I’ll be the first to admit that my Ancestry.ca tree is a bit of mess. I would love to be able to say that when I first started this journey, I took the time to learn how this all worked. How looking up Document B would lead you to Document A, but without Document C you can’t assume that you have the right information. And all of those documents then have to have verifiable sources, then be cross-referenced correctly, and you have to make sure that you’re not duplicating your work due to misspellings or name changes.
Yeah, I would really love to say that I got it right the first time out. Problem is that I would be flat-out lying if I said that. I made a lot of mistakes, and those mistakes are sometimes pretty obvious in my tree. As a result, my research is really now split into two parts: first, continue with the original goal of understanding my lineage and where I come from; and b, take some time every now and then to try to tidy up my data so that people coming in behind me aren’t copying my mistakes.
The problem is, that can be easier said that done when you’re talking about a family tree with over two thousand people. Damn my ancestors and their prolific natures!!
In the meantime, anyone who is new to genealogical research who wants to avoid my heinous mistakes should take some time to read about the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS). All researchers should do what they can to adhere to the following:
- We conduct a reasonably exhaustive search for all information that is or may be pertinent to the identity, relationship, event, or situation in question;
- We collect and include in our compilation a complete, accurate citation to the source or sources of each item of information we use;
- We analyze and correlate the collected information to assess its quality as evidence;
- We resolve any conflicts caused by items of evidence that contradict each other or are contrary to a proposed (hypothetical) solution to the question; and
- We arrive at a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.
Does it sound pompous and overly strict? Absolutely. Will it benefit you in the long run? Without question. There are so many of us who have failed to learn this lesson and are pumping out misinformation left, right, and centre. Don’t be that person. Be better than me 😉