Okay. For two weeks you have had a couple of complicated lessons on citations for lots of different resources. Your brains are probably a bit fried and you are wondering if all that work is worth it. Some of you are probably still asking, "Why bother?"
This week there is no real lesson. Whew! Bet you're happy! What I want to talk about instead is the Why. If you are using sites such as Ancestry, FamilySearch, RootsWeb, WikiTree, RootsMagic, etc. (there are way too many to list here), you will notice that there are a LOT of other folks on those sites building their trees and hoping to find some cousins. These sites are often labeled "cousin bait" because the hope is that by creating a public tree on these sites (i.e., allowing other people on the site to view and borrow from your work so you can view and borrow from theirs) you will find some long lost, or at the very least, forgotten, cousin.
Sometimes that is very true. Because of my public tree on Ancestry.com, I did find a "cousin" - sort of. We are actually sixth cousins, Our mutual ancestor is Paul Doyon (b. 1849). Paul is my great grandfather. His relationship to my sixth cousin (Nick) is third cousin, 3x removed. Nick's relationship to my father is fifth cousin, 1x removed. Yep - it gets complicated. But Nick and I found each other on Ancestry.com. I was struggling through the beginning phases of building my family tree on my father's side. It was time-consuming. I was learning about Ancestry.com and all its nuances and hadn't even begun to figure out about its little, shaking leaves. By the time I got as far back as great grandpa Paul, I was tired and frustrated.
One day, when I signed on to torture myself for few hours of research (you know you are a genealogist if you look forward to this type of torture), I found this little, shaking leaf over Paul Doyon's head. Aha! Time to learn about shaky leaves. So I clicked and got a prompt to review the 134 hints from 32 trees that might match my great grandfather. Long story short, after hours and hours of checking out all these hints, I discovered Nick's tree. He had already done a ton of research on Paul and surrounding ancestors and it was all there for the taking. WOW!
So here's the thing .... I am very fortunate that my "cousin" Nick is a great researcher. He is former military and is into detail. He writes (or pastes in) citations for EVERYTHING. There was not a single fact on his tree that was not substantiated. What a gift. Everything he had that was useful to my family history was substantiated. Trust me, I gobbled it up. But not without first making sure his information was accurate. It was, and I now count him as a trusted source. But not everyone is that meticulous. There are a LOT of folks out there just scribbling in stuff on their trees in an effort to build something, however inaccurate. And they mine other people's trees to find stuff they can "borrow" for their own.
I have gotten "hints" that led me to the possibility of finding the parents of one of my ancestors living during the 1600s, only to find that the supposed "parents" were born AFTER the person I was seeking parents for. That was an easy one to spot. You have to be careful what you choose to borrow from other trees because it won't always be trustworthy. But, on the other hand, if the information has a citation that you can check out yourself - well, now you have a way to double-check the source and make sure you aren't dumping bad info into your tree.
So, do you want your tree to contain trusted information or do you want to be counted as one of the slackers. That's not to say those "other trees" don't contain accurate information, but if it isn't substantiated, how the heck are you supposed to know? If you have to go back and do all the research yourself anyway to make sure, why bother borrowing? And if you are going to make your tree public so that you can share and borrow, then don't you want your information to stand on its own as verified and accurate? You are also setting a good example for others.
Now you know Why.
Lesson for the day - don't "borrow" anything from anyone else's tree unless it is substantiated and YOU HAVE CHECKED IT OUT YOURSELF. And if you are going to build a public tree, make sure information you post for the rest of the genealogical world to find is substantiated.
Next week, back to the actual work!
-- submitted by Denise Doyon