Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 5, Number 21 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 October 22, 2013
In this article we discuss climbing the wrong family tree. We have all followed the wrong line at one time or another, but here are some tips to hopefully help find the right ones. I cannot stress enough how important it is to verify your research. I try to follow the "rule of three" meaning that I attempt to find three unrelated sources to help prove the information.
As always, we love hearing your stories after each newsletter. Please email me at email@example.com if you have any comments or questions.Thank you,
James L. Douthat
CLIMBING THE WRONG TREE
How many times have you worked long and hard on a line in your family tree to find out that you have been climbing the wrong tree? It happens to all of us. Researching the lines of our family, we pick up a name that we know is ours only to find out later that it was not.
I was working on my wife’s family years ago and ran across a side line with the name “Nimrod”. I figured that there could not be too many people with that name. Wrong!!! I discovered a large number of Nimrods in that family and many of them were not our line. In another case, I was working on an historic figure in our area by the name of “Return Jonathan Meigs”. Now how many men with this name could there been? As it turned out there were over 16 with that same name in their family. They were mostly lawyers and politicians so they were well known. The one of interest to me was Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs, the aide to camp to General George Washington and later agent to the Cherokee in Tennessee.
As these two examples show, it is easy to follow the wrong family line. If you are using the internet entirely as your source, keep in mind that you still need to verify the information provided. One major problem with the internet is that there are bits and pieces of information that are connected many times in the wrong places. The internet is a great tool in genealogy research and can be of tremendous value. However, if the information isn’t verified, it can bring incorrect information that will continue for generations of those that blindly follow your research. Here are a few points to keep you off a lot of useless trees.
First, every bit of information that you find must pass the test of good research with the ability to verify how the information relates to your family. Just to find a name that fits is not good research. Remember how unimaginative many of our ancestors were when it came to names. There are plenty of William Williams out there and not all are related. I have actually known families to use a name over when a child dies. I guess that when you have 12-19 children, it is hard to come up with a different name.
Secondly, you need to strive for accuracy in your research. I hope none of you are like the woman who ran into our local genealogical library. Out of breath she came up to the counter and said “Quick show me which book has all of my family.” Before those of us standing around had time to respond she added, “My son is driving around the block and I need the information right now.” Several of us just turned and walked away to leave the poor librarian alone to answer her question.
Research is one of those things that takes time and a questioning mind. To find a marriage even in the original court house records is not the final proof that one needs. Do you have proof that your ancestor was in that area at that time? Are there other records that give the names together? I try to use the "rule of three" when it comes to verifying an answer. In other words, I try to find three unrelated sources that prove the event in question. You may have the court record of a marriage. Is there a Bible record that states the same thing? Are there letters giving the fact? Is there a military record that includes the names of the wife? Even deeds can verify the fact or sometimes the settlement of the estate will give the name of the wife.
Thirdly, try to obtain the original documents to back up your research. This step takes time and effort to double and triple check the information. You cannot be too careful in making your research as accurate as possible. Always verify the information that you find. If you find information in your research or on the internet that you question, you should be able to go back to the original source to verify.
The Association of Professional Genealogist has done research on the web and their conclusion is that the internet contains less that 10% of the information that is available for use by researchers. While this number will continue to grow, keep in mind that there is a lot of information that can be found elsewhere.
Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs
Col. Return Jonathan Meigs served as Indian Agent for the Cherokee Nation from 1801 to 1823 and resided at Ft. South West Point in Roane County. This publication provides a daily account of his activities. Click for more information on Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs.
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