How many times have you heard this or a similar comment from folks? “All of my ancestors have already been found.” “Aunt Julia or Uncle Tim have done genealogy research for years.” “They said that there is nothing left to find.”
I hear this or similar statements constantly in my genealogy classes or from folks that write and ask me questions about genealogy. Few things folks say to me elicit a faster response. “Baloney!” “I know they are your family member but I do you believe this statement is true … or are you just looking for an excuse to not enter in to the wonderful world of genealogy yourself?”
The ensuing dialog seems to follow a common theme.
The research completed by your relative undoubtedly has one or more errors in it. My own research does. I find errors in it all of the time. We all make mistakes in our research assumptions or place too much faith in the text written on Death, Birth or other Certificates. Our “conclusive proof” from 1995 may now not be so conclusive in light of new records that have emerged in the ensuing years.
New records have undoubtedly exposed ‘new’ ancestors heretofore unknown in your family tree. You get to engage in the very enjoyable ancestral quest of finding them.
Aunt Julia and Uncle Tim are probably great people, but they are just that … people. When you add your unique perspective to your family ancestral hunt, you’ll search for information in ways and in places that they didn’t as part of their quest. You will find ‘new’ information.
How much information about your extended family is in their files? I’ve found that even though I love my direct ancestors and their life stories, the stories and families of their siblings and the descendants of their siblings are often far more enjoyable and amazing than those of my ancestors. Don’t forget the perspective of your grandparents from the early 1700’s. If you were in their position, looking down through time at the generations of your descendants, you would love them all and have great pride in them. Remember that just because a person is your 2nd cousin (maybe 2, 3 or 4 times removed), they are still family.
Have Julia and Tim added all of the current generations of your family to their records? Yes, we have to be extremely careful with personal data today, but if you never publish or share information about living people and properly protect the data on your computer, adding the information about ALL of your current family should be in the family knowledgebase that you create.
How well sourced is the information collected by Julia and Tim? I’ve had to dump very large parts of my ancestral tree over time as I continued to add and evaluate sources in my five plus decades of research. In all but one case, the information I thought was correct still appears to be correct to most people, but when I aggressively evaluated the sourcing that proves the information of a key person that links a branch to me, I found assumption errors that were created by town clerks and even religious documentarians centuries ago. Saying goodbye to 10 to 20 generations of ‘your’ family because they really aren’t yours is gut-wrenching but it has to be done. When the dust settles, you have an accurate family record AND you also have the fun of filling the empty charts for that branch of your ancestry once again.
Did Julia and Tim get copies of the sources they reference (if any) in their data? If any of the source images are missing, go get them. It is your family. Without real sources all you really have is a good story. With vetted sources, you’ll be able to prove your lineage to anyone who questions its accuracy and you’ll have the ‘warm fuzzy’ of knowing the data is correct in your heart of hearts.
If you are new to genealogy, don’t be surprised at the reaction you’ll receive from a seasoned genealogist if you accidentally make the “My work is all done” statement in their presence. They know it isn’t and will tell you the same thing I’ve listed above.
Isn’t that great! The wonderful world of genealogy is not closed to you and once you start in your genealogy quest, you’ll know why that statement is so wonderful.