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13 November 2011

Avoiding the Trees

Sometimes I avoid using online trees, GedCom files, etc. for as long as possible--avoiding them completely if I can.

I'm working on a family of my wife's in Missouri and there are online files about this family, but most have the same gaps that I do and others repeat undocumented claims made by researchers decades ago. In this family, I'm finding that a better use of my time is to review original materials (or digital copies of them) and really research the family from scratch. Going through the compilations of others was not getting me anywhere and seemed to be an ineffective use  of time.

There are times where I have used online trees to get good suggestions or leads. This family (which I won't name), just isn't one of those times. When tree after tree repeats the exact same information without sources, it may be time to go back to the drawing board.


  1. I seldom find online trees to be helpful. as you said they are often just cookie cutter replicas of other trees. And they often have no sources to support their claims.

  2. Occasionally I'll actually find a tree that's helpful with detailed sources (Ya-hoo!!), and have made contact with several 2nd and 3rd cousins to share our information. Otherwise - I usually find the online trees to be "interesting but not impressive" (to quote my sarcastic mother)!! Good point to make.

  3. I've had mixed results. On one hand I was able to use a tree by a distant relative in our English branch to confirm and expand upon the Bible entries I had from a great aunt's research. It helps that the surname is not a common one.

    But I've also run in to the cookie cutter trees. One that has been really irritating is a undocumented claim spread either out of ignorance or maliciousness that has screwed up many trees from my family.

    Another mistake was made in a branch where several of the family members were named after each other and some even married wives who were sisters or related (the wives, not the couple ;-). So I had an uncle and a nephew who were confused with each other and their children were mixed up as being from one family instead of 2. Some trees have the nephew (my 3G-grandfather) having his first son at age 9! My 2G-gandfather and his cousin not only had the same common name, but they were born only a year apart. I finally got straightened out, through research, but many trees still have the more somewhat more famous cousin married to my 2G-grandmother!

  4. The cookie cutter trees annoy me too. My aunt and I traveled and spent hour upon hour in State Archives and courthouses reserching our family. Everything we have is Well documented. I did an online search and found my family tree on someone else's page except that this person "tweaked" it to suit their family tree. We were not related at all but they took our research as their own and refused to change it. It makes me upset to see my grandmother and her grandparents attached to some strange family. Im not sure if it was ignorance or ego that just made this person try to put any name in their family tree. It's been 8 years and it is still on their family tree. My grandmother was not this person's long lost Aunt.

  5. I couldn't agree more with anonymous above. I am new to this and when I found my mother, not even a distant older ancestor attached to a family in Texas where she never was,I was shocked so to link it to me would throw off data. I say leave them alone as so many just try it out for a bit and then discard the avenue for good. Stick to your own work.

  6. Many online trees are just a tangled mess. My Dad gave out a wrong maiden name for my great-great-grandmother. The wrong info went into an online tree and multipled. To this day I am still try to kill the wrong maiden name. Some of the people I contact refuse to correct the mistake.

    Another problem I have had with trees is people copying my many hours of hard work with no sources as if it were their own research. This happened with a Swedish line that I spent countless hours on.