Online genealogy sites have made it very simple to find other family trees that include your ancestors and add that information to your own tree. Unfortunately, a lot of information is incorrect. As a result, it is critical to carefully double-check the facts.
A general search of family trees online can easily reveal problems that can be uncovered simply by looking closely at the information, such as a record of a child’s birth before their parent’s birth or after their parent’s deaths. Other misleading or contradictory information may be more difficult to spot at first glance. For instance, an ancestor may be allocated to parents who later prove to be incorrect, or children assigned to one family may belong to another, or children assigned to the wrong spouse in the case of second marriages. These types of mistakes might be difficult to detect without independent research.
Some misinformation can be attributed to poor research, and in the case of online trees, others add it to their trees without first verifying the information and eventually it becomes ‘fact’ and added to dozens of other trees. However, some misleading information comes from sources that may initially be considered reliable as could be the case when information comes from old written family histories that were created from inherited knowledge. Many early written family histories are now out of copyright and are being added to online databases or repositories and are considered secondary sources for family history research today.
This illustrates the significance of verifying all information from primary sources whenever possible. Sometimes the truth can only be discovered by comparing records and making logical conclusions from them.