Top 10 Things to Avoid in Family History Research

Make the Most of Your Research Time by Remembering these Ten Tips

Top 10 Things to Avoid in Family History Research Copyright 2019

I created two handouts to use during a family history fair my husband and I were asked to help staff in 2018. Here is the information from one of those handouts. The other can be found at Top 10 Things to DO in Family History Research.

Enjoy these Top Ten Tips!  

1. Do not add an ancestor to FamilySearch for which an entry already exists because the name is spelled wrong or the details (like the dates or places) are not exact. (Instead, search the records available to prove or disprove the information.)

2. Do not merge two ancestor profiles together until after you check the sources and make sure the two are for the same person. (Many of my ancestors named their children after themselves, a grandparent, or other family member. If all of these people with the same name lived in the same town, it can get confusing as to which one is the one you are researching.)

“Slow and steady” can win the research race.

3. Do not rush through a merge of duplicates. Mistakes have been made that way. If you do not have time to really look at the details, write down the ID numbers (applies to FamilySearch) of the two individuals. However, you can always go back later to your ancestor and click “Possible Duplicates.” Why write down the ID numbers? If there are several possible duplicates, you will be able to find the duplicate you were previously looking at earlier.

4. Avoid the temptation to just copy and paste names, dates, and places from other websites or blogs. So, just remember to verify sources before adding someone to your family line. If no sources are listed, find them on your own. (I have had to correct multiple ancestors due to other people just adding in information without adding sources that prove the information is correct.)

5. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you make a mistake on FamilySearch, ask a fellow genealogist or call FamilySearch Support (1-866-406-1830) for assistance in fixing it. (FamilySearch Support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and not just in the United States. For Support numbers in other countries, please check their Contact Us page. At the bottom of the page, select ‘Change Country.) 

It is okay to ask for help.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. For example, check out the Help Center on FamilySearch for step-by-step instructions on a variety of topics. There are articles, videos, as well as a Wiki for many family history topics and locations.

7. Don’t feel bad if you cannot find anything on a particular ancestor or ancestral line. You are not alone. (I promise! I cannot go past my second great-grandmother, Amazona Frances Easton Burkett, on my mother’s side.)

Google is a genealogist’s friend.

8. Don’t be afraid to Google your ancestor’s name for ideas of where to search if stuck with a lack of documentation. You can search for their name, their name plus location, as well as their name, location, and a date (such as birth, marriage, or death).

9. Don’t stick to just FamilySearch and Ancestry. Search other websites that offer records including the National Archives Records & Administration (N.A.R.A.), state archives, and genealogical societies.

10. Don’t be afraid to message someone from within FamilySearch or Ancestry. Ask them about a source they attached or where they found a photo. If you think you share a common ancestor, ask!

Please share with friends and family! If you share this on social media, please let us know in the comments!

I hope this helps you with your family history research!


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