Saturday, April 21, 2012

Some Great Advice from Alabama Pioneers

Today's weekly newsletter from Alabama Pioneers had such excellent advice for anyone researching their family's lineage that I'm reprinting it here:

DON'T BECOME A VICTIM!

There are many myths floating around out there in the world of genealogy. Don't derail your research by becoming a victim to the following myths.
You can find your whole family history online. It looks so simple when advertised on TV by Ancestry.com. A few clicks on the keyboard and you find your family history but genealogy research is a lot more complicated than that. You can find many family trees online but there are also lots of errors in them. To adequately document your family tree, you need to trace down the sources of information. Some documents can be obtained online but you often need to visit to Libraries, Courthouses and State Archives.

Your ancestor came over on the Mayflower or George Washington is your ancestor. Lots of families have these stories and they became embellished over time, so be sure to do your research and validate these claims. Not everyone with the same last name is related. DNA evidence today has disproved many long held traditional family stories about descendancy. FYI - George Washington did not have children or descendants. However, his wife did from a former marriage.

Your ancestor's name was changed at Ellis Island. Passenger lists were created at the port of departure and Ellis Island officially checked the names on the list. However, immigrants often changed their own names in an attempt to sound more American.

The Courthouse burned and all the records are gone. You may run into a courthouse fire. (and this is a good argument of why we need to digitize all court records but that's another story) If you run into this situation, remember....the vital records, naturalizations, deeds, wills and other records weren't always completely destroyed. Sometimes records survived or copies were sent to another office or agency.

You can buy your family crest. Actually, families don't have crests....individuals do. Coats of arms must be granted and you must prove descent through a male line of someone to whom arms were granted.

There were three brothers who came to America. One went north, one went south and the third went west. Often times, this is an excuse for lazy genealogists who cannot explain why the same surname exists in different places. Many times, the families were not related at all. This story is now so common that if you hear it......consider it a red flag that other data may be false or not well-researched.
Good genealogy research takes time. There is just no way around it. I wish it was possible that with a few clicks on your computer keyboard, you could find your family ancestry but that is not the case. Granted, research by others is always helpful and saves you considerable time but always remember to follow up and document with actual supporting records. It need not be expensive. Sometimes this data can be obtained for free online and many courthouses, archives and libraries provide copies of documents for a small fee.

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