Sunday, April 1, 2007

I Was a Fool - my Top 10

Looking back on my genealogy "career" this morning while sitting in church, I thought about all of the mistakes I've made over 19 years - what a Fool I was (and still am, in some cases). I usually look at my errors on Sundays (in private prayer time, of course, not out loud - I'm a Presbyterian, one of the "frozen chosen") and on April Fool's Day. I blindly admire my successes on the other days of the year (except for Leap Day, of course) - it's great for my self-esteem and confidence.

Here are my top 10 Foolish genealogy mistakes:

10. Accepting other researchers family group sheets, pedigree charts and GEDCOMs sight unseen and merging them into my own databases. Arghh. It takes years to find all of the errors.

9. Accepting the names, dates, places in the LDS Ancestral File and putting them into my databases without checking them out. I didn't understand that the data might be wrong until it was too late.

8. Finding a name, birth record and parents names for a person that "looks like" it is, and therefore "must be," my elusive ancestor. I have notebooks full of secondary information because I didn't find primary information that proves the relationships before going off on the wild goose chase.

7. Not adding the source citations to my database entries at the time of data entry. This still haunts me - I am going back into my databases regularly to add source information.

6. Spending a LOT of time at the FHC searching the Ancestry databases when I could have subscribed many years ago for 50 cents a day or less.

5. Spending a LOT of time at the FHC searching the Ancestry databases when I could have been searching microfilms for primary information data on my known ancestors.

4. Not attending national, state or regional genealogy conferences to benefit from the wisdom of other researchers.

3. Not taking enough vacation/research trips that included visits to major repositories like the Family History Library (twice), NEHGS (thrice), NYGBS, DAR, Library of Congress (once), National Archives, Allen County, Newberry, etc.

2. Not spending enough interview time with my mother, my aunts, uncle and cousins to hear their life stories, to label photographs and to enjoy their company once I started my research.

1. Not starting my genealogy research until my father and grandparents had died, even though I had considered pursuing it years before they died. I never did interview my father or my grandparents about their lives or their memories.

There are lessons in that list for veteran and newbie researchers alike. I plead with you to heed them and don't make the mistakes that I have made.

What about you - what FOOLish mistakes have you made in your genealogy research?


Anonymous said...

My mistake was not taking advantage of small local historical and genealogical societies. They often have extensive and well-researched collections available for very reasonable fees. And a lot of the data isn't available anywhere else! I highly recommend contacting the local historical society wherever your ancestors lived!

Bill West said...

I made the LDS Ancestral File
mistake as well. I found all this
information and thought "Wow!" and
took it all in.

It has been useful though as a roadmap. I use the information as a starting point and doublecheck each item. And even then it's still something to hopefully be checked out with actual records
at somepoint or another.