“It’s Just For My Family”
I cannot tell you how many times I have head those words through the years. And recently, they (or words to that effect) have just appeared too many times. Let me tell you, there is nothing more frustrating to a professional genealogist than to hear those words.
They are so disheartening for us to hear, because they are always used as an excuse. In reality, they are used by researchers who do not care whether or not their work is correct. They may be lazy researchers who are happy to go along with whatever they find on the internet. What these folks really mean to say is “I don’t want to do the work.”
I am continually astounded at the number of people I encounter who think that citing sources and questioning undocumented information is only for professionals. After all, if they are only sharing their information with their family, who cares where it came from? If one is going to approach research from that perspective, then why bother researching at all? Why not just make up names, dates, and places and fill in the blanks. What’s the difference?
The reason that professionals encourage researchers to verify everything and cite where they got the information is so that they can be confident that they are sharing correct information with their family. We want you to be able to be proud about your work. And when your descendants look back at the work you have done, we want them to be proud of the work you do. We want them to be able to be confident about the information, not questioning all of your work because it was not carefully done.
And let me be clear, this does not mean that researchers shouldn’t use online sources. Online data can be quite reliable and helpful to your research. But you must do the work to verify information.
In working on a blog post about my great-grandmother recently, I was doing some checking online. I discovered an online family tree created by a second cousin. Her grandmother was my grandfather’s sister. The tree was quite good through our great-grandparents. Unfortunately, she had clearly attached information from another family tree to her own. Our great-grandfather had an unusual name, Anselme Morin.
Unlike other French-Canadian names, such as Joseph and Jean-Baptiste, Anselme is a rare name in Quebec. Unfortunately, she had misidentified a different Anselme Morin as our great-grandfather. The family tree went back 10 generations from Anselme. It was well-documented with sources and original documents. But not a single one of these individuals is our ancestor.
The correct information is available online. It is also available in the Catholic cemetery where Anselme is buried, about a half hour from where the cousin lives. He is buried in a large grave with his wife, three children, and his parents.
Please do yourself a favor. The next time a professional suggests you verify the information you have discovered, follow their recommendations. They want you to succeed. And they want you to leave a compiled genealogy that your descendants will be proud of!