08 August 2006

Genealogy Pit Falls

Finding your ancestors and learning the history of your family can be so rewarding and fun. But be careful of the pit falls that await you. It doesn't matter if you are an expert genealogists or a novice, there is always that unforeseen fork in the road that can take you down the wrong path and have you thinking you are part of a family that you are not even close to being related to.

I did that, obviously. My great grandmother on my father's side is Mary Joanne Williamson. When I started looking for her I only knew that her name was Mary. I soon found along the way that her maiden name was Williamson. Then through using the census records I discovered her approximate birth date. Pit fall number one. Never assume that what is on the census records is correct. Use the census records as a guide to your ancestors past, but not as concrete proof of birth date or place. The only thing that census records are good for really is to trace the migration of your family throughout the decades and to give you potential clues where to look for PROOF. The best forms of proof for birth and death dates and place are birth and death records. Marriage records can also help you uncover maiden names, which are necessary.

So now I had what I thought was her birth date and her name. I then got on Rootsweb.com and began looking for a Mary Williamson born in 1890. I found her! I found a Mary Ellen Williamson born in 1890, a descendant of the Wycoff family, the original Dutch settlers of New York. Wow, so I have Dutch in my family, and I am a part of a family that still has a standing homestead as a witness to their past. This is great! Think again! Pit fall number two. First of all I used information that was only partial corresponding to my information to link up my family with another family. You need to have a few more pieces of proof to rely on making a match. If the information I came across also listed her husband and or children and they match what I had then I could have relied on that being a match. Another mistake you can make with using other peoples posted research is that it may not be correct. You need proof. I do use other posted research, but now I only use it as a clue where to look for the proof I need, such as birth, death, or marriage certificate.

So before you get too excited make sure that you have several matching pieces of information and then get your proof to what you think is your ancestor. After you have you proof then you can celebrate as you move on to the next link in the chain.

Happy Hunting!

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