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  • William B. Taylor

The Downside of Do-It-Yourself Family Tree Sites

Creating your first family tree can be a fun and exciting experience, one that often gets people "hooked" on discovering their own family history. The proliferation of online sites that allow people to research and create their own family trees has been a boon to the field of genealogy, but it has also created an incredible amount of misinformation.


One of my favorite sites, Ancestry.com, has a an incredible amount of historical records available from many countries. They also have an automated "hint" program that finds related information based on the data that you input into your family tree. These hints may or may not be the right hints for your particular ancestor however, and you must be very careful to research and confirm any information before just adding it to your tree. This is especially true for hints originating in other member's trees, which can often contain incorrect information that, once loaded into your family tree, can be difficult to correct.


Another great site for records is FamilySearch.org. This online program is free to use, and has access to lots of information as well, but there is one huge caveat with using Family Search: once you create your own family tree, ANYONE can add information to it; the tree is not exclusively your tree. This fact was raised with me by one of The Ancestor Detectives' researchers, Gwen, who has had several bad experiences with other Family Search members adding incorrect information to her family tree. This also just happened to me today, and when I went in to view a hint that was emailed to me by Family Search (the hint, by the way, WAS correct), I discovered that my tree had been merged with several other member trees, and the incorrect information was significant.


It's easy to understand the enthusiasm with which family history novices approach building their own family trees, but this still needs to be done with caution and proper verification of documents. Even when you are adding information from an old census you need to be careful - these documents are scanned and then the names, dates and relationships are documented by volunteers who often misread or misspell names. If you are adding information from a census or any other written document, take the time to look carefully at the scanned document and be sure that the information you are adding is correct, and is the right information for the person or people you are researching.


Creating a family tree is truly a marathon, and the more detailed and extensive you make your family tree, the longer it will take to do it correctly. The Ancestor Detectives team of researchers have decades of family tree research experience and have the skills needed to correctly confirm information that goes into your family tree. Whether you are looking to start your own family tree but are unsure how to do it, or if you want to have your existing family tree data checked for accuracy, the team at The Ancestor Detectives can help!




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