Family Trees: An Online Research Tool
- 1 Definition
- 2 Sites where you can search others' family trees
- 3 Beware of Information without Sources Attached
- 4 Check For Consistency of Dates and Locations
- 5 Purpose of Downloading your Family Tree Online
- 6 So how can you use this information?
- 7 Sites where you can upload your family tree
- 8 Related Content
There are many websites on the Internet that allow you to publish your family tree (pedigree chart) online for free. These sites can be an invaluable tool to the researcher to get ideas of who the parents or siblings or children might be to someone that they are researching. Many of these sites are free to search though some of them charge a yearly or monthly fee. Often there are also message boards attached that can give you additional information. However, these sites must be used with caution—verify information before relying on it.
Sites where you can search others' family trees
Beware of Information without Sources Attached
Often people have just looked through these family trees and decided that the people, dates and places that they found are correct, and then add that information to their own family tree without researching whether or not the information is correct. If the data you find on a website doesn't have a source attached or merely says something like: "Note book number 2," beware, the information may not be correct. At least 99% of the time when I have contacted an owner of a family tree regarding some information that they have published, they will respond with the answer that they found that information on someone else's online family tree. In other words, they don't know their information is correct; they are simply copying someone else's dubious posting.
Check For Consistency of Dates and Locations
Many times there are blatant errors in the family trees that are posted on line. For example, one might find inconsistencies with locations in the birth and christening fields. If someone was born in Ohio in the early 1800’s, they probably weren’t christened in England a few days (or even months or years) later. Check to see other spouses. It is doubtful that a man married to one woman in one county and having several children by her, is living in another county married to someone else even if their names are similar. It is also important to check dates out in each field. A man who died in 1793 will not get married in 1801 and have children in 1803. In some family trees, the birth places of the children can be seen jumping back and forth between two states. More than likely the family did not keep moving back and forth between the states every few years especially if the era is in the early 1800’s. Keeping an events timeline is helpful to see dates and locations of people. You will be able to see at a glance if there are inconsistencies in dates and locations. Plus you can use the timeline to know where to look in census to see if the people really did live in the area then.
Purpose of Downloading your Family Tree Online
I just recently watched a webinar at Ancestry.com that taught how to use their family tree section of their website. The teacher encouraged the attendees to guess at the dates and places and relationships. I wondered why he would suggest that, but he went on to explain that the purpose of the family tree section was to assist you in finding out more information about your ancestors. When you upload the information that you have, either by gedcom or by simply typing it into the website itself, the search engines on the site will start searching for matching records for you to look at. Then you can look at the records and correct your family tree. This seems like a wonderful tool and the fun news is that you don't have to be a paid subscriber to upload your tree, though I do believe you do have to subscribe if you want to look at the records it finds for you. Another reason they suggest that you upload your tree even if it isn't correct is that there is a place where other users can comment on the tree and give you correct information if they have it. The teacher went on to warn that these trees are meant to be used by others only as stepping stones to assist them in their search for their ancestors.
So how can you use this information?
You can start by looking at the censuses as well as the birth, death and marriage records of the locality listed in the family tree. You can use various search engines on different sites to look at the different people in that tree and see if they are really your ancestors or not. Adding verified sources of actual records to your family tree will not only make it more accurate but also assist others in their research efforts. You can also write to the owner of the online tree and give them the correct information along with the sources. They, too, will be grateful for the assistance. Of course it would be wonderful if all the family trees on line had sources attached. That would really help us as we verify our own research for our own family trees!