What If Your Genealogy Appears to Be All Done?

Finding work to do when it appears in Family Tree that all of the work is done

One common issue among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have ancestors who joined the Church is the overwhelming amount of genealogical information that shows up in FamilySearch's Family Tree. When opening the program and looking at Family Tree, it appears that the folklore handed down that the work is all done seems to be true. I can assure you that the impression obtained from looking at an extended pedigree in Family Tree has little or no relationship to whether or not all of an individual's ancestors have been identified.

While teaching classes on genealogy, I commonly state that if you give me fifteen minutes with your online Family Tree pedigree (or any other online pedigree) I can show you enough inconsistencies and inaccuracies to dispel any thought that the work is all done from your mind. If you approach a large pedigree file with the same attitude, you can also do the same thing. Focus on the dates and the places. I might mention that I can do this with my own files and find huge inconsistencies.

The main difference between today and the past when our ancestors were doing genealogy is that we have the ability to see a compilation of all of the efforts of all of the researchers' submissions, all at the same time. Unfortunately, the Family Tree may not show the best or most accurate choice in each instance. Hence, I am extremely safe in making the above claim. My goal for some time has been to correct as much as possible and document with sources, my first four generations. You would think that

I would have finished that a long time ago. But if you try to verify every name, date and place in your first four generations, you will soon see that such a task is very difficult. When you extend the same level of examination and proof to the fifth generation, you will start to find serious questions that need to be resolved. It also applies even more to the sixth generation. I am not talking about your surname line, I am talking about all of the lines from all of your direct line ancestors. What happens with the common LDS pedigree is that the first few generations are pretty well established. There are errors but the errors may not be very evident. If you keep going back in time, you soon find end of lines, inconsistencies, obvious errors and all sorts of contradictory situations.

I might point out, that when I began my genealogical research, I found myself in this exact same position. Not only had I been told that all of my genealogy was "done" but that appeared to be the situation. The first missing ancestors and my pedigree chart were six generations in the past. Today, after more than 30 years of research, the first missing ancestors are seven generations in the past. What does this mean? It means, that the first missing people in my family line were born in the early 1700s. We are not talking about easy or low hanging fruit. These particular ancestors have resisted discovery by concerted research efforts of dozens of people over the past 100 years. So what have I been doing for the past 30+ years? Because of the lack of any computerized systems when I started doing genealogy, it took me nearly 15 of those years to merely get to the end of the research that is already been done. This does not mean that I found all of the information to be correct, because I often had to do research to verify contradictory information from different researchers. Since then, I have been adding sources and correcting information and trying to get to the point of extending some of the lines.

If you view your genealogy is that of being confined to direct line ancestors, then I can understand a perception that viewing such a file with names going back into the past meant all the work was done.

Take for example my children who now are one generation removed so their pedigree chart goes back to the first missing ancestor eight generations in the past.

You may well believe that the information is complete and nothing more needs to be done, but then we come to the subject of this particular article: crucial errors in pedigrees. A crucial error is one that leads you off onto a wrong ancestral line.

I think following the wrong ancestral line happens more often that we would care to admit, but short of redoing our entire pedigree lines, how can we tell if we have gone off the track?

The answer is not as easy as saying go through and look at dates and places. Sometimes the bogus ancestor fits all too nicely into the pedigree. So how do we test to see if we are on the wrong line?

This is where every person in your pedigree starting with yourself needs to be examined carefully.

Look at every date, name, and place and look for sources to verify every date and place for every birth, marriage, and death. After a time, you will start to see the inconsistencies and missing sources and information, and that is where you begin your research. As you begin to verify the information from the actual records, then you will find additional people for whom you can search.

After you verify information, then you can start using Puzzilla.org to find descendant lines where additional family members can be found.

Written by James L. Tanner. Used with permission.

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