AMATEUR GENEALOGISTS BECOMING FRUSTRATED WITH ANCESTRY.COM

THE GENEALOGY RESEARCH PROBLEM

We have received many calls from amateur genealogists who are disgruntled with ancestry.com causing them, unfortunately, to consider cancelling their subscriptions.  Their frustration revolves around not finding information easily, continually coming up with the same uneventful results, and therefore making no progress.  This is a very unfortunate situation since ancestry.com is a terrific resource for genealogy research records, but their advertising campaign has resulted in this self-inflicted wound.

THE REASONS – FOR THE GENEALOGY RESEARCH PROBLEM

There are a number of reasons for this that involves the combination of unrealistic expectations and naïveté on the part of the amateur genealogists and the inference from ancestry.com that it is easy to research your ancestry.  There is an old saying…”if it sounds like it is too good to be true, then it is”, meaning, you should not take their advertising campaign literally.  The reasons for the conflict:

Ancestry.com:

  • Their advertising campaign states that you don’t need to know what you are looking for before you start looking, leading some to believe it is easy and the results will fall into your lap.
  • Their advertising has stated you can connect other family trees to your tree if a green leaf appears in your family tree, leading some to believe this is how you do genealogy research.

Amateur Genealogists:

  • They assume it is going to be easy and don’t know how to properly search for genealogy records.
  • They are not experienced enough to know how to use ancestry.com’s records and their search engine.
  • They don’t understand that while ancestry.com has many records, they don’t have ALL of the records.
  • They don’t know how to research records in other repositories or that they even exist.

UNDERSTANDING THE MOTIVATIONS OF BOTH SIDES – IN THE GENEALOGY RESEARCH PROBLEM

An instrumental part of professional genealogy research is to evaluate the motivation of the informants (source of the information) to determine the credibility of the information provided.  In this case we have two informants, the amateur genealogist and ancestry.com.  One has to look at the motivations of both sides.

  • Amateurs genealogists want easy internet access to records for instant gratification, and if they don’t get it they get frustrated.
  • Ancestry.com understands this and promotes their website to meet this demand to gain subscribers to their website.

This unfortunately creates a vicious cycle of the simple sell for easy results, that leads to frustration through a lack of understanding and naiveté, and a lost customer.  In the end unfortunately, this does nothing to promote the accredited way of doing genealogy research which if done properly would probably create a lifetime customer.

This approach is exasperated by the TV program, “Who Do You Think You Are?”  While this program has high entertainment value, their producers provide an unrealistic portrayal of easy genealogy research.  They describe a process that promotes:

  • The viewing of original genealogy records.
  • A requirement for long distant travel to discover documents on site.
  • Information instantaneously appearing with no relevance to the actual process and number of hours of research time it takes to discover the records which just miraculously appear on their program.
  • The appearance of celebrities doing it on their own when in reality there are hundreds of hours of genealogy research put into each of these programs by profession genealogists.

This portrayal does an injustice to professional genealogists and the genealogy research process as a whole, and sets up unrealistic expectations on the part of amateur genealogists.  This again only creates a myth that it is easy which then results in frustration on the part of amateur genealogists when they discover it is not.

From personal experience, a relative in my family placed what he believes to be the family tree of our paternal line on ancestry.com.  The information he provided in this family tree has an inaccurate generation which therefore renders the remainder of the family tree incorrect.  This tree is not based on sound genealogy research methodology, but unfortunately, well over 400 other family trees have linked to this same incorrect tree on ancestry.com.  Family trees on ancestry.com should be viewed at best as a clue and then researched to be proven or disproven as a fit with your family tree.

THE REMEDY – FOR THE GENEALOGY RESEARCH PROBLEM

Amateur genealogists:

Be savvy and expect that it is going to take more effort to discover your ancestors and family history.  Do not believe that you can simply click on a green leaf and connect with another family that belongs to your family tree.

Learn how to effectively and accurately research genealogy records.

  • Determine the questions you need answered.
  • Learn about the types of records that are available in different geographic regions.
  • Learn what types of information each record can provide.
  • Develop a hypothesis and research plan involving these records.
  • Use ancestry.com as well as other databases and repositories as resources, and use sound genealogy research methodologies to determine the correct answers to your genealogy research questions.

Learn about the genealogy research process.   Understand that “The Genealogical Proof Standard” developed by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) http://www.bcgcertification.org/ is accepted as sound genealogical research methodology and is the basis for becoming a certified genealogist.  That is:

  • Conduct a reasonably exhaustive search for all information that is or may be pertinent to the identity, relationship, event, or situation in question.
  • Collect and include in the compilation a complete and accurate citation to the source or sources of each item of information collected.
  • Analyze and correlate the collected information to assess its quality as evidence.
  • Resolve any conflicts caused by items of evidence that contradict each other or are contrary to a proposed (hypothetical) solution to the question.
  • Arrive at a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.

Gain genealogy research knowledge, and attend free lectures or seek knowledge at:

  • Local genealogy societies.
  • Local Family History Libraries through the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS).
  • Local genealogy libraries.
  • Local National Archives and Records Administrations (NARA) centers.
  • Conferences by genealogy societies and associations.
  • The Genealogical Standards Manual by The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG).

Understand that researching your genealogy properly will result in placing individuals in your family tree that truly belong there, which will accurately describe your family history to your descendants for generations to come.

Ancestry.com:

Bring added credibility to the genealogy research community in a way that will create lifetime members in the genealogy professional by:

  • Promoting your terrific website as a resource for genealogy records to be used during the course of proper genealogy research practices.
  • Promoting your family trees only as clues or possibilities, and not as a place where you simply connect other family trees to yours.
  • Educating the amateur genealogists on proper genealogy research methodology.

FEEDBACK

  • Have you experienced these frustrations?
  • Has this blog helped motivate you to learn more about proper genealogy research techniques?
  • What do you think of this advice?

 

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Genealogy Proof Standard

Genealogy Source Citations

All professional genealogists should provide source citations to all of the genealogy research information they collect for your family history. As a consumer you should expect this service. To give credibility to your personal genealogical research it is very important to create a source citation that describes the source of the genealogy research information you discover and attach it to your genealogy research in the form of a footnote. Footnotes are best because it is located on the same page along with the genealogy research information you discover.

Basic Genealogy Source Citation Templates

There are a number of basic citation templates depending on the type of source such as:

  • online historical resources
  • ancestry.com databases and images
  • archival manuscripts
  • articles
  • books
  • censuses
  • electronic data
  • local government records
  • microfilm

Genealogy Research Quicksheets

These are available in the form of a “Quicksheet” by Elizabeth Shown Mills, Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, MD, or in the book “Evidence, Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian” by Elizabeth Shown Mills, Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, MD, 1997.  These can be purchased on-line.

Simply put, the goal for citations is to lead the reader to exactly where you discovered your genealogical research source. Any genealogy research information that you find that does not have a source citation should be viewed as only a suggestion or a clue that requires followup genealogy research. Any information that is not considered common knowledge should have a source citation.

What do you think of this research standard?

  • Are citations important?
  • Are citations important to the researcher?
  • Are citations important to the client?
  • Are citations important for later finding the source of the information?
  • All of the above?
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Melick Professional Genealogists Launches New Website!

Melick Professional Genealogists, a genealogy research company based out of Colorado and Massachusetts, has launched their new website focusing on their expertise in genealogy research and family tree charts. Their experience providing genealogy research services extends all over the United States and worldwide. Their new website includes the beginnings of their new genealogy research resources that to date include over 5,500 genealogy resource links. In time this website will be home to over 25,000 links devoted to genealogy resources all over the world. The new website includes images of their genealogy research reports as well as genealogy charts to include a hover feature that zooms in on the images and also a slide show feature that allows easy browsing of the images. The genealogy research services and family tree charts are terrific gift ideas. Simply contact them at 303-898-8766 or email at info@melickgenealogists.com for a free no obligation consultation. Check them out at http://bit.ly/fMDjLp.

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Professional Genealogists Create Ancestor Profiles

As professional genealogists we have the knowledge and expertise to create an ancestor’s profile whose information is not found through conventional genealogical research records.

We recently completed a phase of genealogy research for an individual who was born in 1869 and disappeared in 1912. He was not to be found in:

  • census
  • marriage
  • death
  • tax
  • land
  • probate records

We took a different approach to genealogy research by searching for and discovering evidence through indirect methods and determining his associations at cities we knew he lived in at certain times and researching the areas historical context. This profile defined what he did for a living, how lived and why he was difficult to find.

Our client was convinced he was a secretive and wayward individual who was unmotivated and drifted with the wind. What we discovered was that he was:

  • an attorney for the railroads working in mergers and acquisitions
  • taught school children when work was slow

In those days attorneys traveled with the railroads to get approvals from the appropriate local jurisdictions for the land assemblages and right-of-ways to make constructing the railroad possible. Therefore, he frequently boarded and left no probate record trail.

Understanding the historical context of where was living and how he fit into it was a critical element in our success. It is a powerful method of research when all else fails!

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Professional Genealogists Look Forward To The 1940 US Census!

Professional genealogists look forward to the release of the 1940 U.S. Federal Census which was conducted based on a census date of April 1, 1940. Given the seventy-two year privacy restriction, family historians will need to wait until April 1, 2012 to view the sixteenth census of the United States. The census counted a total of nearly 132.2 million people living in 48 states. This will unlock another 10 years of genealogy research information moving forward from the last avaible US Census in 1930!  See http://www.melickgenealogists.com/.

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Professional Genealogists Use Land Maps

If you know where your ancestors lived in the late 1800s, professional genealogists can sometimes find maps of the town with their names on their lot. Some like Ontario for example that shows every family in the town. This helps build a profile for your ancestor that includes their neighbors and possible some migrating friends that may provide clues or affirmations of their origination.  Here is a link to New England, Pennsylvania and New York maps: http://www.oldmapsne.com/

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Professional Genealogists Benefit From Double Census Enumerations

Professional genealogists benefit from discovering double census enumerations because it provides more incite into the family unit by way of others with whom they associated.  Double census enumerations are where a single person is found twice in a given census year.  We recently completed a genealogy research project where we found a double census enumeration and it provided us with key information about the other family members.  In our case we found a family’s daughter living with her parents but then also found her living with what turned out to be extended family members.  This opened up a new avenue that led to further genealogy discoveries!

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Genealogy Research And Genealogy Pedigree Charts Are Great Gift Ideas For The Holidays!

Genealogy research and genealogy pedigree charts are great gift ideas for the holidays!  This time of year our professional genealogists provide these types of services to many clients who hire us to provide our genealogy research services for a gift to their loved one.  We just completed research and a family tree chart for a gift where the recipient had no knowledge of his family beyond his parents.  For a modest fee we were able to discover unknown grandparents, great grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, immigration records, and a photo of his grandfather.  He will be very pleased and surprised!  Please see Melick Genealogists at http://bit.ly/fd5CV0

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Professional Genealogists Provide Genealogy Research For Ancestors And Relatives To Colorado

The professional genealogists at Melick Genealogists have provided genealogy research to many clients from all over the world seeking to know where their immigrant relatives and ancestors lived in Colorado, how they got there and when, and where they migrated once they arrived.  It was not at all uncommon for them to arrive in one area and move on to others over the years depending on the variables of work and other social and economic impacts.  In some cases they decided to leave and return to their native country.  We have seen immigrants settle in all parts of the Colorado Territory only to move on to other locations and continuing to move on a regular basis.  Thankfully, when the territory became a state it began to provide more records for genealogists to discover in future generations.  Tracking them in their ongoing migration patterns is a challenge and very informative to our clients who wish to learn more about their relatives and ancestors, and to have a better understanding of their family history.

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Professional Genealogists Working On Genealogy Pedigree Charts!

Genealogy pedigree charts are being created at Melick Genealogists as gifts for the holidays.  These heirloom quality charts feature ancestral lines, relatives, biographies of ancestors, old family photos and other features that customize each chart making them fantastic gifts that will be part of the family treasures forever.  Check out these charts at http://www.melickgenealogists.com/genealogy-pedigree-charts.php.

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