Skillbuilding, NGS 2017: Miller’s “Sources or Clues? Pitfalls of Using Published Genealogies and Online Trees”

Springboard, an official blogger for the 2017 National Genealogical Society (NGS) Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this BCG Skillbuilding lecture, presented 10 May 2017.

W141, Julie Miller, CG, CGL, FNGS, “Sources or Clues? Pitfalls of Using Published Genealogies and Online Trees”

 Reviewed by Angela Packer McGhie, CG

Should online trees be used in our research? If so, are they sources or only clues? Julie Miller suggested that we should use published genealogies and online trees, but we need to use them with caution.

Julie Miller, CG, CGL, FNGS

Julie Miller, CG, CGL, FNGS

Published genealogies can include a vast amount of information, and that makes them valuable. Researchers should recognize that when most of them were published, there were no standards. They do not usually provide sources for information, so the information must be evaluated and verified with other sources. Published genealogies may contain information that was provided by descendants, or may be from a source that is lost.

Online family trees are mostly user submitted and their quality ranges from very good, to very, very bad. Some are wholesale copied from other trees. They do have value, in that they can connect you with others working on the same family, and they can contain clues not found elsewhere. The key is to evaluate them and verify all information they contain. Julie suggests verifying each date, place, relationship, and event with other records. The trees can be used as a map to guide you to original sources.

Julie shared a case study demonstrating the information that can be found in these sources, and her process for verifying with other records. She noted that wrong information in these sources causes many genealogists to make incorrect conclusions. In her case study, if Julie had relied on the information provided by the majority of the sources, she would have misidentified the wife.

The presentation concluded with advice from Julie to not be part of the problem. She recommends only publishing or putting online information you have personally researched.

Information on purchasing this lecture can be found at Playback Now www.playbackngs.com .

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

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