Sources: Family Search (LDS) vs others listed. Which to trust?

+3 votes

Hi all, 

I'm kind of new to WikiTree, just updated my membership so that I may share genealogy research. 

A majority of the research was done by my grandmother the old fashioned way smiley, books and records, historical societies. What she didn't do was write down the source sad (she never thought of it because it was her hobby and put her research into book form for immediate family only) and only did grandfather lines until twenty something years ago when I started to help using the internet and the search for grandmothers began smiley

My aunt just started, recently, giving me my grandmother's genealogy books that she used for research and it's been fun revisiting them to fill in missing information in FTM (meaning I haven't updated branches in a long time). After 18 years of living in Washington State, I have moved back home to Connecticut (grandmother's years of research in Pennsylvania lead her back to Connecticut) and has renewed the genealogy bug in myself and my aunt. 

And so, the above brings me to the question... we didn't really "trust" the LDS records due to a lot of inconsistencies being submitted, unable to update etc., and my grandmother had extreme difficulty trying to get misinformation corrected (and they never did) nor could she get one of her nieces that's a member of the LDS to do so, so it turned into a "starting point source" needing further research.

Question... I've been on a few profiles on WikiTree already where the only source is Family Search, or it's Family Search and secondary source (which I plan to locate, the "trust but verify syndrome). 

Do I trust the Family Search only information on an elusive 7th great-grandmother when I come to it?  

I included the WikiTree link for the profile in question (as an example) - and more questions to follow in a separate inquiry shortly.

Thank you for any and all input, it will be much appreciated to hear others thoughts.

WikiTree profile: Anna Hess
in The Tree House by Carol Sterling G2G6 Mach 1 (17.8k points)
Trees are helpful for pointing the way, but unless they have sources attached that’s all they are - hints.
Your skepticism is appreciated.  All too often, internet family trees are simply copied from other internet family trees, with no attempt to check the accuracy of the information.

FamilySearch is valuable not for its trees, but because they have a large stash of transcripts of original records, and quite a few copies of actual original records. Ancestry also has a large stash of transcripts and original records, although the transcripts vary in quality.
I'm just weighing in here because a profile that I manage is used as an example. I adopt quite a few profiles,a lot of them are unsourced,some have had the ((unsourced)) tag taken off but they are still unsourced. I also connect every profile I can to a profile on FS,that way if someone else comes along and wants to improve on the profile it's easy for them to do that. Occasionally I do find good sources on the FS profile that can just be added to Wikitree but it doesn't always work that way,if nothing else though it can give you clues for more places to look.

4 Answers

+1 vote

Couldn’t find any other Anna Maria Best

Name: Anna Maria Best
Gender: Female
Event Type: Baptism 
Birth Date: 9 Mar 1720
Baptism Date: 24 Apr 1720
Baptism Place: New York City, All Boroughs, New York, USA
Father: Jacob Best
Mother: Anna Christina

Source Citation

Holland Society of New York; New York, New York; New York City Lutheran, Vol I, Book 85

by Marion Poole G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
Thanks, Marion, for your search efforts. I think that's the Anna Maria Best that my grandmother had found to be a cousin line, mistaken for her 5th great-grandmother. I will most certainly look at it again - I'm on Ancestry almost daily from one branch to another.
+4 votes
Your lack of trust is very well placed, Carol!  We have no reason to trust information in any family tree, unless an official source of it is cited there (such as a government birth/marriage/death, passport application, military service, etc. record).  In the case of ancestry and family search (and maybe other websites), there are family trees there that are, for the most part, not reliable sources, but there are also repositories of indexed documents and some scanned images of them.  These are superb sources.  The familysearch source on Anna Hess' profile, unfortunately, is one of the family trees, whose only value is as a hint where to look for a source.

That said, real sources are often hard to find and WikiTree's policy on what is and is not accepted as a source ranges from an image of an official document to "grandma said so".  While it is hoped that every effort will be made to find a valid source for every statement of fact made in the narrative, a source can be thought of as the answer to the question "how do you know that?".  Any time I have had to resort to "personal knowledge" for lack of any real source, I always indicate who told me, as well as that a source has not been found.
by Gaile Connolly G2G Astronaut (1.0m points)
+3 votes

This is my take on the basic question with a couple of examples from my own family research.

1)If the source referenced on wikitree just says 'family search' then in my opinion it's not worth the paper (screen?) it's written on.

2)If it's from  one of the old  pedigree or ancestral files or even their  more recent tree, it may be valid but without further research you can't tell. Relationships  may  be  based upon  limited information  or poorly understood documentation;  great caution is needed.  For example, my gg grandmother , a daughter of a very ordinary agricultural labourer has alternative fathers  on these  pedigree  files.

Two of them say James was her  father, two say Arthur. The ones that say James are wrong.  They were probably based upon just one document, the 1841 census which doesn't state relationships.  Charlotte was a child in 1841 and  was  with her brother  at the home of  James on the night of the census . Records of her baptism, the burial of her father and remarriage of her mother  show that her father was dead and her mother living with a new family in 1841.Charlotte and her brother were staying or living with their uncle James.   The LDS has been aware of this since the late  1960s and  it was even written about as a teaching point  for genealogy. Nevertheless, the error persists in half  of these entries (and in consequence,  other online trees)

3.If the source is to  an index or a  basic transcript of a source then it's got to be better than an unsourced tree  but  these indexes  are a step removed from the original record. There are always going to be transcription errors; these especially occur when the transcriber hasn't much knowledge of the place.

Also,  the strict format for filling in boxes when transcribing  means that any extra information is  not recorded  We don't often know on marriage registers whether one of the pair was a widow(er),whether they came from that parish or were a sojourner or whatever.Actually we don't know whether the record was a marriage or a banns record so they can be quite deceptive.  When I first started researching, such indexes were described as 'finding aids'

 Indexes that miss extra information can also  lead to gross errors.

 "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975", database, FamilySearch ( : 21 September 2020), Joseph Cock, 1828

  Seems like a good reference but  Joseph Cock never existed.

The parish clerk  made a mess of the register, he muddled two families so  added them again,  with a big arrow to point out the error. The transcriber has ignored the correction and  just carried  transcribing each entry . Fortunately,  in this case, Family search   has images of the original parish register. This shows the error; Joseph Satchell  was baptised on the same day as Esther Cock.  There was no Joseph Cock or indeed Esther Satchell register  

This sort of thing is quite common in registers but FS indexes won't show it. Some transcription sites include a box for notes, this means that problems or extra information  can be included (I wish FS would do this)

4)If the source on FS is an image of an actual document then it is a good source,hurrah!

 But  one such  source may not be enough.Without other evidence, whether from Family Search or elsewhere it could  lead you up someone else's tree.  My gg granny does appear on the 1841 census at the home of James but he wasn't her father.

by Helen Ford G2G6 Pilot (397k points)
edited by Helen Ford
I agree with using them as a starting point and trying to support them with whatever records remain. Some records contain errors as well.

Or as in the case of my great-grandfather, his mother and siblings they have left behind an absolutely nightmare by giving varying information to the census and in other records some of which is false. All of them have now passed so anyone in my generation or younger that has never heard the family story of why this might be or how surname was changed runs into a problem where there is no US birth record for family members born between 1900 and 1905 and if they did not notice the few records that happen to say otherwise. As yet even knowing that I still have little to go on as all kids have common names.
+2 votes
Don't trust information on online family trees, especially those that have no sources. Sometimes online trees can be valuable signposts, however you should always check the sources to make sure they are actually for the family members you are researching.

In many cases records that happen to be for someone of the same name have been attached as sources, and the tree creator didn't think for more than 2 seconds about the possibility that there might be more than one person with that name alive at the same time.

Then you get trees where people got married for example in 1812 in England, had a child 3 months later in South Carolina, the child was baptised in England 10 days later and the mother got married again in England 2 weeks later and had another child 4 months later.

I mention this because I was told (by an unnamed person) that my 4 X great grandfather was obviously the only person named George Ross that was ever been born in England, because it is such a small place with a very small population so he must be the father of 17 children born within 10 years on both sides of the Atlantic.

Edit: many typos
by M Ross G2G6 Pilot (440k points)

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