24 May 2019

3 Ways to Keeps Strangers Out of Your Family Tree

Name 3 reasons why you're positive this man belongs in your family tree.

I started this blog out of some frustration. Someone stole my grandfather and added him to their family. They didn't care that he was from the wrong part of Italy and had a well-documented family. They put him and my grandmother in their tree.

But it happens. When you step out a little further onto a distant branch of the family tree, the names are less familiar. It gets easier to make a mistake.

So what are the best ways to avoid adding the wrong person—and everyone attached to them—to your family tree?

Here are 3 smart ways to make sure you're adding the right people to your family tree.
Here are 3 smart ways to make sure you're adding the right people to your family tree.
©Can Stock Photo / leonidtit

1. Compare All the Facts

Let's say you find a man in a census document. His name matches the missing son you're trying to find. You don't know who he married. You only know he isn't with his parents anymore.

How do you know he's the right man?

Take the time to compare all his facts to the person you want him to be.
  • Do his age and place of birth fit your family?
  • Does he have a job that would be impossible based on what you know about him?
  • How many years has he been married, and does that make sense based on what you know?
Consider all the facts on the document you found. Are you sure you've got the right person?

2. Follow the Person Through Time

Imagine you're trying to find the death date for a man in your family tree. You find 2 men with almost the same name. One man served in the Army and is buried in a military cemetery. The other man has almost the same birth date. But his Social Security Death Index has a different death date than the veteran.

How do you know which one is your guy?

The answer is to research both men. Follow them through time. Find them in the census. Find their military record. If you can find their burial site online, who is buried next to them?

Research both men with the goal of ruling one man out of your family, as much as ruling one man into your family.

Check and compare all available facts. Are they the same person?
Check and compare all available facts. Are they the same person?

3. Check Other Family Trees

I wouldn't rely on someone else's family tree any more than I would rely on their hand-drawn map of the world.

But you can check other people's trees for corroborating evidence. Let's say you're wondering if this person with limited documentation belongs to you. You find 5 family trees that have him, and they all firmly place him in a family you don't know. That's a lot of evidence that he's not yours.

You can use other people's research to decide to pass on this particular person.

You probably have some unrelated people in your tree by accident. You didn't do it because you don't care about getting the facts right. You did it because this person is way out there on a distant branch. You're not invested in him. You grabbed him on the way to find someone else.

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