Coulda Woulda Shoulda: Genealogy Regrets

By Diane Haddad

I get to talk to a lot of folks about family history, and they’ll often say what they wish they would’ve done in their genealogy research. Among the most common regrets I hear:

  • Not citing sources of genealogy information.
  • Not asking Dad or Grandma or Great-aunt Mary about your family history when you had the chance.
  • Not backing up your digital files.
  • Not organizing your research from the start.
  • Keeping old photos and records in an attic or basement.

I have a few genealogy regrets of my own, including:

  • Not copying photos in the family album when I could have, because someone else got the album and may have lost it. I would look at it whenever I visited my grandma’s house. It was a beautiful late-1800s album with photographs of my great-great-grandparents’ family, and thinking of it now makes my insides all twisty, so I try not to.
  • Not hanging onto the oral history interview I conducted with my other grandma when I was a kid working on a Girl Scouts badge. I remember flashes of the conversation, including telling her that I was supposed to interview an older person, and she was the oldest person I knew. She also said she got water out of a well when she was little.

If you have a genealogy regret—you’re not alone. We all have them, and beating yourself up over it doesn’t help. All you can do is learn, and try to do better from here on out. And share them (in a nonpreachy way) to save others similar anguish.

If you or someone you know is beginning their genealogy research (or picking it up again), our Getting Started in Genealogy online workshop, Jan. 16-23, can help them start their research on the right foot and avoid later regrets. See the workshop program on Family Tree University.

See our other Family Tree University online genealogy workshops and courses here.