|Reliable sources make a reliable family tree.|
No offense to my third cousin once removed, but I can do better. If my family tree has facts whose only source is my cousin, that's not good enough.
Hearsay—even if it's someone's first-hand knowledge—is not a reliable, reproducible source for your family research.
That's why I'm on a mission to verify every fact in my tree that has a person or someone's online tree as my source. They're good leads, and I appreciate them tremendously. But without evidence, they are only leads. I need to find proof.
Clean-Up Makes Your Family Tree More Reliable
I've been scrubbing my family tree in a bunch of ways lately.
- For every census form in my tree, I added complete details and a link to where to find it online. (Ship manifests are next!)
- I cleaned up every address in my family tree to have a consistent format and take advantage of Family Tree Maker's address verification.
- I attached every census form or ship manifest in my tree to each person named in the document.
- I beefed up my source citations with more information and weeded out duplicates.
Two collections on Ancestry.com have a lot to offer this branch. I found Virginia marriage listings and death certificates for several people. I added the two Virginia source citations to the facts and removed the sources I don't find as valuable.
Now It's Your Turn to Trade Up
|My reliable sources.|
You, too, can fortify your family tree by using the most reliable sources. First, see if your family tree software can show you a list of all the sources you've created or attached to people in your tree.
Family Tree Maker lets me view my sources in a few ways, including by repository. The repository tells others where you found this fact.
I added the Repository (ancestry.com, familysearch.org, etc.) to each source citation that's from a website. I added the New York City Municipal Archives as a repository, too. That's where I went to see lots of birth, death, and marriage records for myself.
I can also view the complete alphabetical list of source titles in use in my family tree. That list shows me which sources I want to replace with something better. When I select a questionable source, like One World Tree, I can see exactly which facts are using it as their source.
If you have FTM, or your family tree software acts in a similar way, look for sources that come from another person's tree or a name. (When the source is a cousin, I name it to make that clear, e.g., "Joseph Collins, my cousin".) While you may believe your cousin, other genealogists have no reason to!
Start working through those facts. Search for a recognized, reliable source to back up your cousin's information. You can keep your cousin's name there if you want to, or put their name in your notes.
|Zero in on sources that don't carry much weight and trade up to better ones.|
The goal is to make every fact in your family tree provable.
Trade up to more reliable sources and you will fortify your family tree.