Just for fun, history lessons for genealogists

+19 votes

Every once in a while I come across a profile on another site that makes me laugh, or cry....   The profile was for a man born and died in Virginia, 1645-1685.  He and his wife have valid sources, but some additional sources had been added.   The following sources were attached.

Proof of his parents via his baptism 

15 Aug 1732

St. Julian's Church, Norwich, Norfolk, England

Proof of his Revolutionary War participation

U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865



Regiment State/Origin


in The Tree House by Robin Lee G2G6 Pilot (645k points)
retagged by Robin Lee
There is nothing in Robin's post that warrants a flag, so I am hoping it was accidental, or in error (thinking it was an upvote).
I suppose this supports a recent suggestion elsewhere to change "flag" to "report."
i'm with melanie and julie on this NOTHING nasty was said nor said in a nasty way ... and if someone says "fat fingers" one more time I am going to stage a sausage & rolls BBQ down at the park bring your own everything and $5 a person
I suppose this supports a recent suggestion elsewhere to change "flag" to "report."


I would support that.  Who wants to make it an official request? 

It looks like the flag was just a misunderstanding. 

Robin, thanks for giving an example of why it's important to look at everything on a source and not just a name. 

If we all think back to when we were new at genealogy, there was so much to pay attention to. It's easy to make mistakes like this. I've always felt that part of our mission here is to help each other learn.

I know I've gone back to some of my earlier work and done some serious facepalming. blush Fortunately, I had some really kind and generous people here help me understand how to properly vet sources and pull as much information out of them as I can. We have some awesome members here. heart

Oh, and by the way, Robin was one of those people! laugh

sooooooooooooo glad this question is back

I gained g2g points when I answered

lost g2g points when it disappeared

got g2g points back now

come on, peeps, I'm trying to make ASTRONAUT level in 2020  cheeky

LOL, Eddie.  You should do it easily.

This is great! I love this post because I personally find it challenging when other people mindlessly connect someone to their family tree, just based on someone's Ancestry tree. As Kathy pointed out, to bring life out of history, we must know the context of the time our ancestors were living. This can greatly impact why family might relocate, disappear, etc.

I personally use several reference points when working on my genealogy projects, but the most effective is centralizing my data in one spot, my hard drive. I use excel to parse the data across multiple tabs, and complex formulas to cross reference. (Photo Below)

The use of colored boxes around certain dates remind me of important information such as the civil war (black box) and then the blue box, representing the reconstruction period, and finally the green box, representing the full reconstruction period. Along the way in other columns I might add historic data like "invention of the radio" or something that could change the lives of people dramatically. Each little red mark is additional comments (pictured) which allows for further details of documentation.

Other tabs include "who people are", and simply list names of people, birth dates, death dates, marriage dates, kids, where they lived, and who their parents were (if the data is available) along with more comments. I use this page often to verify which person I'm dealing with when it comes to common names, especially useful when dealing with generational names passed down from father to son, and so on.

However, we all learn from our mistakes, and I'm glad that more and more people are becoming interested in their ancestry...even if they're floundering a bit initially.smiley

Wow! I'm very impressed at the depth you've added there. Nicely done!

M White,

That is fantastic! Would you mind posting pics of the other tabs you use? I am currently trying to figure out the best way to organize a project on my iPad.

Thank you!

Missy smiley

Hi Missy!
The other tabs include things like this: Draft Records: which includes the name, address, age (then I calculate birth date in the next column), occupation, and life events. Last Names: So each surname I'm researching has their own tab (which is pictured above for White) with similar data. Transactions: This tab is dedicated to physical research in archives, land transfers, dates, who is buying, who is selling, or other deeds or wills. Census: I've actually digitized censuses of entire counties. I then use the names to cross reference birth dates, relatives living in the house, jobs, etc. Translations: I have an entire tab dedicated to document translations. Dates, names, and full document translation input as text. Over the years, I've found this to be incredibly useful. If someone is going to take the time to translate a document, might as well save it in a database instead of just an image...which can't be parsed for info.  Who People Are: This is my most used tab. Everyone relative to my research is included on this page. Names, birth/death/marriage dates, occupations, spouse, children, age, military status, relatives, siblings, and notes on everything from who they purchased land from, and who they willed it to. Land Ownership: Another tab with names, dates, amounts of acreage, location, who deeded the land to them, notes, etc. Very helpful if you're researching counties with loss due to fire or some other destructive element. Biographies: short bios on people I'm focused on. Includes all other data on pages except it's able to be cross referenced on one sheet. As the data changes, I update their bio with the latest data. This keeps focus people in one location with verified data. Keeps me from searching around and saying, "where'd I see that before?" or "where did I get that info?" I use notes to help remember where the original data is located.

I also make sure to label all images or documents precisely in my folders. All images have year, names, locations, and perhaps an event. Same with censuses, gravestones, directory pages, newspaper clippings, deeds, certificates, draft cards, military docs, etc. All images can then be downloaded and turned into a text file. That file then becomes another tab, Images, to be referenced.

I run these side by side with other platforms while researching. If I see a relative in another person's tree, I double check with my sheet to see if their data fits what I have, then I check all their resources to validate if they know what their doing...or just guessing. It's pretty easy to spot the ones who know what they're doing versus the ones who don't.

I never rely on online databases. I download everything to my computer. Things disappear and change over years. Sometimes docs are available, and then, years later, they're gone, or the site goes down. When the internet is down, or I'm traveling, I take my data with me and I can do research, document translations, etc, while on a plane, in a car, or if I'm just plain bored.

Hello again M!

oooooh, I love it! I have been mostly doing the gathering of information. I would print it (and file) or save it into Ancestry and then here on WT when I have enough sources. I only just started trying to get more organized with my data. I have a really tough one that I am trying to work on. I thought...I need to organize all this on my tablet so I can map it out (trying to go paperless too). I was just using Notes on my iPad! laugh I out grew it. I LOVE your system. Thank you for taking the time to type it all out for me/us. I am inspired!

6 Answers

+16 votes
Best answer
This kind of problem is why I think writing narrative biographies is so important.  When you start organizing the data to write, you have to think about fitting the puzzle pieces into a coherent story.

I was working on a profile tonight in which the child was born before his parents' marriage.  So I had to figure out what element (source was wrong) or if there was evidence to support the seeming problem being a phantom one.

Only in laying out the narrative did the problem become apparent. . . . but I think most in the U.S. would realize that the War between the STATES would have to be after there were states.
by Kathy Rabenstein G2G6 Pilot (234k points)
selected by Robin Lee
So true, Kathy!!

I also use the Suggestions link on profiles when I start working on a family because it will show problems that should probably be addressed first, because dates and places might be wrong from the start. Getting that all straightened out before trying to add more information is really helpful.
There's a Suggestion link on profiles?
It's on the Profile ID menu, Julie. Alllll the way down at the bottom. :-)
Will it update immediately so that you can find out whether there is a problem as soon as you've entered something on a profile?
Unfortunately, no. I think AleŇ° refreshes the suggestions once / week?? This is not my area of expertise, so maybe someone else can confirm that or correct it.
Thanks, Julie R.  I did know about that second Suggestions link, but had hoped you were talking about something specific to an individual profile; I guess if I kept it clear then at least weekly I could see at a glance if I've introduced any new errors.  But most of the profiles on that list (I have about 17 open suggestions) are ones I don't manage nor know much about, so it's hard to keep up with.

Update:  Kathy, I think we were posting at the same time.
The Suggestion list is updated weekly by dear Ales.  The Suggestion list under the Wiki-ID shows suggestions for several generations.  You can work them and update the errors just as you would as a Data Doctor or working on your own list.  It shows errors on your profiles and those managed by others in that family line (I think it's three generations).
Julie K --

I'm not sure if we're on the same page, but every profile has its own suggestion list, and you get to it by going to the Profile ID (aka, Wiki-ID) menu.

This is different than the list you'll see when clicking on the Suggestions link on your My WikiTree menu.

Are we talking about the same thing??

Here's what I did:  Picked an ancestor of mine at random (Apollonia Lemley).  Now, on her profile, there are five drop-down menus on the upper right.  If I use the first, "My WikiTree," I get what I think of as "my own" suggestions, i.e. profiles managed by me.  If I use the second menu, Lemley-542, I get a list of 13 suggestions (not 17 as I'd estimated above), none of which is for Lemley-542.  It says they are related to her, but most of them are not familiar to me.

Julie, sorry to introduce an irrelevant element into our discussion.  But while I have your attention :) , there's someone I'd like to help.  Please see this thread:

Need help trying to figure out DNA cousins relationship to my family

The woman seems to have a renewed interest in WikiTree.  She has not advanced beyond Guest status.  The Greeter whose message is on her profile appears to have left WikiTree.  What does she now need to do to become a full member so that she can add her tree?  Yes, I know, sign the Honor Code, but how exactly?

re: the Suggestions link ... we are talking about the same thing. :-) The profiles in the report that come up are in your ancestors tree, and they should be listed by generation. They may not be directly related to you; it could be by marriage.

re: the woman you referenced. I'll go look.
Thanks, Julie!

This is exactly right, Kathy! I've found mistakes in some of the profiles I manage when I've done a narrative biography. No "table of contents biographies" for me!!!

+16 votes


was helping somebody yesterday

found wikitree profile as well as an Ancestry tree/Familysearch tree

both had a marriage record citation - url but not whole document- for a couple, same name as profile pair 

BUT........and you knew there was a But

document was for a couple married 140 years later than profile pair

AND ....you knew an And was coming

the marriage url thingy on the wikitree profile was added last month during a source a thon by somebody not the PM

tsk tsk tsk tsk 

by Eddie King G2G6 Pilot (529k points)
+4 votes

From II & III of the Honor Code, the solution is to simply correct the mistakes.

by Fann Fann G2G6 Mach 4 (44.8k points)
+5 votes

I found one today and she was born two years after she was married surprise

by Laura DeSpain G2G6 Pilot (155k points)
+6 votes

Robin, on Ancestry, one of my ancestors has a photo of a gravestone. Now, he died about 1834. The gravestone photo was of a Spanish-American War veteran with the same name! GAH!

by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (1.9m points)
I really do think that to be a successful genealogist, one needs to have the characteristic of attention to detail. It's pretty clear when you run across someone who does not have that and you see things like that.
To be a successful genealogist, you also need at least a rudimentary sense of history and geography.  I won't touch genealogy in Australia or South Africa because I know too little beyond the grand sweep of their histories.  In fact, I try to concentrate on just a few states in the Mid-Atlantic and Ohio.
+3 votes

It seems as though when I find a messed up profile, I take it so seriously...  like,  is this a matter of life or death?? wink

In our effort to try to make every profile as accurate as possible, it's good to know that you were able to be light hearted after finding a profile such as this, Robin.  It really is laughable, isn't it... smiley

by Cheryl Skordahl G2G6 Pilot (208k points)

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