Often times, we get some genealogy gifts. A genealogical society sends us a pedigree with our ancestors, a cousin sends us a filled out family group sheet, or we find one side of our tree in an online database.
The urge to input these names directly to our database is strong–very strong. We’re so excited that we have new information to input.
Have you ever stopped to think where these helpful people have gotten their information? Do you think twice about inputting everything you receive? Do you take the time to verify the research other people have done?
I admit that I usually research the research other’s give me even if it’s to follow the trail and look at the original records (unless they have supplied those). This isn’t an arrogant approach to genealogy. It’s not that I believe I am the only person who could ever do anything right. Rather, it is a cautious approach.
I learned this lesson early into my research. My first lesson came from a paid researcher who help me with my Pacheco lines in Hawaii. While she was able to flesh out my great grandfather and his siblings, she missed one of the second marriages of a great uncle, she missed a couple of children who died young, and a few dates were mixed up.
It wasn’t because she had done poor research. Rather, she did the best she could with the information I had given her. Familiarity with a family tree leads to more comprehensive research. As I got to know my Pacheco relatives better, I realized that some of the conclusions she had drawn were not possible. So, I redid the work she had done. Because I had more information to work with and a better understanding of the movements of my people, I was able to add a few more members to the tree. Her research helped me get started, but it was still necessary for me to review it and assess it in order to ensure that every avenue had been approached.
Often times, those who help us do research (paid or volunteer) are doing the best they can with the information we have given them. Still, it’s important to test the accuracy and to look for things that might have been missed.
There is some shoddy work out there. One should always be skeptical when taking information from trees that are available for access online and offline. You can never be sure of the methods of research that the original research used. For all you know they copied the work from someone else with mistakes being copied from version to version.
I think it’s good practice to research work that has already been done. When you go over the research another genealogist has done, you have the ability to verify the work. But, you also have the ability to learn from the original genealogist. You might find that they used an unusual source that you might not have thought of. It never hurts to see how others have come to their conclusions.