Say you did some online surfing, searching for your long lost ancestor, the Disappearing Dude. After trying several sites, the neon lights flashed before your eyes. You got a hit! Excited your fingers shook as you clicked through to the listing of one Disappearing Dude who died in a gunfight at the KO Corral. It traced his genealogy back 1,000 years and you thought if you could just link to him, you’d be home free. (I know you know better than that, but I thought we’d have some fun here.)
You read through the entry, and thought it COULD be your dude. After all, your dude dropped off the planet after he and his Darling had a baby. Your dude was born in New York, so was this one. You dude was born about 1850, but this one was born about 1860. You wondered if that was close enough to claim him. This dude had parents named Dusty and Jane. You thought your dude’s parents were Darcy and Mary Jane.
So, how do you know if it’s really YOUR dude person, and if it’s a credible source? What if all YOUR information matches exactly to the online source? How do you determine if it’s true?
Finding the online tree or the compiled genealogy is just the first step in your research. it is not the end result.
You should NEVER, NEVER accept as fact, something you find online or in print just because it is “published.” It’s sad, but I could write a story that’s all fiction and publish it as fact, and many, too many, would accept it as the gospel truth.
I KNOW you’re not one of those kind of people who blindly accept the story. You WANT to do it right. That’s why you’re reading my blog!
So, here’s the drill:
- Check for credible source citations for EVERY statement of fact. Are they sources created close to the time of the event or years later when memories fade the facts?
- Check the actual source or document to see if it really matches what the writer compiled. Sometimes, the source may be Aunt Calamity’s memory, but even that should be checked. Maybe she was old and was remembering a television show she watched!
- Question if the sources are relevant and fit within the context of the event?
- Question how reliable the source is, and consider ulterior motives the source giver may have had. We’ll talk about motive in more depth later.
- Consider any negative information that does not fit within framework of your family.
Remember, the online genealogy is only a tool to help you find the real sources.
When all is said and done, you just might prove you ARE related to the Disappearing Dude.