Identifying Tree Errors – A New Approach

My online family tree is aging and just like we humans need as we get older, regular check ups are important to maintain its vigor.  I think I just discovered a different approach to identify errors to keep my tree robust.

My first computerized tree was done on a TI99 home computer.  I had to insert a cartridge to view the genealogical program (which is now in my attic). In 1995,we had switched over to a desktop system and we were online thanks to AOL.  I downloaded PAF from FamilySearch.org and spent a few weekends transferring my info from the old software to the new.  I’ve been transferring that same tree as it grew ever since.

Around 1997, I created a tree on Rootsweb (now owned by Ancestry.com).  My old tree is frozen in cyberspace and I cringe at some of the errors I’m not able to correct.  I believe that’s the only tree I’ve got stuck in time.

Over the years I’ve transferred the root tree to various online sites – Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage.com, FindMyPast.com, Geneanet.com, WikiTree.com, and AmericanAncestors.  I’ve used Legacy Family Tree, RootsMagic, and Family Tree Maker software to help identify and correct errors.  Last weekend I found another source to fix mistakes in lines I haven’t looked at in years.

Geneanet.com allows you to view tree statistics, whether you’re a member or not.  Simply click the down arrow next to your tree’s name which accesses the menu.  Under the heading Family History, click Family Tree Statistics.  Although the number of people in your tree with the same first name is interesting, it’s not going to fix errors.  (As an aside, the largest number of my peeps are named John and Mary, just like my grandparents).  To find errors, click “The 20 who lived the longest.”  There I discovered I had an ancestor that lived over 500 years and he wasn’t named Methuselah.  Clearly, I had entered John Clark’s death date in error, typing 1918 for 1418. 

The next individual, Thomas Eaton, had lived for 311 years but not really.  He had been pruned once from his line so I deleted him.  He was just an unlinked soul lost in my tree. 

Now click “The 20 oldest persons still alive” and you’ll be able to identify folks you know have passed but you haven’t found their death date.  My oldest was Melba L. Jones born in 1899.  Using FindAGrave, I discovered she died 2 Jan 1993.  I like how this feature helps me keep my tree current on lines I don’t check often. 

I like that only 20 questionable individuals are provided at a time so it makes the task less onerous.  It’s still a pain to maintain trees at various sites so I’ve been keeping one current which is linked to my desktop and then every 6 months, update the others.  In the interim, when people find me at the other sites, I just redirect them to my always maintained tree.  

Now that I’ve Spring Cleaned my tree, I’m ready for more research.  Happy Hunting!

Ancestry.com New Features

I tried Ancestry.com’s new feature, Thru Lines, last weekend and I’m not impressed.  If you aren’t sure what it’s about, you can watch their brief video here.  What set me off was the comment “For a few short minutes and without doing any research, you can have a whole new network of ancestors and living relatives.”  Not in my opinion!  If only genealogy were so simple. 

Here’s the issue I have and which I wrote in my survey result to Ancestry – say everyone in your family believes that your shared Great Great Grandpa was John Smith Jr..  You all know this because it said so in an unsourced family book written in the 1940’s.  Some of your older relatives even remember the author and he was an honest, hard working genealogist.  He knew that John Smith Jr. was his Great Grandpa because his mom told him so and she never lied.  So there, it’s the truth and nothing but the truth.

Now along comes Ancestry’s Thru Lines and since everyone copied everyone else’s tree on Ancestry because it’s simple to do so, everyone has John Smith Jr.as their 2nd time Great Grandpa and now everyone’s DNA results PROVE it.  Except, it proves nothing at all.

All Thru Lines proves is that you are all related.  If everyone has a wrong name listed everyone with shared DNA will connect to that wrong name.  Perhaps John Smith Jr. was adopted.  All of the shared descendants are related to the adopted individual but not to John Smith Sr.  Thru Lines is going to give you other relatives you “might” be related to.  This just perpetuates the wrong information.

I tried it with one of my adult children’s DNA results and it connected to my husband’s grandmother.  Was that accurate?  Yes, because far flung family members have also tested and they connect to grandmother’s parents.  We also have the paper documentation of the relationship.  All Thru Lines did in this example was confirm what my documentation already showed. 

Two other features are in the works, New and Improved DNA Matches (I can only hope) and Tree Tags, which is something I’ve been wishing for a long long time.  Tree tags is adding info you’d like others to know, such as – “This is not a confirmed relationship.” I would absolutely love that.  I actually wanted a color coded option so I could make my confirmed relationships in green and my tentative ones in yellow or red.  I understand that some folks have difficulty with color so tagging is a nice alternative.  As soon as I’m able to test these features, I’ll blog my opinion. 

Three Resources You Might Not Have Tried Yet

Last weekend, my local genealogical society held their annual seminar with the main presenter being D. Johsua Taylor.  Josh mentioned 3 resources that I had never used so I’m passing the information along as they may be helpful in your researching.  

Warning – the first and last isn’t readily available so it might take you some time to find them in your locale.

Early American Imprints is a collection in two series of single page documents, such as advertisements, pamphlets and sermons, from 1690-1800 and 1801-1819.  There is a searchable database produced by Readex.  Unfortunately for me, there is no facility in my county that has access but I did email a library at my closest state university and discovered they do have it and allow the general public to view it.  I can’t wait to check it out!

Archive Grid, owned by OCLC, is like WorldCat and this free resource is available to you from home.  The beauty of Archive Grid is that you can obtain catalog descriptions from collections housed around the world, not just the U.S.  Through a key word search or by browsing a selected topic, who knows what genealogical gems you may uncover.  I’m thinking this might be a wonderful way to shed light on some of my brick wall ancestors who left little records behind.  

ArchiveFinder is similar to Archive Grid but is available only through libraries.  I haven’t found a local source yet and will ask my library consortium if they could fund it in the future.  Why I would like to check it out is because the database includes manuscript collections that I wouldn’t know are available without this resource.  Josh recommended asking your library if they are a part of C19 – libraryspeak for an index that libraries often subscribe to.  ArchiveFinder is available with a subscription to C19.  

GenealogyAtHeart Hint – keep a Word doc or spreadsheet on your computer of resources you want to search for at various archives so when you’re headed out the door on an errand, you have a list of what to check while you’re passing by that library.  Sure, I call or email the library if it’s urgent but often I come across a book I’d like to review for a possible connection to an ancestor I’m researching but the facility is closed at the time I discover it or I just don’t want to make the drive to the next county for just a look.  I actually print the lists and keep them in my car so if I happen to be going that way, I can stop in.  I record the call number (from WorldCat), the book title, the author, the publication year, and most importantly – the name of the ancestor I think it pertains to.  I can always look up the call number or title in the library but if I can’t remember who I’m looking up, it’s a waste of my time.  Don’t forget to remove the resource from the list on your computer when you get home.  Happy Hunting!