Researching our unique family histories is fun, rewarding, and a terrific learning experience!
For the amateur genealogist, a handful of ancestry and genealogy websites provide their paid subscribers with the ability to create their family tree online. This is a wonderful opportunity to create the family tree and especially to share it with family members.
This process starts with entering the names/dates/places of your known ancestors. Based on your input some websites then provide “hints” such as other trees and/or records with information that may apply to your ancestors. It is important to review the information to determine its accuracy and how if at all it applies to the ancestors in your tree. It is important to focus on the records and not on the other trees unless those trees include relevant records you can link to your ancestor to prove their lineage. The vast majority of online trees are not properly documented or authenticated. Linking other trees to your tree is not considered a source for your tree to prove your lineage.
Authenticating your family tree is done by linking sources to your ancestors thereby providing proof of all the information listed on your tree. Sources link individuals together by relationship and provide dates and places. Sources fall into two basic categories including primary sources and secondary sources.
Primary sources state the relationships between individuals and include birth, marriage and death certificates; wills and other probate records; church records; family bible records; deeds and other land records; court records; social security applications; family letters, diaries, or journals; gravestone photos, and cemetery or mortician records.
Secondary sources collaborate the relationships between individuals with other secondary sources and include published genealogies; town and county histories; federal and state census records; newspapers, obituaries, marriage announcements; gravestone photos; cemetery transcriptions; and affidavits.
Using the sources listed above will provide proof of the information listed in your family tree. Simply matching names and linking to other family trees will not authenticate your family tree. While these trees may appear to be a “match” most likely they are not, so do not assume they are accurate just because they are online. These trees may not have sources or may be generally incorrect. From personal experience, my family has trees online created by others that are partially incorrect. So, avoid this mistake. Use other family trees as a hint only.
Much of the professional service Melick Professional Genealogists provides assists our clients with researching, creating, and documenting family trees by using sources for authentication. We are engaged either before, during, or after their research begins depending on their availability of time and level of comfort doing research. If the tree is already under way we are asked to confirm and/or correct the lineage as needed which leads to a true, accurate and authentic family tree. This allows for clients to experience the thrill of the hunt and discovery of their ancestral information while getting professional assistance to ensure the accuracy of their family tree.