Validating the veracity of my family tree on wikitree.

+11 votes
This is a broad scope, general question.

I have used other online genealogy services, but none I have explored impressed me like this wiki 'project', in that this seems to demand and practice the highest standard of accuracy and citation. So, I trust that the amazing genealogical discoveries I have made are true and accurate. However, some of my friends and family are skeptical; primarily, because the historical figures from whom I appear to be directly descended are some of the most important and influential in European history. Essentially, an amateur genealogist's dream discovery.

How can I know for certain? And, more for my curiosity's sake, what documentation would an immigration office require? Would they accept a person's link as proof of descendancy? I have no idea how that works.
in The Tree House by Matthew DeVilling G2G2 (2.3k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
According to Wikitree I am a Mayflower descendant, except that I know I’m not.  Somewhere up the line someone confused two men by the same name and there he sits.  I think people here work hard to be accurate, but people still make mistakes and/or copy information from other sites without checking.  I think the answer is “Trust but Verify.”  And if you are talking to an immigration officer or a lineage society make sure you have documents connecting every generation.
Basically the truth/proof is only as good as the sources. If you want to be sure, you should check the sources that are here and find additional sources.

As Katie said, people make mistakes and carry forward inaccurate information. Sometimes they may be so excited to link to a ʻnotableʻ that they disregard sources that make the connection invalid.  But I think mostly everyone is trying to be as accurate as possible.
I am currently re-visiting certain family lines because irregularities have popped up. So it’s back to the later generations and working back up the tree. I have even had to  make profiles for another family just so I can exclude them from ‘my’ line. The more I learn here on wikitree, the more I need to refine my research and profiles. Best thing is that help is only a question away.

Good luck and happy hunting!

3 Answers

+12 votes
Best answer

As a family researcher, I've always considered the responsibility of verification is mine.

I input my parents, and added each generation above,  making certain there was a connection that was well sourced,  not just a referral to someone's family.   The result:,  I have many  "brick walls" starting with my ggg grandparents.  Actually, it took me two years to break the brick walls for 3 of my gg grandparents.  MANY family trees posted unsourced connections.  

Bottom line,  if you want to be certain, demand the facts and sources.  Start from your parents and believe nothing until documented with sources.

Enjoy the journey.
by Peggy McReynolds G2G6 Pilot (447k points)
selected by SJ Baty
+6 votes

Matthew, unfortunately, the internet abounds with all sorts of - what I would call, "fantasy trees."  There are a lot of links from descendant to ancestor that are wrong and these are copied and shared as internet fact.

Really, the only way that you can verify all of your ancestors is to do the research and check them, one by one, generation by generation.  Make no mistake, it is a lot of work.  Be prepared to spend months, years even, to validate your tree.  I wrote about this in March in a post Have you audited your ancestors?  Ideally, you want, for each person in your tree to be genealogically defined.  This means that you have a source that proves who their children were, who their spouse was, and who their parents were.  For each profile that you can genealogically define that is connected to you through an unbroken chain of profiles that are each genealogically defined, you can definitively say that these are your ancestors.  Other ways to validate would be through all male line DNA tests.

Most often, it is not possible to source all of your ancestors to the level of being genealogically defined.  And in these cases one must be a bit of a detective and look at all of the information available.  If you know for sure that your ancestor was James Zainsworth born 1780 and his father was William and you find a James Zainsworth and you find a William Zainsworth born in the same small town in 1750 and there are no other Zainsworth families, William is probably the father of James.

But if your ancestors were James and William Smith and they were born in different towns, then there really is no way to validate a connection like this.

I'd recommend you start with your parents and their connections to your grandparents.  I'd enter the data on your parents profiles when they were born, who their parents were, and put in the source that proves it.  Even if their profiles are closed or unlisted, put the source in now.  Your grandchildren will thank you for it in 30 years.

Then go to your great-grandparents.  Do you have source documents that prove they were the parents of your grandparents?  Do you have documentation for their marriages?  Then on to the 2x great-grandparents.  As you can see, grandparents are easy, but by the time you get to 3x great grandparents, you're dealing with 32 individual profiles.  To link their parents, 64 profiles, and your 5x greats, 128 profiles.  Just to validate your ggg-grandparents, your 4x greats, and your 5x greats, you'll need to analyze, research, and then document  224 profiles.

From my own ~ 23 years experience in genealogy I can say that most people don't put in the work.  So when I meet someone and they say that they are descended from Charlemagne, I smile and look interested but the chances are, they really have no idea.

In answer to your question about the skepticism of others - the only way to beat that is to do the research.

I'm not so sure about, you wrote:

And, more for my curiosity's sake, what documentation would an immigration office require?

What sort of immigration office are you referring to?  If you can supply some more details it would be helpful in answering your question.

I hope this answer has been helpful for you.  In a nutshell, it is going to take work, a lot of work.  So be ready and good luck!

by SJ Baty G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
+3 votes
You should not "trust" information derived from any genealogical site that is not primary evidence. You still need to do the work yourself and re-check these sources directly.
by George Churchill G2G6 Mach 8 (87.2k points)

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