Friday, November 15, 2013

Stop, Pause, and Think

We've all heard of the expression "Stop, drop, and roll" to help put out flames if your clothing is on fire. I think there should be a saying "Stop, pause, and think" for genealogists that rely on other peoples work to fill in the blanks about their ancestors.

Recently I discover the name of my 6th great-grandfather, Jedidiah Fairweather, in the oath attesting to the marriage of his daughter Esther to Lt. Caleb Howe. You may want to see my recent posting for details of this discovery. Whenever I come across a new person on my direct line I usually search various online resources for other references to this "new" family member.

In addition to Google searches and checking for other online trees, articles and books I also check Ancestry for their record collections and public trees. Now I don't link to any of those public trees (part one of my genealogy research motto ... "Trust no one"). Instead I review what others have found for possible clues regarding potential records and other family members. Yet I often come across records and family members in those public trees that make me stop and wonder, "What were they thinking?

Here is one of the Ancestry tree hint records for Jedediah Fairweather. Can you see at least one possible problem with his family?

A hint for you ... Look at the date of death for his spouse and then look at the date of birth of the youngest child listed.

Do you see it now?

In this tree Benjamin, the son of Jedediah and Deborah, was born after the date of death of his mother. Yet this isn't the only tree for Jedediah Fairweather that this error occurs in. Several other trees have this same Benjamin being born in 1762 which makes a bit more sense. The "1792" could be from a simple typo when the first person entered in the information but this mistake has now been propagated on Ancestry and who knows where else. All because the people with this error didn't pause and take a moment to think about the information they were blindly adding to their family tree.

I'm not picking on this tree or on Ancestry since I've seen this problem occur many times in other online trees. And if truth be told, when I was first starting in my adventures in my own family tree I did this too. Yet if you just click to add a record or details about a family member without thinking about what you are adding then you might just be compounding and propagating a mistake.

So in the future, when consulting work compiled by others:

Stop, pause, and think!

1 comment:

  1. This is a common mistake that I have seen many times and have been guilty of a few times myself. Thank you Ken for touching on this important point.