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3 Tips to Analyze Genealogical Evidence

By Diane Haddad Premium

Want to keep incorrect birth and death dates and misattributed relatives out of your family tree?

Before you’re lured in by the excitement of a new genealogy discovery in a family story, an Ancestry.com hint or an online family tree; take some time to ensure that those “facts” are safe. These measures will help:

  • Examine the sources attached to the information. Do they support the researcher’s conclusions? If not, or if you don’t find sources associated with the event in question, research the claims.
  • Determine the validity of the source. Is it an original record, such as a passenger list? An index that points to the record? A transcription? The further you get from the original record, the more likely errors have been introduced. Try to find primary sources for the information you’ve discovered. 
  • Evaluate the time between the event and when the source you’ve found was created. People relying on their memory of a date or place may not remember it accurately. A passenger list is likelier to have the correct immigration date than a census record created decades later. A birth or baptismal record made soon after a person’s birth is likelier to have his correct birth date and place than a biographical sketch written in their 50th year.

In Family Tree University’s four-week course on Becoming A Family History Detective, you’ll learn skills to assess records and build a sound understanding of your family history. Case studies and practical applications help you put your analytical skills to use. Learn more about the Become A Family History Detective.  

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