Ancestry is a great resource for genealogy, but you still have to be careful. Because the thing with anything on a computer is; garbage in – garbage out. This relates to an analogy of the internet I have heard. With the internet being like a dump truck backing up to your lawn and dumping the entire contents. Picking through the rubbish, you will find things of value but a lot of it can be rubbish. Ancestry can be used like that dump truck with heaps of rubbish or you could say heaps of information that is not related to you. If you use Ancestry properly, you can avoid picking up these bits of useless information and help you find real connections. Here are some tips on avoiding those mistakes.
Duplicating people and not tidying up the duplicates – a number of times I have made an entry with what little information that I have and then found the correct information. What that has left me with is sometimes two different people. This creates a big headache when you start saving information as you may end up with two sets of records. To tidy this problem up, you go to the person’s profile page then you can go to the menu on the top right hand corner called tools and find merge a duplicate. You are able to type in a name if none comes up.
Using family trees as facts instead of clues – when I look through family trees, I do it with a pad and pencil. If something looks right then I will write down the information and go on a good search around for the sources. Any good family tree will have sources attached to different people and you should be able to navigate these sources. There are many times I have seen whole sets of trees just copied completely and have not one source. I think Aunt Betty starts and then all her sisters get on and just copy it and then their kids do the same. It’s best to add people one by one and check the sources as you add them. Adding family members automatically from other’s people’s tree means that you haven’t checked their true facts. This means that you could go off on the wrong tree easily. You may end up in the West Indies with a farmer instead of finding your true great great grandmother that had a scandalous business in the West End of London.
Relying on shaky leafs – shaky leaves really don’t excite me anymore. I always make time to go through them and find the occasional gem but a lot of time I finish and feel like I have wasted some of my day. The shaky leaves are wonderful tool but they search through the most popular databases. There are a lot of places that shaky leaves are not getting into. Also many times when I have entered a person into my tree the shaky leaf hints I am given are way off the mark. When I do more research and add more information, the shaky leaf hints seem to improve; their searching becomes more defined. Always make sure to keep searching and always verify that shaky leaf or your family tree will get rather shaky too.
Having your only copy of your family tree on Ancestry – technology is moving so quickly that something that seemed impossible 5 years ago, like Family Tree Maker would not be produced anymore, suddenly happens. I am a generation probably caught in a in between world. As when I was a kid there wasn’t any personal computers, so paper seems natural and somewhat reliable. But as an adult, a lot is online, so I can see the advantages there too. So I have multiple copies offline and online and advise others to have multiple copies too. Put a copy in cloud storage like Dropbox, a copy on what genealogy software you have, your computer hard drive and I have a family history printed out and PDF some to family members. Don’t put your eggs all in the one basket.
Not checking out what information is available – a lot of people talk to me about Ancestry like it is the only subscription service out there. It would probably be the one with the biggest marketing budget, but it’s certainly not the only one out there. But a lot of people get on and try to find information and come away disappointed because they heard that the information was there. What they don’t realise that subscription services are in competition with each other and hold different information and that before making a choice, looking at what databases that they hold is a wise way to choose. Another problem is that many people fail to find out if the information is already out there for free. The first stop should be to government websites like national archives and state libraries and free search websites.
Genealogy involves a process of searching for truth and facts. Initially when you start you find many rabbit holes that you end up in. But as you become more experienced you will find a step by step process that suits you and gets you finding out what you want to know. Use all types of resources in your search but remember to always check it. If I took a story that my husbands great grandfather caught Ned Kelly and went with it. I would not have got his police personnel file and known all the police work he did in Kiama. Also realising that he never went or was around in Ned Kelly’s era. Always checking and organising your information will make a fascinating genealogy that you can be proud of. After that you could write a fantasy novel on all the interesting historical stories that you come across in your research.