Saturday, January 31, 2015

Never a Name Collector - Genealogy Do-Over / Do-Better

I've never been a "name collector," never one to search online trees to find an ancestor's name and then add all the information to my own tree.  I'm too possessive of my ancestors.  I think of them all as individual people and I want to claim the ones that really are in my family -- and I don't want to claim someone else's just because the names and dates seem to fit.

I know some folks think (one of my daughters, in particular, thinks) I'm too careful because it takes me a while to be sure.  It's not enough to have a name or a group of family names and ages in a location that seems right.  I want to find enough information that I don't have any doubts about whether the people in question are my ancestors.

I suppose this explains why I've been able to uncover direct-line ancestors to only the seventh generation on only two lines, and much less on most of my lines.  I patiently -- and possibly inefficiently -- search for and wade through potential ancestors and sources, collecting likely information until I have enough to feel confident of a relationship (or lack of a relationship).

When I find a person or family that seems to fit, I transcribe the information, note its source, and save the link, if found online, or if found at any other location such as a courthouse, library, in book, I record all information that will let me find the source again.  (Okay, to be honest, I didn't always note whether a census record came from HeritageQuest, FamilySearch, or Ancestry, but I do now.)  I add the information to a file with everything else I've found about the individual or family.  When I finally have enough documentation to conclude that the person is really related to me, I then add the person/people to RootsMagic.

Perhaps I'm missing an opportunity by not using online trees as suggestions or possibilities about ancestors and then just following up with my own research.  I hesitate because I know myself well enough to know it might seem too much like winning the lottery then finding that the money is fake.  (I don't play the lottery, either.)

On the other hand, I've saved myself the work of meandering down the wrong path only to have to begin research all over again in addition to trying to figure out which ancestors are mine and which aren't and what information is accurate and what isn't.  I think I would feel sorrowful to have to remove names from my family tree, imagining those people as someone's lost ancestors and wondering if their descendants would ever find them and care about them.  (Maybe it's nonsense but they are/were real people.)

Sometimes I have a vague desire that family history research went faster and I could claim thousands of ancestors already found, but I know careful research will help me better than speed with inaccuracy.

This post was prompted by Thomas MacEntee's post, Genealogy Do-Over – Week 5. . ., in which he mentioned being a name collector who didn't always cite his sources.

You can read more about the Genealogy Do-Over at Genealogy Do-Over at


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