To avoid any major mistakes, which is a big ‘no-no’ — review over these various steps or procedures to help collect the right family branches and leaves to form the correct family tree.
I always believe, never accept as 100% correct and copy anyone else’s family tree as you own family. So many times I have seen where portions of a specific family direct lineage are correct but then the extended (aunts-uncles) family tree is totally wrong. Or even on a direct lineage such as the great grandfather, etc is not even close — totally wrong name or birth date of hometown. Do review other data and family trees people have posted, but never accept without completely checking several times the names, places, dates with good resources to make sure it is accurate.
Another major problem is dealing with step parents. It was very common for widowers or widows to remarry within a year or two and have their own set of children. Sometimes especially with the widow remarrying there can be several surnames in the same household, the first set of children keeping their birth surname or they could be adopted by the stepfather, so having a different surname than they were born with.
You have to NOT overlook discrepancies or usual dates, these could be a sign that you have gone off track or something is amiss. Look for consistent data and make sure that variations in sibling’s names or ages, people’s birth dates, or family name spellings are just variations (even using middle names) and not a sign that you have the wrong individual.
Stay on one generation at a time. If you bounce around from a grandfather to a great-great grandmother on another branch, then to a second cousin, you can lose track and get ancestors mixed up or even get those that have to tie-in with your family. Remember you start with yourself, then to your parents, then grandparents on both sides (mother and father), then great-grandparents, etc. Keeping with that line you have a better chance of getting all the leaves correct.
Of course let us say there is an ancestor that you have checked, have some documents but just not enough to feel 100% certain this is the right relative. Then let it be known in your own notes and tree plus if you place the family publicly, place a question about it or make a note of what you feel is not quite accurate. That one little note could be the same someone else had a question about and then together you two work together to solve the question. Or another researcher did find the necessary proof to either add or subtract the name.
Don’t be surprised when you do have yourself a public family tree online, that individuals take branches of your tree and tie-them in to their family. Now it could be completely accurate or totally wrong. If you do find that, especially errors, contract the researcher with your findings and maybe together you can get it all corrected. Review any documents for known errors. The person submitting that document might not have known; say on a birth certificate that the incorrect maiden name got recorded for a mother (yes that can happen). If you have the proof of the correct maiden name, let that researcher and others know if was a clerical error. True, they may never reply and thank you but at least you have it noted.
If you in turn find someone’s family tree is an accurate connection to your family, always ask if you can use and add their research of photos and documents or vital records. Ask permission.
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