Getting Started Research Tips

Don’t Make These 8 Mistakes in Your Genealogy Research


It’s easy to make mistakes in your genealogy when you are first beginning as a genealogist. You may make research mistakes that give you inaccurate results, mistakes that keep you from being able to find what you need in your genealogy files, and mistakes that lead you to not knowing where you got a particular piece of information. You want your genealogy research to be professional in quality whether or not you intend to publish it. It will make it easier for you to use and add to it, and a better family heirloom and resource for future generations.

Here are eight mistakes you should avoid in your genealogy research.

1. Not Recording Your Sources as You Go

If you don’t record your sources as you go, you won’t know where you got a certain piece of information. If you don’t know where you got it, you won’t be able to use it to prove a genealogical theory or use it alongside other evidence in proving a thesis.

2. Not Organizing Your Work

Every genealogist needs a good organizational system, whether it is on paper, on the computer, or both. If you don’t organize your genealogy research, you will have a difficult time finding what you need when you need it, which hinders your progress on your family tree.

3. Not Labeling Photos

Every photo you take should be immediately labeled with names, dates, places, occasions and any other important information. You should also do this with any other photos that come your way, especially ancient ones. If you don’t label them, you may forget the details of the photos, and future generations won’t know the identities of the people in them.

4. Not Organizing Your Photos

This is just as important as organizing your genealogical research, and for similar reasons.

5. Copying Information of Online Family Trees

Just because someone posts a family tree online doesn’t mean the information in it is correct. Before you use anyone else’s genealogical information, be sure to double-check its accuracy by looking up records supporting the assertions made in the tree.

6. Relying on Your Family’s Oral History

While most family oral history stories have some grain of truth to them (though there are exceptions), telling a story down the generations is like a game of telephone. Details get changed, either on purpose by someone wanting to conceal potentially embarrassing information, or by accident, such as someone hearing or remembering the details wrong. Always research the facts behind family history stories before recording them on your official family tree.

7. Neglecting to Interview Your Older Relatives

These people have information you need, and it is valuable first-hand information. If you don’t get their stories, those stories (as well as the names and relationships of the people in the stories) may pass on with them. You may be able to research the facts, but not the personality and personal information of the story.

8. Neglecting All Record Sources that Might Have Information

Genealogy isn’t just census research and collecting birth, death, and marriage certificates. To get the full picture of your family’s history, you must use all available record sources, such as land records, military records, tax records, city directories, immigration records, court records, wills and probate records, old newspaper articles, and more.


Ancestral Findings

Will Moneymaker founded Ancestral Findings back in 1995. He has been involved in genealogy research for over 20 years. The thrill of the hunt, the adventure, and the excitement begin when he started investigating the meaning of his last name. He continues to enjoy researching his family tree, answering free genealogy lookups, and taking photos. Why I Love Genealogy (And You Should, Too!)

  • Margie Wood

    Occasionally I come across a record with a picture attached that reads “Boundry-Gulda Tree”. What does this mean?

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