined to argue the point. Later sent a link proving his information- to a ' Howard ' DNA site. Made me a little happy our guy was just a plain, old carpenter from Baltimore. Also pretty happy not to be related to anyone who thought Henry VIII would be a good husband.

That whole royalty thing is hysterical. And messes up a lot of information.
 

ARW

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That whole royalty thing is hysterical. And messes up a lot of information.
One of my favorite family jokes is that Princess Diana Frances Spencer's 9th Great Grandfather is my 8th Great Grandfather. He came to the Plymouth colony in 1635. Makes her something like my 7th cousin. I'm ROYALTY.
The only way I know that is years ago I found a site that listed famous people who were descendants of Elder John Strong. There were many others listed including FDR. I think my official title is "Duke of Dumb Knowledge".
 
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Another tip in census research is always check the page before and after a relative's page. They can lead to clues to confirm marriages, often times with the missing relative, particularly women, living right next door or as a near neighbor. Also it can confirm migration patterns as rarely did a family ever travel alone but rather with other neighbors from the previous county/state.
 
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Ancestry has released quite a few new beta features that are pretty cool. Allows you to tag individuals with several different tags (verified, unverified, actively researching, etc.) as well as custom tags. Also allows you to make notes easier that are hidden from public view but still has comments which are visible.

Also some new DNA assistance. It has already led me to find a 3x great-grandfather that was a member of the 15th Iowa Infantry and was killed at Corinth in October of 1862. More researching ahead, but these new features are really cool and helpful.
 
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Icarus would like this. I found an aged grave along side of a road out in the middle of "nowhere" in New Mexico. Grave has the individual's name and dates of birth and death. Another researcher I found had discovered this individual too and had researched him. The deceased was born in Virginia, served in the Confederate cavalry (Virginia) and somehow found himself in the Land of Enchantment. I am sure this veteran punched some cows after the war. Kind of like finding the Outlaw Josey Wales.

I have heard of 2 bothers taking the DNA test only to find out that they weren't related - even in genetics! I think their parents had some observations that were contradictory to the DNA analysis.
 

James N.

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Icarus would like this. I found an aged grave along side of a road out in the middle of "nowhere" in New Mexico. Grave has the individual's name and dates of birth and death. Another researcher I found had discovered this individual too and had researched him. The deceased was born in Virginia, served in the Confederate cavalry (Virginia) and somehow found himself in the Land of Enchantment. I am sure this veteran punched some cows after the war. Kind of like finding the Outlaw Josey Wales...
Perhaps not exactly Josey Wales but here's the grave of another unexpected former Confederate soldier and outlaw just a little farther west:

https://www.civilwartalk.com/threads/unexpected-tombstone-az-confederate-veteran.95126/
 
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Ancestry has released quite a few new beta features that are pretty cool. Allows you to tag individuals with several different tags (verified, unverified, actively researching, etc.) as well as custom tags. Also allows you to make notes easier that are hidden from public view but still has comments which are visible.

Also some new DNA assistance. It has already led me to find a 3x great-grandfather that was a member of the 15th Iowa Infantry and was killed at Corinth in October of 1862. More researching ahead, but these new features are really cool and helpful.
I usually check both my wife's and my DNA page every few days. Ancestry exhibits six or eight photos of alleged newly discovered DNA matches on your home page. Once in a while one or both of us will have a photo of one or more black/AA folks. We wonder about it, but understand there was likely some late night visits to the slave quarters. One day last week we each had the photo of the same black lady. We know our far distant ancestors had neighboring plantations on the Northern Neck Potomac River shoreline of Colonial Virginia. A 9th Great Grandpa for her and a 10th for me, but that was in the mid-1600s. The lady was listed as a 5th to 8th cousin for both of us.
 

Zella

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Ancestry has released quite a few new beta features that are pretty cool. Allows you to tag individuals with several different tags (verified, unverified, actively researching, etc.) as well as custom tags. Also allows you to make notes easier that are hidden from public view but still has comments which are visible.

Also some new DNA assistance. It has already led me to find a 3x great-grandfather that was a member of the 15th Iowa Infantry and was killed at Corinth in October of 1862. More researching ahead, but these new features are really cool and helpful.
Thanks for posting about this, @huskerblitz! I haven't been on Ancestry much lately, so I hadn't seen these new features.
 
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It's days like today that make you enjoy this type of "work". So working through extended family tree and I find that I have a first cousin, 3x removed, that served in WW1, was KIA in France July 26, 1918, and has a headstone in Arlington.

Never knew.
That's cool. Congratulations. I'm retired military. I bet your ancestor is happy that you found him.
 
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I have been doing family research since 2015. I have found a couple of family history resources - my book case is starting to fill back up after donating a truck load of books to the library only to be replaced by my new additions. My family lived in one town and have all moved away from that place only to find that I had a WWI relative buried there.
 
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Not sure if this will help anyone but here goes:
in the 1800s, Norwegians arriving in what would be the United States, did not have surnames as people back then even knew them.
Take a immigrant Norwegian such as Nils Anderson (last name would follow. Nils was the son of Anders - that is what he would identify himself (woman would be "Andersdatter"). Nils Anderson would have used the farm he lived at as his surname.
A Tosten would be encouraged by government or church officials, even teachers to go by the name of Tom or Thomas.
English, Scotch, Irish would often pass down the mother's maiden name as a middle name. Then there was the flurry of giving women names of states as either first or middle names. The naming of sons after men of some importance took off so we might See David Crockett Smythe or Andrew Jackson Doe. Keep in mind that prior to 1900, spelling rules as we know them today did not exist.
Names can be spelling in any manner. This is sort of a free or at liberty rule. "X" can be pronounced as "Chicago" even today.
A person may change the spelling of their name from the birth certificate or family Bible over their own lifetime.
aroun 1900, immigration agents were encouraging immigrants to adopt a new American name. So Johan Flyute might become John Flute. In one case, an immigrant noted that several others were taking a surname name what he consider his right to have. Being a non-conformist, he ended up spelling the same name in a different manner. Don't even get started on nicknames!
 
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I find with ancestry when you get beyond the 1700's it can be very tricky and complicated especially the 1500's.I had to really research some stuff to get my own family tree completed to a level I was happy with and I am still to this day adding something everytime I find out something new. I also use ancestry for research as well on people I am not kin to but I am always careful as to what I trust it's a great site though.
 

Zella

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I find with ancestry when you get beyond the 1700's it can be very tricky and complicated especially the 1500's.I had to really research some stuff to get my own family tree completed to a level I was happy with and I am still to this day adding something everytime I find out something new. I also use ancestry for research as well on people I am not kin to but I am always careful as to what I trust it's a great site though.
I like to use it for non-ancestry research too! Found some really cool historical stuff on there.

I must confess, the whole genealogy thing gets really tricky to me once the census records don't have full info for everyone in the house. :frown:
 

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