Friday, September 20, 2013

Going Backwards

If you looked at my tree on Ancestry.com recently, you would see that it seems to be going backward as I took several people off of it. I also turned the tree from “public” to “private”. I want to explain why that happened.

Originally, I got the bug from watching “Who do you think you are?” on TV, and discovered Ancestry.com. Since then I’ve mostly been playing at family research. I had this thing about documentation (the lawyer in me, I expect), but I was also really excited at what I was finding via certain “hints” that had me looking at and tying into other’s trees. If several people’s trees had a connection, it looked to be likely right (to my inexperienced mind), so I’d click and merge their information in.

However, as I’ve decided to get serious about my explorations, I’ve also been researching how to properly do genealogical research. These last few weeks I’ve been reading magazines and online articles and watching YouTube instructional videos on genealogical research. It has been fascinating, but also rather overwhelming and more than a bit intimidating – there’s A LOT of sources out there to utilize and accuracy and proper documentation and citation thereof is so important. One of the things I watched was a YouTube video on “Using Ancestry.com like a pro” – I’ll have to re-watch it a few more times, there was so much information in it I couldn’t really understand all of it at once. But one point did sink in. Experienced genealogical researchers who use Ancestry.com don’t use the hints that cite to other peoples’ trees -- except and unless they can go into that tree and verify all their sources for themselves because they don’t know these other people and don’t know their standards for research and there may be errors. Additionally, many trees on Amazon don’t have documentary cites as to where their information came from because they’ve just borrowed from someone else’s tree who may have borrowed from someone else and it can become like that old gossip game where things get twisted as they pass along. That was a disturbing thought.

So this past week or so I’ve spent a couple hours each night going back over the connections I’ve made on Mom’s side, retracing them to make sure I had documentation to get me to each step. Where I had relied on someone else’s information, I went to look at their tree to see what documentation they had to see if I could verify it myself. An alarming number of those times I found they were just relying on another tree which was relying on another – now they may all know each other and trust the original tree’s research (if they knew which was the original tree), but I wasn’t finding much attached documentation for me to check [they might have it all at home and not attached to the online tree but I didn’t have it]. So I deleted those people from my tree I couldn’t make a documented connection for yet.  Some of the trees I had tied into did have research attached that I was able to verify and so did keep and adopt. Others had research getting someone I had listed as a brother to our probable direct line ancestor to the probable parents but not our guy/gal, and upon double-checking what I had along with what they had, it turned out neither of us had anything really proving they were siblings, yet, either, so I had to delete the sibling(s) and the parents for lack of necessary established connections. I may well get them back as I do more research and find something that supports the link, but I want to do it right and I want to be careful about it. (I discovered via a note on one person’s well-documented tree that the problem I was having with Peter Hartman is partially because there are four Peter Hartman(s) in that county in Ohio at that time; I’d run across all four, plus one Peter Hartmann, and  in another state a Johann Peter Hartmann that various people were tying into what looks like our line and having them all married to Catherine Zollnar or Caterina ZĂ–llner, which just isn’t possible – one Peter Hartman even had a different birth date that had him marrying her at age 11, while she was 23, which I think is unlikely. It looks like Catherine Zollnar is in our line but I can’t establish that for certain yet either so she’s off too.)

So anyway, I took the ones I couldn't prove off, and I made the tree private because I’m likely to make more mistakes and I didn't want people relying on my tree and perpetuating mistakes. I’ll probably put my results back up publicly when I’m surer of myself and my research, but I think that will be a while yet. I will get better at this with instruction and experience, and probably other stumbles along the way. Isn't that the way life goes?

2 comments:

  1. This is a very common experience using Ancestry.com links to other trees. I just saw one this past week where the and I was interested in was listed as having died before ALL his children were shown to have been born -- which led me to wonder how that could have been entered given the warnings Ancestry and other applications have about such inconsistencies. Anyway, the error clearly was picked up by several of the other trees listed and no one seems to have looked at the problem that exists. I use other tress as "Hints" to see what they have and then use it when stuck to look into a name or relationship they claim. If the tree has no sources cited I almost never look at them. On rare occasions I have emailed a tree owner to ask about information they are claiming and pointing out why it rises an issue for me. I have yet to hear back from any of them and so assume they have no real information and are just "name collectors."

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  2. Died before his kids were born? Definitely even more math challenged than I am!

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