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Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Feb 19, 2001

Genealogy Like Gardening Grows a lot of Good Ideas:

What Do You Really Know About Your Ancestors?


By Karen Clifford, AG, FUGA

It was a beautiful plant with the most fragrant blossoms imaginable. And the color just made the whole yard light up. I wanted to propagate it, and place it near others to attract the eye to every corner of the spacious yard, but I didn't know how. I didn't even know its name. You see this was my grandmother's yard and now that she was gone, I was in charge of maintaining the property. As I studied the plant, it reminded me of another skill I knew little about in the beginning-family history research. Grandmother had passed that on to me as well, but I knew how to approach that subject. You start with what you know.

Beginning With What We Know

When we begin any task before us, we must begin with what we know about that task. We start at what is known and, if we need additional information, skills, or resources, we add them as we go.

When we begin research on one of our ancestors, we begin with what we know and work to discover what is not known. We begin by asking ourselves, "What do I know about this person or family?" That implies that we must take the time to analyze what we know (and what we don't know).

The Value of Organizational Tools

There are lots of tools available to the family historian today to help identify what we know and don't know about a person or family. Those of you who have already uploaded your family onto the MyTrees.com Web site already know the value of a pedigree chart.

If you print out one of these charts, you can write down the information available about a person or family. Writing down the person's name, date and place of birth or marriage or death begins to identify that person as a unique individual, different from all the other people who have lived on earth.

Identity Through Relationship

Add to that a family group form of some kind, and we begin to identify that person not only by his or her vital events, but we also begin to add the identity element of relationship to other individuals - parents, siblings, spouse, and children.

This is also true about that plant. I began to make a list of what I knew about it. I even took a picture so I could show it to others. Sort of like taking a pedigree chart and family group record of the families with me when I wanted to talk to family members about the family. It was a lot harder to find out what I knew about that plant than a family. As I looked around the garden I realized there were many flowers, shrubs, and trees that I also did not recognize. Maybe I should jot those down as well. Opps! I need to stay focused. I'll work on those other plants later.

How Do We Know What We Know?

Most of us do an acceptable job of recording information about an individual on forms such as pedigree charts and family group records. But how do we really know what we know? For ourselves and for others using our information, we must identify where we got our information. That implies some sort of documentation, which we will discuss later.

  • Sample of Individual documentation including source notes: Sample:

Analyzing What We Know

When we gather information about an ancestor, how do we know that the information is correct? We can begin to assure ourselves of its accuracy by asking some hard questions.

Where did the information come from? Is it from memory? Whose memory? Do we have documents to back it up? Is it from family documents? Or is it from copies of official documents?

I thought again of that plant. As I gathered information on it, I knew the initial information was accurate for I was seeing it and recording the information first hand. Later I talked to a neighbor who was standing by the fence. She gave me some information about that plant and I wrote it down. Later when I asked my mom, she said that the neighbor was wrong. That she had mixed up a similar plant of the same basic shape, but not the right one.

Handling Discrepancies

This is true in family history gathering. We eventually will come across some discrepancies in the information. What do we do about those discrepancies?

It is very important to make our record of the ancestors as accurate as possible. We want to be able to tell the stories of the lives of our ancestors by accurately portraying not only what they experienced, but when and where they experienced those events.

Too many people accept what someone else tells them without asking themselves if what they are being told is accurate.

When we look at others' work, we need to ask ourselves some of the same questions referred to earlier. We live in a marvelous time, often referred to as the "Information Age." The electronic media offers us opportunities unheard of even a short time ago. Electronic databases of genealogical information are not only available on MyTrees.com, but also the International Genealogical Index and many commercial databases provide us with genealogical information. Unfortunately, many of these databases have no documentation of where the data came from. And many of them simply copy from others and repeat the same genealogical errors that have been circulating for years.

The problem of determining the accuracy of a compiled source has seemingly been with us forever. Even published family histories have always raised questions of accuracy and documentation. But the rapid availability of electronic files today make it ever so much easier to copy information and send it on to others. If that information is inaccurate, we have the ability today to spread errors much more rapidly than we did a few years ago.

So, whether we are dealing with published family histories, memory of self or others, or electronic databases, we need to know where the information came from. And we need to record the sources from whence we obtain information so that others using our information will know where we got it. At Mytrees.com you can find source information listed when the actual name is displayed as demonstrated earlier or next to submitter at the top of the sample page.

  • Sample of Submitter: Sample:
  • Sample Individual documentation including source notes: Sample:

If we find our ancestors on a family internet site with no attached source information, it is still possible to find the sources of the information. Contacting the owner of the information, or web master (if no owner is listed) of that site may help us find out where the information was originally recorded.

The same applies to my plant. I started recording the names and contact information on all the people I talked to so I would know where to return as I discovered the name of that treasure. But talking and sharing with others is only one way to distinguish between two individuals. More options will be provided in the weeks ahead.

What Does Analysis Do For Us?

I looked up the name of the plant given to me by my neighbor in a nursery catalog. The picture of the plant was close, but it wasn't the same plant. I could see how she might have mixed the two up. Besides, that plant would never grow in my grandmother's climate. The one I found in the catalog did not have a fragrance as well.

Thinking analytically provides a family historian with lots of research opportunities. When we find a date of death that was before a date of birth or marriage, we immediately know that the information is suspect. If a family Internet site states that our ancestor served in the Revolutionary War, but he was born in 1775, we should immediately recognize that the date of birth does not fit with the historical event.

Such discrepancies lead directly to the establishment of a research goal or objective - the location of a record that would verify the date of a specific event, such as the date of death or date of birth in the examples above.

I wrote down what was stated about this plant and discovered that many items were used to determine one plant from another. I made a little form to keep track of all the details such as soil types, when to plant it, how to water, and how to propagate it. Now I could start comparing others that I thought might be the same plant.

Analysis of what we know about a person or a family, especially on forms such as the pedigree chart and family group record, also points out clearly what is missing. Missing information again leads directly to the establishment of research goals and objectives.

Summary

Pedigree analysis, or the analysis of information about individuals and families on our pedigrees, if it is done correctly and completely, helps us understand what is, or may be, inaccurate or missing in our genealogy. Suspect or missing information identifies what research needs to be done. Identifying what needs to be done leads to research objectives and goals to obtain the needed information or documentation.

In the months that follow, we will help you become aware of details that will aid in selecting or locating that one person out of millions who is your unique family member. As this is accomplished, you will be able to accurately share information on your family similar to how a gardener can share delightful treasures in their garden with others. But unlike most gardeners, what is shared in genealogy can then be added through modern technology to what others have found, where they will grow and spread and enlarge the borders of the garden far beyond this country and time period. And the information will be accurate -- as accurate as it can possibly be. And we will be most pleased with what we have assembled.

Article written by Karen Clifford from Genealogy Research Associates Sponsored by MyTrees.com

Copyright ©: 2011 Karen Clifford. All rights reserved.

No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Feb 19, 2001

Genealogy Like Gardening Grows a lot of Good Ideas:

What Do You Really Know About Your Ancestors?


By Karen Clifford, AG, FUGA

It was a beautiful plant with the most fragrant blossoms imaginable. And the color just made the whole yard light up. I wanted to propagate it, and place it near others to attract the eye to every corner of the spacious yard, but I didn't know how. I didn't even know its name. You see this was my grandmother's yard and now that she was gone, I was in charge of maintaining the property. As I studied the plant, it reminded me of another skill I knew little about in the beginning-family history research. Grandmother had passed that on to me as well, but I knew how to approach that subject. You start with what you know.

Beginning With What We Know

When we begin any task before us, we must begin with what we know about that task. We start at what is known and, if we need additional information, skills, or resources, we add them as we go.

When we begin research on one of our ancestors, we begin with what we know and work to discover what is not known. We begin by asking ourselves, "What do I know about this person or family?" That implies that we must take the time to analyze what we know (and what we don't know).

The Value of Organizational Tools

There are lots of tools available to the family historian today to help identify what we know and don't know about a person or family. Those of you who have already uploaded your family onto the MyTrees.com Web site already know the value of a pedigree chart.

If you print out one of these charts, you can write down the information available about a person or family. Writing down the person's name, date and place of birth or marriage or death begins to identify that person as a unique individual, different from all the other people who have lived on earth.

Identity Through Relationship

Add to that a family group form of some kind, and we begin to identify that person not only by his or her vital events, but we also begin to add the identity element of relationship to other individuals - parents, siblings, spouse, and children.

This is also true about that plant. I began to make a list of what I knew about it. I even took a picture so I could show it to others. Sort of like taking a pedigree chart and family group record of the families with me when I wanted to talk to family members about the family. It was a lot harder to find out what I knew about that plant than a family. As I looked around the garden I realized there were many flowers, shrubs, and trees that I also did not recognize. Maybe I should jot those down as well. Opps! I need to stay focused. I'll work on those other plants later.

How Do We Know What We Know?

Most of us do an acceptable job of recording information about an individual on forms such as pedigree charts and family group records. But how do we really know what we know? For ourselves and for others using our information, we must identify where we got our information. That implies some sort of documentation, which we will discuss later.

  • Sample of Individual documentation including source notes: Sample:

Analyzing What We Know

When we gather information about an ancestor, how do we know that the information is correct? We can begin to assure ourselves of its accuracy by asking some hard questions.

Where did the information come from? Is it from memory? Whose memory? Do we have documents to back it up? Is it from family documents? Or is it from copies of official documents?

I thought again of that plant. As I gathered information on it, I knew the initial information was accurate for I was seeing it and recording the information first hand. Later I talked to a neighbor who was standing by the fence. She gave me some information about that plant and I wrote it down. Later when I asked my mom, she said that the neighbor was wrong. That she had mixed up a similar plant of the same basic shape, but not the right one.

Handling Discrepancies

This is true in family history gathering. We eventually will come across some discrepancies in the information. What do we do about those discrepancies?

It is very important to make our record of the ancestors as accurate as possible. We want to be able to tell the stories of the lives of our ancestors by accurately portraying not only what they experienced, but when and where they experienced those events.

Too many people accept what someone else tells them without asking themselves if what they are being told is accurate.

When we look at others' work, we need to ask ourselves some of the same questions referred to earlier. We live in a marvelous time, often referred to as the "Information Age." The electronic media offers us opportunities unheard of even a short time ago. Electronic databases of genealogical information are not only available on MyTrees.com, but also the International Genealogical Index and many commercial databases provide us with genealogical information. Unfortunately, many of these databases have no documentation of where the data came from. And many of them simply copy from others and repeat the same genealogical errors that have been circulating for years.

The problem of determining the accuracy of a compiled source has seemingly been with us forever. Even published family histories have always raised questions of accuracy and documentation. But the rapid availability of electronic files today make it ever so much easier to copy information and send it on to others. If that information is inaccurate, we have the ability today to spread errors much more rapidly than we did a few years ago.

So, whether we are dealing with published family histories, memory of self or others, or electronic databases, we need to know where the information came from. And we need to record the sources from whence we obtain information so that others using our information will know where we got it. At Mytrees.com you can find source information listed when the actual name is displayed as demonstrated earlier or next to submitter at the top of the sample page.

  • Sample of Submitter: Sample:
  • Sample Individual documentation including source notes: Sample:

If we find our ancestors on a family internet site with no attached source information, it is still possible to find the sources of the information. Contacting the owner of the information, or web master (if no owner is listed) of that site may help us find out where the information was originally recorded.

The same applies to my plant. I started recording the names and contact information on all the people I talked to so I would know where to return as I discovered the name of that treasure. But talking and sharing with others is only one way to distinguish between two individuals. More options will be provided in the weeks ahead.

What Does Analysis Do For Us?

I looked up the name of the plant given to me by my neighbor in a nursery catalog. The picture of the plant was close, but it wasn't the same plant. I could see how she might have mixed the two up. Besides, that plant would never grow in my grandmother's climate. The one I found in the catalog did not have a fragrance as well.

Thinking analytically provides a family historian with lots of research opportunities. When we find a date of death that was before a date of birth or marriage, we immediately know that the information is suspect. If a family Internet site states that our ancestor served in the Revolutionary War, but he was born in 1775, we should immediately recognize that the date of birth does not fit with the historical event.

Such discrepancies lead directly to the establishment of a research goal or objective - the location of a record that would verify the date of a specific event, such as the date of death or date of birth in the examples above.

I wrote down what was stated about this plant and discovered that many items were used to determine one plant from another. I made a little form to keep track of all the details such as soil types, when to plant it, how to water, and how to propagate it. Now I could start comparing others that I thought might be the same plant.

Analysis of what we know about a person or a family, especially on forms such as the pedigree chart and family group record, also points out clearly what is missing. Missing information again leads directly to the establishment of research goals and objectives.

Summary

Pedigree analysis, or the analysis of information about individuals and families on our pedigrees, if it is done correctly and completely, helps us understand what is, or may be, inaccurate or missing in our genealogy. Suspect or missing information identifies what research needs to be done. Identifying what needs to be done leads to research objectives and goals to obtain the needed information or documentation.

In the months that follow, we will help you become aware of details that will aid in selecting or locating that one person out of millions who is your unique family member. As this is accomplished, you will be able to accurately share information on your family similar to how a gardener can share delightful treasures in their garden with others. But unlike most gardeners, what is shared in genealogy can then be added through modern technology to what others have found, where they will grow and spread and enlarge the borders of the garden far beyond this country and time period. And the information will be accurate -- as accurate as it can possibly be. And we will be most pleased with what we have assembled.

Article written by Karen Clifford from Genealogy Research Associates Sponsored by MyTrees.com

Copyright ©: 2011 Karen Clifford. All rights reserved.

No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Feb 19, 2001

Genealogy Like Gardening Grows a lot of Good Ideas:

What Do You Really Know About Your Ancestors?


By Karen Clifford, AG, FUGA

It was a beautiful plant with the most fragrant blossoms imaginable. And the color just made the whole yard light up. I wanted to propagate it, and place it near others to attract the eye to every corner of the spacious yard, but I didn't know how. I didn't even know its name. You see this was my grandmother's yard and now that she was gone, I was in charge of maintaining the property. As I studied the plant, it reminded me of another skill I knew little about in the beginning-family history research. Grandmother had passed that on to me as well, but I knew how to approach that subject. You start with what you know.

Beginning With What We Know

When we begin any task before us, we must begin with what we know about that task. We start at what is known and, if we need additional information, skills, or resources, we add them as we go.

When we begin research on one of our ancestors, we begin with what we know and work to discover what is not known. We begin by asking ourselves, "What do I know about this person or family?" That implies that we must take the time to analyze what we know (and what we don't know).

The Value of Organizational Tools

There are lots of tools available to the family historian today to help identify what we know and don't know about a person or family. Those of you who have already uploaded your family onto the MyTrees.com Web site already know the value of a pedigree chart.

If you print out one of these charts, you can write down the information available about a person or family. Writing down the person's name, date and place of birth or marriage or death begins to identify that person as a unique individual, different from all the other people who have lived on earth.

Identity Through Relationship

Add to that a family group form of some kind, and we begin to identify that person not only by his or her vital events, but we also begin to add the identity element of relationship to other individuals - parents, siblings, spouse, and children.

This is also true about that plant. I began to make a list of what I knew about it. I even took a picture so I could show it to others. Sort of like taking a pedigree chart and family group record of the families with me when I wanted to talk to family members about the family. It was a lot harder to find out what I knew about that plant than a family. As I looked around the garden I realized there were many flowers, shrubs, and trees that I also did not recognize. Maybe I should jot those down as well. Opps! I need to stay focused. I'll work on those other plants later.

How Do We Know What We Know?

Most of us do an acceptable job of recording information about an individual on forms such as pedigree charts and family group records. But how do we really know what we know? For ourselves and for others using our information, we must identify where we got our information. That implies some sort of documentation, which we will discuss later.

  • Sample of Individual documentation including source notes: Sample:

Analyzing What We Know

When we gather information about an ancestor, how do we know that the information is correct? We can begin to assure ourselves of its accuracy by asking some hard questions.

Where did the information come from? Is it from memory? Whose memory? Do we have documents to back it up? Is it from family documents? Or is it from copies of official documents?

I thought again of that plant. As I gathered information on it, I knew the initial information was accurate for I was seeing it and recording the information first hand. Later I talked to a neighbor who was standing by the fence. She gave me some information about that plant and I wrote it down. Later when I asked my mom, she said that the neighbor was wrong. That she had mixed up a similar plant of the same basic shape, but not the right one.

Handling Discrepancies

This is true in family history gathering. We eventually will come across some discrepancies in the information. What do we do about those discrepancies?

It is very important to make our record of the ancestors as accurate as possible. We want to be able to tell the stories of the lives of our ancestors by accurately portraying not only what they experienced, but when and where they experienced those events.

Too many people accept what someone else tells them without asking themselves if what they are being told is accurate.

When we look at others' work, we need to ask ourselves some of the same questions referred to earlier. We live in a marvelous time, often referred to as the "Information Age." The electronic media offers us opportunities unheard of even a short time ago. Electronic databases of genealogical information are not only available on MyTrees.com, but also the International Genealogical Index and many commercial databases provide us with genealogical information. Unfortunately, many of these databases have no documentation of where the data came from. And many of them simply copy from others and repeat the same genealogical errors that have been circulating for years.

The problem of determining the accuracy of a compiled source has seemingly been with us forever. Even published family histories have always raised questions of accuracy and documentation. But the rapid availability of electronic files today make it ever so much easier to copy information and send it on to others. If that information is inaccurate, we have the ability today to spread errors much more rapidly than we did a few years ago.

So, whether we are dealing with published family histories, memory of self or others, or electronic databases, we need to know where the information came from. And we need to record the sources from whence we obtain information so that others using our information will know where we got it. At Mytrees.com you can find source information listed when the actual name is displayed as demonstrated earlier or next to submitter at the top of the sample page.

  • Sample of Submitter: Sample:
  • Sample Individual documentation including source notes: Sample:

If we find our ancestors on a family internet site with no attached source information, it is still possible to find the sources of the information. Contacting the owner of the information, or web master (if no owner is listed) of that site may help us find out where the information was originally recorded.

The same applies to my plant. I started recording the names and contact information on all the people I talked to so I would know where to return as I discovered the name of that treasure. But talking and sharing with others is only one way to distinguish between two individuals. More options will be provided in the weeks ahead.

What Does Analysis Do For Us?

I looked up the name of the plant given to me by my neighbor in a nursery catalog. The picture of the plant was close, but it wasn't the same plant. I could see how she might have mixed the two up. Besides, that plant would never grow in my grandmother's climate. The one I found in the catalog did not have a fragrance as well.

Thinking analytically provides a family historian with lots of research opportunities. When we find a date of death that was before a date of birth or marriage, we immediately know that the information is suspect. If a family Internet site states that our ancestor served in the Revolutionary War, but he was born in 1775, we should immediately recognize that the date of birth does not fit with the historical event.

Such discrepancies lead directly to the establishment of a research goal or objective - the location of a record that would verify the date of a specific event, such as the date of death or date of birth in the examples above.

I wrote down what was stated about this plant and discovered that many items were used to determine one plant from another. I made a little form to keep track of all the details such as soil types, when to plant it, how to water, and how to propagate it. Now I could start comparing others that I thought might be the same plant.

Analysis of what we know about a person or a family, especially on forms such as the pedigree chart and family group record, also points out clearly what is missing. Missing information again leads directly to the establishment of research goals and objectives.

Summary

Pedigree analysis, or the analysis of information about individuals and families on our pedigrees, if it is done correctly and completely, helps us understand what is, or may be, inaccurate or missing in our genealogy. Suspect or missing information identifies what research needs to be done. Identifying what needs to be done leads to research objectives and goals to obtain the needed information or documentation.

In the months that follow, we will help you become aware of details that will aid in selecting or locating that one person out of millions who is your unique family member. As this is accomplished, you will be able to accurately share information on your family similar to how a gardener can share delightful treasures in their garden with others. But unlike most gardeners, what is shared in genealogy can then be added through modern technology to what others have found, where they will grow and spread and enlarge the borders of the garden far beyond this country and time period. And the information will be accurate -- as accurate as it can possibly be. And we will be most pleased with what we have assembled.

Article written by Karen Clifford from Genealogy Research Associates Sponsored by MyTrees.com

Copyright ©: 2011 Karen Clifford. All rights reserved.

No reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.

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