Monday, May 30, 2016

Tuesday's Tip - Using Other Ancestry Trees

Heck or any other family tree you find on the internet. No this isn't a post saying that you should seek out and copy information into your tree that other people have. Even when you collaborate you need to verify research. After all you may find that something was wrong! I'm talking about using the information from family trees to break through a brick wall.

I only uploaded my tree to a year ago, but I've been delighted since. Originally I had wanted to wait until it was "done" before uploading it, but are our trees ever really done? Nope. Anyway, hits came up as "hints" next to people that I thought I'd done exhaustive searches on Ancestry's site. Hits that I hadn't gotten before. I don't know why exactly it happens. I think it's just a quirk of the system that the results vary on the search engine (general search versus a specific record set on Ancestry), but it happens. That's a different post and I digress...

I've never been a big fan of using other people's trees. Sharing research I love, but I won't ever copy someone's information and put it in my tree. However, you'll get hints on Ancestry for other trees that share the same person...or Ancestry thinks it might be the same person. I don't speak for Ancestry, but I'm going to guess that they aren't asking you to just steal someone else's tree/research and make it your own. They want you to use it. How do you do that?

Doubtless there are several ways, but I'm going to share what recently happened with me when I was clicking on hints for my Brogan line. Elizabeth Brogan had a hint next to her. Just one and it was a family tree. Several family trees, actually. All I had on Elizabeth was that she was born in March 1888 in Pennsylvania and I had gotten that from a census record. I found nothing else on Elizabeth. I didn't know if she married, when she married, or if she died a spinster. After clicking on that hint though I now know.

Screenshot of Ancestry Family Tree hint

I don't know ShirleyLong90 who created the Coyle Family Tree Ver 2, but I'm going to be sending her an email. I've got Coyles in my family tree and we both have Elizabeth Brogan (and I'm sure many more people) in common. So what did I do with this information? I didn't just put it in my tree and assume it was right. I compared it with other trees that also popped up under the hint to see if more than one person had this information. Sure, that can just mean that other people copied it from another tree, but finding similarities can be significant. So I searched* for Elizabeth McHugh's death in March of 1963. I found it easily.

The Hazleton Standard Speaker, 20MAR1963,
pg 20
After seeing the obituary I can now put in Elizabeth's marriage and death. Because it was in 1963 I also can search the Pennsylvania Death Certificates database and maybe even find her birth. It will certainly/hopefully confirm the rest of the information on here and it's always important to get as many different sources to confirm your findings! From this obituary I can even see when her husband passed, who her children are, and where she is buried. I've walked past so many McHughs in St. Gabe's and this summer I'll be looking for her and Patrick's stones because I now know they belong to me.

So a lot of this blog post is common sense. Many of you are probably sitting there having gotten to this point and are saying, "Duh! Where's the real news here, Cherie?" The thing of it is, if you're already doing this then you're ahead of the game. There are people out there though that scoff at the idea of looking at anyone else's tree. Sometimes it's because they consider it cheating. Sometimes it's just because they don't trust other trees. Guess what? Don't trust other trees. Don't trust other research completely ever until you verify it yourself. I don't trust anything even when collaborating unless I can make the connection as well. Maybe some would say that this holds my research back. Perhaps it does, but I've had incorrect information in my tree before and I'll work hard to make sure it doesn't happen again. Here you aren't simply trusting another tree. You're using it as a tool to test that connection and see if it is valid.

As for cheating, you're only cheating if you take someone else's work and put it in your tree without conducting your own independent research. And that's not cheating it's stealing. It's plagiarizing. Don't do it!

Now I'm off to contact the creator of that tree and say hello.

*It's probably about time that I made this statement because I've talked about and multiple times throughout my blog's history...I am in no way associated or a paid representative or promoter of or I just really love the results I get with them. Although with how often I crow about their sites maybe I should get paid ;)


  1. People who refuse to look at other trees are missing out on an opportunity to snag some important clues. I don't wholesale copy other trees either, but very often someone has good information because they are more closely related to the people in that tree. Like you, I follow up to verify. Finding additional information from the newspaper or other sources is the real "cha-ching" moment!

    1. Exactly! I just don't get the animosity some have about it. It's either distaste for "those trees with errors" or they feel like they're copying. So don't copy! Easy! :)

  2. I do look at other's trees but I also pay attention to the number of sources they have included. So if someone has 12 sources for an individual and I have 2, I pay pretty close attention. If they have 0, I usually don't do much more than just scroll on by.

    1. That's certainly understandable. I've come across trees that had shared family members that were blatantly wrong though with tons of sources. A glance is better than ignoring it to be sure! Thanks for stopping by!