Building a Family Tree – Important “Rules” to Go By

Posted on October 3, 2014 by Jennifer Stingley at
Categories: Attention to Details, Family Tree Building 101
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Ask any genealogist (hobbyist or pro), and most of them will admit to making “rookie” mistakes.  Many will have had to start a tree over (or delete several branches) from the beginning for being too click-happy when it comes to shaking leaves and other hints.  We get it – you’re just so excited about finding something, and you don’t really know any better.  Hopefully, this post will help save you from some of the most common mistakes that get made when you’re the new kid on the genealogy block.

Genealogy can be likened to putting together insanely complicated puzzles or solving a ton of mysteries.  The key to success is simple: pay attention.

Pay attention to dates!

Before you add new people, compare their dates with what you already know.  Use common sense.  A person born in 1875 could not be the biological child of someone who died in 1868, for example.  Following the same line of thinking, a person born in 1763 wouldn’t be the biological parent of someone born in 1769.  You’d be amazed at how many trees online contain children born decades or even centuries before their alleged parents, or children being born to deceased persons (well after a reasonable gestation period in cases of fathers who died while the mother was with child).  Mistakes like these can ruin the credibility of an entire tree, so take some time to analyze the dates you’re seeing rather than blindly accepting things as fact.

Pay attention to locations!

I can’t stress how important this one is!  If you know that your great-great-grandpa was born in Germany in 1886, it’s not likely that he and his family were living in Oregon 6 months later.  This feat is easily accomplished now, but would have been nearly impossible back then – remember, there were no cars or airplanes, immigrants came over on ships, and people traveling cross-country generally did so on foot or by caravan with horses, donkeys, and oxen.

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To cite this post:
Jennifer Lynn Stingley, "Building a Family Tree – Important “Rules” to Go By," Ancestor Archaeology, 3 October 2014 ( : accessed [24 September 2018]).

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