Family Tree - Dealing With Conflicting Facts
- I have been researching my family tree for several decades and a few days ago I received a recently published book that contained a photograph of a granduncle and his family. The caption recorded his wife's name as Mary Brown. However, my records show that her name was Eliza Smith. How do I uncover the truth? Perhaps you have run into a similar problem in your research? What steps should you take to try to avoid a similar situation? We will try to address some of these issues and help you in your quest to discover your family tree.
When researching my family tree, I have learned to follow a few simple rules to ensure that my documents are as accurate as possible. I'd like to say that I have always followed these simple rules. But unfortunately, I had to learn most of these things the hard way. Don't be discouraged if you have to make some changes in order to improve your techniques. Use these suggestions as a guide, but develop your own system to document your research and improve your record keeping skills. By all means, use the things that work and modify the things that don't. Here are a few simple tips:
Record the details of each research effort including the surname your are following, the location and dates of the interview or research session, and who you were interviewing on the top of each note or article;
Record the citation next to each specific fact that the citation supports. As an example - a copy of the Birth Certificate can be used as the citation for each of the following facts: full name; birth date; and place of birth for an individual. Don't include this citation for other facts about the person such as the marriage date and place or children's names;
Record the citation information immediately and as completely as possible. There is nothing worse than remembering the book you found the fact in and that it had a red cover but not knowing the title, author, and publisher. It is also important to specifically reference the chapter and page that you found where you found the reference;
Make sure that the computer program you choose to use allows detailed citations and allows you to specify the facts that the citation documents;
Carefully file all documents, charts, newspaper articles, photocopies, etc. in binders and file folders by surname. Be sure to carefully number and cross reference each item so that you can find it again; and
Set up a library of the books and records that you collect. Store the items carefully so that you can easily recover them when the need arises.
Clearly marking your source citations will help you have a better idea as to which fact is correct. However, there is no guarantee that you will be able to prove or disprove all the facts that you uncover. Like the example above, it may take months to discover whether my original information was correct or that the book is right. But knowing where I uncovered my original facts and being able to retrace each of my steps will provide me with a good chance to prove or disprove one or the other facts.
Genealogy is a challenging hobby that can be very rewarding. However, it is just as important to properly document your research as it was to make the find in the first place. Whether note taking or recording and filing your family tree information, doing it properly will help preserve your heritage for your family and for future generations.
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