Trees: Hooked on a Feeling
Family history can be thrilling. Have you ever gotten the sinking feeling that perhaps there should actually come some sort of substance from all those hours of hanging out in trees? The thrill of the hunt is highly addictive. Tree climbing without sources is as useful as a sugary diet with about the same false sense of pleasure.
Grabbing fruit from other trees that are not sourced is a huge time waster, and there is no greater disappointment in family history than adopting the wrong ancestor and then sharing that information publicly. We are concerned about keeping those just starting from being frightened as they begin this worthy pursuit. We want to offer encouragement and direction toward those thrilling discoveries, but at the same time I believe we have steered too far away from explaining that family history and genealogy should be labeled science.
Shift in thinking
So to redeem ourselves, we want you to consider the possibility that your family history could fall into the hands of a family member who knows very little about research nor has the understanding needed to test your theories. Think about each person you have added to your online tree, and go back to see if you have attached the historical documentation available within the database that you are using.
Be advised that any public tree you have built stands ready for others who will unknowingly adopt your ancestor with or without sources. Anyone who has researched online trees extensively to find clues to the identity of the end-of-the line ancestor can admit to having seen several trees with the same wrong information. They copied from each other, and no one looked beyond the resources readily available to find a resolution.
Searching for sources
A question comes to mind: How many are using public trees as their main resource for research? Well, the most popular collection on Ancestry.com is the Public Member Tree. It has been my experience when I look to trees that no one has overcome the hard research question, but a little effort to access records offline has brought the success I was seeking.
I have to admit I am a lover of trees. I am having great success building a tree at FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com, and a few others. I use these different databases because they each have different collections, and as I attach the historical documents to each of the trees I am able to discover even more records. It is as if the systems are being fine tuned or learning my family as I attach each new record. They respond with suggestions or hints that are becoming more and more accurate.
I never look at someone's tree until I have my own theory as to who I think is most likely the right ancestor. This enable me to see right away if a tree is accurate. I find when one incorrect generation, others seem to be obvious guesses as well. I believe a well-sourced tree has two to three sources for each event (birth, marriage, death). With the great online resources and tree technology available now, I am coming up with ten or more resources for many individuals.
My hope is that we do work to bring more substance to the trees we build. So just for fun, I hope we can laugh at the way I changed the lyrics around below (Hooked on A Feeling):
I can't stop climbing Deep inside of me Grandpa, you just don't realize What it does to me
When the tree calls me In my thoughts so bright Everyone I know is Related to me alright
I'm hooked on a feeling I'm climbing and believing That you're all related to me
Fruit as sweet as candy It's taste is on my mind Grandma, you got me hungry For another great find
Got a bug for my tree And I don't need a source I just keep on climbing For with me is the force!