Whether a beginning family historian or a more experienced genealogical researcher, we all make mistakes. However, there are a number of mistakes that can be easily avoided.
Here is my list of DON’Ts:
- Don’t keep your only family tree in an online website! This is a must! Keep control of your work by using a genealogical software program. Share your tree wherever you like, but keep your main tree on your own computer.
- Don’t add information found in online trees to your own tree without verifying that it is fact. Just because the information is included in 394 online trees doesn’t make it true!
- Don’t limit your database searches to the home page of a website where you enter a name, birth year and place, etc. Take the time to learn what records are available on the website. FamilySearch, for example, has many digital files available to view online that are not linked to its front page search boxes.
- Don’t be the person who says they don’t share anything because it’s his/her own work. I actually know persons who have said, “I found it. It’s mine” and refuse to share information.
- Don’t ignore messages received from other subscribers through the big genealogy subscriptions websites. You never know who has the tidbit of information or the document you desperately want to find. They might even have family member photos of your ancestors!
- Don’t be discouraged because you can’t read the language in which a record is written. There is lots of online help, especially in Facebook genealogy groups. I’ve gotten help with Scandinavian translations there in under 5 minutes!
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions about records. I’ve called/emailed libraries and archives, small and large, to request information. Not to do research, but to ask about a record set or the possibility of retrieving/scanning a single record.
- Don’t cast a narrow net. Sometimes, collateral lines – siblings and cousins – will answer your toughest questions.
- Don’t assume that everyone with a unique surname is related. They might be, but they might not. On the other hand, don’t disregard surnames spelled differently than your surname of interest. I’ve found “Robertson” spelled three different ways in the same document! Also, DNA matches have proved many times over that same name/different spelling peoples are related.
- Last, but not least, don’t think it doesn’t exist if you can’t find it online. There probably won’t ever be a time when everything is online. Take the time to delve into the records yourself!