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04 April 2015

Online Trees Are Clues--Clues--Not Gospel

I will be honest. When I'm stuck on a person or family and am seeming to make no headway, I will look and see if their name appears in any of the online trees on the various sites. Submitted trees are only as accurate as the compiler, the information they used, and their research methodology. Some compilers are careful about their research and others are not.

However, when using these trees, I:

  • never copy the information into my tree-ever;
  • search the tree for sources (besides other trees);
  • use the dates/places/relationships given to suggest sources that might confirm that information;
  • remember the conclusions could be invalid and only spend so much time trying to confirm them;
  • try and contact the submitter;
  • never copy the information into my tree-ever (that's worth including twice).
Compiled trees can be inaccurate, just like published books. I continue to use books carefully and treat the trees the same way.


  1. Thank you for posting this tip. I teach genealogy and I, also, stress not to copy the work of others. If you check out all the sources and they meet the criteria of one Primary or two Secondary sources or have a good case under indirect evidence, then (and only then) is that work worth incorporating into yours. It will take almost as much work as doing it from scratch but you do have an outline, of sorts, to follow.

  2. I've seen so many errors in these trees! One tree has my mother married three times -- 1) to my father by his first name 2) to my father by his middle name and 3) to MY husband! When I politely tried to correct the poster, I had to put up with terrible vile language. Yes, these trees provide good clues, but the facts need to be checked out for accuracy.

  3. And I will add Never, ever, ever copy the information into my tree-ever. I did it once and created an endless loop of a line which had the same person (i.e. not just the same name) as his own great grandchild!!! AAAaaaagggghhhh