Genealogy Research: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Posted July 7, 2016 by Amanda | 5 Comments

Whether you’re just getting started researching your family history or have been doing genealogy for years, everybody makes mistakes. But if you have them in mind, you can take steps to make sure you don’t make some of the common mistakes that befall genealogists at some time or another.

Genealogy Research: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Here are five common genealogy mistakes for you to avoid:

1. Making assumptions

One of the easiest and most common mistake to make is to make assumptions about the relatives you are researching. If you find records for people with the same name, it’s easy to assume that they are for the same person. Make sure you compare multiple lines of evidence to ensure the information you found is for the right person.

You also don’t want to assume the information found in the records is correct. Even historical records can contain mistakes, so be sure to compare what you find to other lines of evidence.

2. Forget to cite sources

When entering facts into your family’s profiles, it’s easy to forget to cite where that information came from. Remember to include where you found the data so you can easily refer back to it later. By adding sources to your Geni profiles, others will also be able to see where the information came from and know that the information on the profile is accurate. Learn how to add sources to your Geni profiles.

3. Don’t talk to family

Many people forget that their living relatives are very valuable resources. Talk to your relatives to learn what they know about your family history. You’ll especially want to talk to your older family members before it’s too late. Capture their stories and memories now before they are lost forever.

4. Confuse dates

Pay attention to dates. Date formats can differ between countries with some records listing dates starting with the month and day, while others may list dates as day and month. Make sure you also know what calendar system they were using at the time too. It’s very easy to confuse dates from religious calendars, the Gregorian calendar, Julian calendar, etc.

Also, make sure you don’t confuse an event date with the date the event was registered or recorded. Read the document carefully to ensure you are getting the correct information.

5. Don’t set genealogy research objectives

Genealogy research can be overwhelming and starting your research without setting some objects is a good way to get lost. Set up some research goals at the beginning of your search to stay focused and to keep track of what you have found and where you need to continue to research.

Have you made these common mistakes? What other mistakes would you tell your past self to avoid?

Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Marketing Communications Manager at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

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  • DreamGirl

    Great!I’d like to know how to put myself in the tree, because i am not acknowledged by my biological father, yet another man raised me and is on my birth certificate marked as biological father. Do I follow the dna line or the documented line?

    • geniblog

      Hi, the family tree supports adoption, so you can enter both your biological father and your adoptive father. Please see our blog post for more details

      • DreamGirl

        Thanks but I’m not adopted, that’s the point. When you’re adopted you have papers to prove it. In my case another man is on my birth certificate. He was appointed as my father. So do I build a family tree with him or with my dna father?

        • geniblog

          That will be up to you. You can have both on the same tree and distinguish one as your biological father. You may also want to leave a note on your profile or on the profile for your non-biological father about your birth certificate.

  • Et Takemehome

    My own experiences. My grandmother in censuses said she was born in New Jersey. My researched turned up she came in the US from Ireland when she was 10 months old. Found the ship she and her parents were on. Her parents lied. My great grandfathers birth record said unnamed west. His name was Marion Allen west. He did not like Marion so called himself Allen According to my aunt, As I found in a state orphanage, he was in two censuses that year so it was confusing. He was hard to find. He lied on to Army about his birth date was exactly one year off. Do not believe dates, people forget and lie. The stenographers have to read handwriting so not all information on records is correct. From nothing but circumstantial records I guessed found who I thought was his mother. Then someone pointed to a probate with Marion Allen West as benefactor giving me his fathers and mothers name and my assumption was right I got the correct person! She disowned my grandmother for marrying a catholic girl!. My grandmother did not tell her children , my father and his siblings did not know who their grandparents were! I found out and told my Aunt who did not know and was the last surviving sibling. Look at other peoples Trees. I found my great great grandmother on someones tree that traced the family back to the US to 1789! I got help from posts in a number of gemology sites, but some took years to be responded to.
    Oh yes last advice be patient..