15 February 2019

4 Types of Family Tree Errors Only You Can Find

Place names are a big challenge in your family tree. Can you improve yours?

I'm working on a new family tree project that I hope to share with you soon. My goal is to create visualizations of my family tree like you've never seen before.

I'm preparing the data for this project, going through long spreadsheets almost one line at a time.

But I discovered something along the way. In fact, I discovered lots of things: errors that no software tool can find for me. They're human errors that are obvious only to the human that made the errors. Me!

What I had was a very long list of every address or state or country in my family tree, and each name associated with it. As I scrolled through the list, I saw my mistakes: I had people associated with places I know they've never been.

It's easy to click the wrong suggested place. Time to find those errors.
It's easy to click the wrong suggested place. Time to find those errors.

1st Error Type: Wrong Selection

Family Tree Maker is great about suggesting place names as you type. Each time I start to type "Italy" I see the next suggestion is a place called Italy Cross in Canada. And I did it. I accidentally associated two 18th century Italians with Italy Cross, Canada by mistake. I made a similar mistake with a couple that lives in Argentina. Who even knew there was a place called Argentina, Alajuela, Costa Rica?

2nd Error Type: What Was I Thinking?

I had another man from Pennsylvania associated with Hamilton, Bermuda. It's marked as a departure, citing the New York Passenger Lists as a source. But there's no date, no image, and no travel companion. It seems like a complete mistake. And since this man is the father of an ex-in-law, I'm deleting the whole fact.

3rd Error Type: Inconsistency

I also spotted a style error. My standard for U.S. addresses is to spell out the word County. For example: 328 Superior Street, Youngstown, Mahoning County, Ohio, USA. In the long list of places in my family tree, I saw a couple scroll by that were missing the word County. It may not be a big deal, but I'd rather have it be right.

4th Error Type: Stragglers

While looking for an example of a place name missing the word County, I found another type of error. An address belonging to no one. It probably belonged to someone who used to be in my tree. But I've decided to limit the scope of some far-flung branches. Because I deleted a lot of people, I may have a bunch of straggling place names like 17 Halls Heights Avenue.

The people are gone, but their addresses linger on.
The people are gone, but their addresses linger on.

To find these types of errors in your family tree, you can start by browsing the list of places you've used. Family Tree Maker has a Places tab. RootsMagic has a Place List. I don't use FamilySearch, but I don't see a lot of control options there.

Do any places stand out as being odd to you? I ran the Family Tree Maker Place Usage Report to generate a list, but it doesn't include places that have no people associated with them.

Add this task to your Rainy Day Genealogy List or your I'm Bored Genealogy List. It's another effort that'll make your family tree that much stronger.

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