Pitfalls of copying the research of others

In the year 2000 a a social networking website for finding old friends was launched named Friends Reunited. In 2002 the company launched a sister site, Genes Reunited which became the most popular website in the UK with which to start a family tree, thus it was in 2003 that I started my own genealogical journey. At that time the site had nowhere near the capability that most ancestry websites now have, where it only takes moments to add complete lines of ancestors. At that time, each person had to be methodically added one by one and each piece of information typed in, so my original family tree only had about 100 people. A few months later I also joined Ancestry but like Genes Reunited, the task to add people was laborious. Fast forward quite a few years and my family tree has grown from 100 ancestors to close to 1600 ancestors and with very little typing involved. This ease of adding ancestors to a family tree is where some people can come unstuck and end up with information in their tree that is incorrect.

Charles Darwin

Most sites give users the ability to access and add records that may belong to their family and come in various forms such as hints on Ancestry and Find My Past and smart or record matches on My Heritage. Where some of the resources might be legitimate for your particular family such as baptisms, marriages or death records, those hints pertaining to records from the family trees of other users need to added with caution. I know myself the wonderful feeling of making a discovery and clicking yes, yes, yes to all the hints then trying to backup the records with proper evidence and finding no accuracy at all in what I added to the tree. This can occur if people have a longing to be related to royalty or to a prominent figure in history. As someone with a background in history and writing I would love nothing more than to find I came from one of the greats in history such as Charles Darwin, Shakespeare, Dickens or Henry VIII but my ancestry is far more humbling and yet my ancestors all have their own fabulous stories to tell.

John HuettAlthough there are many good parish chest records available such as poor law records, removals and settlements, wills etc. to prove ancestral lines, it is worth being wary of family trees who list relatives going back to the 1500 and 1600s with no attached sources to them. By all means add them as a reference to research as there may be a kernel of truth in the names but don’t take for gospel that all the people listed are your ancestors.The same can be said for information placed on trees for ancestors who appear in the census records. There are many records online for the UK and USA and quite often I have seen people living in two countries at once. More recently I saw my 2nd great grandfather’s information on a tree with mostly correct chronological information of him living in Hull then a random entry of him residing in Utah, USA at the same time. Then there is another I found where one brother was born c1848 and the next brother c1956, quite a feat for the mother to deliver two sons 108 years apart!

Researching family history is a wonderful past time and finding out about the lives of those we share our dna with can be an amazing journey but it is one well worth doing properly.