Finding Reliable Sources of Information on Ancestry Dot Com
By Kenneth Green
I have been into Genealogy for some years now. As I write this, I feel somewhat ashamed. I attended my first ever meeting of the Colorado Genealogical Society and learned a ton about finding information sources on Ancestry Dot Com. If you’re like me, you probably wanted to jump for joy when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint’s developed a partnership with Ancestry which caused all members of the church who have an online account (which is available to any member) to get ancestry free. And like many amateur genealogy hobbyists, we flocked to the website in droves. Nothing is wrong with this, but it can cause some errors.
1. Ancestry Member Trees are NOT reliable sources of information.
We all love each other, and so this is not an attack on anyone specific member tree. You could be a professional genealogist like myself, and your data could be on point. But this site has 2.7 Million Paying subscribers, over six million who have purchased Ancestry’s DNA service. If there is a pool of 6-8 million professional genealogists out there, then there would be no need for guys like me. If there were that many professional genealogists out there, that would not be a calling in my church which I talked about last Friday.
Because of this, we have to assume the lion share of customers are NOT professionals. Meaning they are prone to mistakes. I mean even us pro’s are prone to human error and mistakes. So what I want to drive home to you is that you cannot take public trees as gospel. They are riddled with incorrect information sometimes. I want to give you some tips to avoid the dangerous traps of lousy information sources.
2. How to find reliable sources of information.
- Government is always best! Records on Ancestry. Census records to me are king. They are recorded on the ground at the year listed. Now there can be some faults here. I want to stress NO record is 100% reliable. Government records are indexed by humans, and while they are checked and rechecked, mistakes do squeak past.
- Next from Census Records are Birth and Death Certificates. Did you know that to change ANY information on a birth or death certificate takes court proceedings and witnesses that were present at the event So, for instance, say your grandpa’s name is wrong on his birth certificate, you would have to have him in court AND someone else present at his birth like his parents. For this reason, these are very ironclad with the only mistakes usually coming from the indexing of said records.
- Social Security Application Database or Death Database usually has iron-clad information that can be trusted.
- After Census, Birth and Death Records, Social Security records come Marriage records in my own personal order of reliability.
- I’m not saying that there is no place for member trees. I like to use these as clues in essence. If I see a family tree that has kinda accurate details but maybe it has some things not on your tree already I don’t take it as gospel and add it to my tree. I use it as a place to launch my research from. I can take those details and try to find government data that corroborates what is listed in the member tree.
I know I have thought in this manner pre attending the meeting where this was discussed last Saturday. But I never thought to communicate this on my blog till I heard these things yesterday. I hope these tips can help you with your research, let me know how it goes! This week I am excited about Friday’s blog; I will release a vlog from the National Archives in Denver and talk about a heroine in my family who I just found in my research this week!