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30 March 2015

1,000 Documents Do Not Mean Proof!

Just because you see a "fact" written in 1,000 places does not mean that it is true. Genealogical analysis can't be covered in a short tip and we're not going to try, but remember:

  • Different records that say the same thing may have had the same original "source" if Grandma Barbara was the one who always gave the information. Just because she repeated it over and over does not make it true.
  • 1,000 online trees that agree does not mean they are correct. It just means that they probably have the same original "source," right or wrong.
Whether a written reference to a "fact" is "wrong or right," depends upon our perceived reliability of the record and the informant.

Not how many times it's been repeated.


  1. Hear! Hear!! I couldn't agree with you more on this one. I have seen too many sloppy genealogies produced because they have listed all of the sources where they have found this person's name, but never gave conclusive evidence.

    Well spoken.

  2. Michael,
    Would you be able to do a blog on "defining conclusive evidence"? I seem to get stuck on this point in my genealogical analysis process.
    Thanks, Donna

  3. I have tried to explain documentation to an enthusiastic relative who insists that if it is written down anywhere the fact is "documented" She has built a huge family file online by copying others' research verbatim.

  4. One way to spot this kind of ''proof'' that really isn't proof in Ancestry's family tree hints is to look at the number and quality of sources used to make that entry on someone else's tree. Usually the top hint will have several sources--it's usually the one I choose if I choose any at all -- and all the rest will have only one source, viz. the top one! Even documentary evidence has its pecking-order of reliability, though. I always look askance at any ''fact'' documented solely by information volunteered to census takers, especially guesses about birth months and years (that's all they were usually, guesses). A birth certificate or baptismal record? Much more reliable; same for death certificates and info on the SS death index.