Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Love/Hate Relationship with Online Family Trees

As much as I hate incorrect information and misdirected efforts, I love the potential for new information.

My Tree Of Rights Desperately Seeking Surnames

Those of you who have an uncommon surname may agree with me. You enter your surname in the search criteria, hit the search button and 10 records come back. It's so disappointing. Those are the same 10 records you've seen for the last three years you have been researching this particular line. Disappointment, frustration and weariness follows from the same lack of potential information that could help move your research forward.

How to combat using the same old search criteria and receiving the same old results?

Switch things up! Spell the names differently, enter a different year of birth, add or remove a middle name. Loosen your criteria and broaden your search area. Next analyze the additional records your new search parameters bring to light and enjoy the potential of finding a new record in your expanded list of records returned.

The search method I described above, I do that with my online tree at My online tree is my working tree. I work out the kinks, collect records, analyze, switch names, dates, and places around. Once I'm confident of my conclusions, I enter that information into Legacy Family Tree which is my tree of truth. That's my method that is how I choose to research and collect information.

Generally, I do try to go back and sync up my two trees but not always immediately. Sometimes, I'm busy with life and my career and daily distractions. Sometimes I get an email from a cousin or my Mother-In-Law asking about a different line and I start down a different path. So those dates I switched around may sit there a while.

Do I admire those that have pristine family trees? I absolutely do. Do I appreciate those that have fully sourced trees? I do and I appreciate your attention to detail. Do I respond to emails that question and/or correct the information in my online tree? I sure do! Thank you, thank you, thank you to my fellow researchers that have contacted me. If it wasn't for some of you, I would not be anywhere near as far along in my research as I am.

I know it annoys many of you to find incorrect information in online trees and feel that undocumented trees should be set to private. My biggest annoyance with online trees is the lack of communication from other researchers. Emails and comments on trees go unanswered. If they would collaborate, we could both further our research.

We all could take a step back though as our passion, our drive and our end goal is ours alone. We can't stamp our methods onto others, we each have unique drivers and motivators.


I state very clearly on my profile where I'm coming from.

If other researchers don't read that and understand what that means, that's on them not me. It's very similar to accepting the terms of service for a product without reading it then claiming ignorance of what they agreed to. I can't, nor do I want to take up any policing role in others research methods. I have left comments on information that I felt was attached incorrectly to an ancestor. Some reply, some don't. Again, one has to step back and accept that we all approach things differently and badgering and ranting won't change that.

Do we really want one perfect tree of truth? I sure don't, what would I do in my spare time? Would I like to find that one tree that has the information I need to get my past my stumbling blocks? Of course I would, we all would. Until that happens I will continue to work through these stumbling blocks as best I can, asking for help and educating myself along the way.

I hope my online tree helps another researcher. If they don't read my "terms of service" and blindly copy to another tree, oh well, that will just give someone something to post a rant about on Facebook. And we can't have too many rants now can we?

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