Sunday, January 21, 2007

Genealogical Research Mistakes

Hello All -

Here is the start of a new blog for the new year. I thought that what would be a good thing to discuss this time around is the common mistakes or pitfalls of family history research. There is probably no one that has not fallen into one of these at one time or another as a beginner - it is all about the learning process of performing genealogical/family history research.

One of the best books to read on this topic is called "Pitfalls in Genealogical Research" by Milton Rubincam. It discusses just about any pitfall or mistake you can think of that one can come across. It can still be purchased in various bookshops and online stores such as Amazon. However, you can normally find it in a public library to read if you don't want to shell out the money for it.

Here is a list of the Ten Common Mistakes Made compiled by Terry & Jim Willard:

1. Failing to record information on standard genealogical forms
2. Ignoring the siblings of the ancestors you are researching
3. Overlooking the maiden names of female ancestors
4. Assuming you are related to a famous person who shares the same surname
5. Skipping a generation
6. Assuming a family name is only spelled one way
7. Jumping to conclusions based on insufficient evidence
8. Researching the wrong family
9. Relying on online data found in a family tree
10. Failing to document your sources

Another mistake that is made that is not mentioned in the above list is the use of heraldry. This pitfall is mentioned in Rubincam's book. There are so many companies that want us to buy family crests and coat of arms for our family surname. Also there are the "history of a surname" with the coat of arms on it type of document that is usually found being sold at highland games and festivals everywhere. Normally, these are just a very generic history of a surname and may not be accurate for your particular family. For those who are studying heraldry they would most likely tell you that coats of arms were meant for a particular person or family, and unless a person can trace their ancestors back to this particular family or individual it is not really meant to be used as a sort of "general coat of arms for everyone with this surname." But, unfortunately this is how it has become to be used and sold by numerous companies who sell heraldic goods.

Hope that this has been helpful to you. As always, if anyone has any questions or comments please feel free to contact us.

Until Next Time -
Carolyn of MGS