Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Can You Actually Find Someone New to Add to the FamilySearch Family Tree? -- Part One
The traditional idea about doing your family history or genealogy was to discover your "ancestors." In many cases this inquiry was limited to one or two family lines, primarily the surname line. The goal was to extend your ancestry back in time as far as possible. One of very common questions I am asked when I mention my "interest" in genealogy is "How far back have you been able to go?" I am somewhat aggravated by the question, but the real question should be, "How accurately have you been able to establish your relationships?"
Approaching the FamilySearch.org Family Tree for the first time can be daunting, either because of the amount of information or the lack thereof. If you think of genealogical research as creating a circle of relationships rather than a line, you may be able to grasp the concept that as you add people to your pedigree on the Family Tree, the number of possible relatives increases. Doing research increases the circle as as that occurs, there are always a greater number of people outside the circle.
If you still want to think linearly, you will immediately realize that your "direct line" ancestors can increase geometrically: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 etc. But one of the most common mistakes made when starting to do "research" is to run out to the first missing person in the Family Tree and decide to do the "research" for that person. This trend is unfortunately reinforced by looking at a pedigree using the "fan chart view." For example, here is a fan chart of my family starting with my Tanner grandfather.
If you were just starting out to "do your genealogy" you would immediately assume that "all the work has been done." The chart is complete. But what if I change my starting person to my maternal grandmother?
Wow, look, I can see that there is "work that needs to be done." Where do I go with this new bit of information? The answer is nowhere. The missing spots on this chart represent people we have been searching for, for many, many years. Starting with the empty spaces on a fan chart is a recipe for failure. Come back to these empty spaces when you gain a lot more experience and a much greater perspective. Then where do I go to start?
Even if you open the Family Tree for the first time and find it filled with names, YOU ALWAYS START WITH YOURSELF. The key to progressing in family history is accuracy and methodical, systematic research. The process may not seem important or even interesting, but it will be productive. We have found that by systematically correcting, editing and adding sources to the existing people in the Family Tree, you will ALWAYS find additional people.
Working on the Family Tree means working both back in time and then forward with the descendants of all those in your family lines, i.e. all of your cousins.
One very common mistake and one that very unfortunately is promoted as a starting point, is to "jump back" to a starting point by selecting someone you do not know and with whom you have no established relationship. Just because someone appears in the Family Tree it does not mean you are related to that person. You need to have a degree of confidence that the relationships showing in the Family Tree are accurate. You do this by adding specific sources or looking at the sources that have been already added. I spent thirty years of my life getting to know my family tree, you can spend a few hours doing the same thing.
If you need help, just ask. If the person you ask starts talking about all the genealogy they have done and how you need to learn Danish or Spanish or whatever, go ask someone else. If you really want to get started, go to The Family History Guide or thefhguide.com and work your way through the Projects.
Stay tuned for the next installment.