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7. Question All Sources

Not all sources are created equal, and many sources (especially on the internet) are either questionable, downright wrong or a complete fabrication of someone’s imagination. This can be particularly true when using online services that provide family trees prepared by other people. Don’t assume everyone uses care and diligence in collecting genealogical information.

English 1700 baptism record
Not all old records are as easy to read as this English baptism record from the 1700s.

One of the great temptations people have when they build family trees is to cut corners out of frustration or because they lack the time to properly verify facts. Often they will not perform sufficient due diligence on their data sources or, where they have gaps in their family trees, they make educated guesses. When looking at someone else’s family tree, it is not obvious where people have guessed. Therefore, make sure you check, recheck and cross check all sources, even official government sources.

8. Keep Good Records

To be successful in your family history research, you have to be prepared to treat it like a hobby. There will be periods of time when you will work hard and get much accomplished. There will also be other periods of times (often lasting for months) where you will make little headway. Be prepared for this reality, where you may have to put your research into a particular branch of the family tree down for months at a time before picking it up again at a later date.

Unless you have perfect memory, you will forget some of the finer details of your previous research. Therefore, make sure you keep careful notes. Document all your sources and all of your work. There are formal ways to document genealogy research. For people just starting out this can be a bit overwhelming. Keeping a journal can be a simple and useful way to get started.

If you do not have the discipline to keep a genealogical journal (because you feel you do not have the time or the patience), then be prepared for the reality that you will have to redo and repeat work you thought you had completed long ago.

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