Learn to Validate Your Online Research

On the Internet are thousands of online family lineage databases. Some databases are from free sources like Rootsweb World Connect, others from paid genealogical subscriptions plus numerous ones set up by individuals as personal web sites.

>As you view these sites you might come across one with a complete listing of your ancestors, along with dates and locations. The names appear to match your basic pedigree chart you created, but now there are greater details. At this point you need to stop and examine those particulars. Never assume that just because the genealogical data is on the Internet that it is totally accurate.

The listing of sources for information like dates, occupations, names, and locations should be included with the online data. Review what the provider wrote out as references, such as book titles, state or federal records, newspaper articles, original documents along with archives held by historical and genealogical societies. Look for general notes, footnotes or comments placed by the provider, then create your own listing of those resources.

Some key sources which help validate their information would be vital records, legal documents, federal and state censuses, hometown newspapers, city directories, diaries, military records, obituaries, journals, certificates, licenses, wills and deeds. All of those resources would be primary sources and in some cases, secondary sources, if for example an obituary gave a person‘s date of birth, this was supplied my a relative.

Be cautious if the source listing has another personal web site as it foundation. This could just be a continuous circle of wrong information passed from one researcher to another without any verification. No one is intentionally attempting to deceive the genealogy community, rather it is just being careless in not listing resources used to gather the ancestor’s data. Just don’t accept what someone else has online unless it is backed with official records.

>Check on the database if there is a contact email address for the contributor. Don’t hesitate to contact them and request some of their sources for a particular ancestor. They may have just overlooked that task of listing their sources. If you do not hear back from them, do your own investigation. Only use the names, dates, places that someone provided as a possibly path, a clue that needs further research by you.

The biggest advantage is the possibly of additional names or locations you may not have been aware of in your earlier research. For example; a woman’s name and birth date were linked to your grandfather, as his own mother, a name you had not seen before. Never accept it at face value. Use that name and date as a starting point. Find out everything about that woman and then try to put the pieces together, just like any detective.

If the contributor did offer what appears to be primary sources, does not mean they are precise. Vital records such as birth certificate, marriage license or death certificate, can contain errors as well. Evaluate the resource and compare with additional primary and secondary sources.

For example, a date of birth can be compared to a church baptismal record, a marriage license, an obituary, a military record, social security application or voter registration. The main activity is to compare what you already know with what you have just acquired.

The many online pedigrees, charts and lineages are wonderful to use, just never assume all information is correct. The data has to be authenticated and that is your goal, to gather the right details and specifics about your ancestors.

Related Articles:

Database Treasure Chest

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Using DAR Databases

Family History Books & Family Trees

Avoid the Following – for Online Research

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