Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Danger of Cherry Picking Information from the Web

One of the dangers of internet genealogy is that there is so much information available, and if you don't know the dangers you can build a family tree which is full of errors. Things get difficult with non-conformists before 1837, while parish registers often have large gaps at the time of the Civil War. The problem may be that there are no relevant birth records for your ancestor - and a common mistake is to select the record of someone with the "right name" who is actually the "wrong body". 
    In answering questions on this site I don't want to waste time answering questions where it appears that the basis of the question is unreliable. In ADAM or MADAM, Harpenden, 17th century I explain why I feel that a baptism that took place in 1652 is very likely the wrong one - and also supply pages which everyone should read if they are to avoid similar difficulties in future.


  1. Internet genealogy really is a two edged sword. There is a wealth of information out there and it is helping a lot of people find their ancestors, but there is the occasionally problem like what you described above.

    1. One of the problems is that there are an increasing number of people starting to research their families using advertised commercial packages such as Ancestry and FindMyPast which allow you to find names without having the vaguest idea of what the limitations of the source documents and computer indexes are, and without reading a beginners book (or impartial online tutorial). Of course in most family trees most of the links will prove to be correct - but if you look at all lines you are likely to hit problems on at least one by the time you have got 4 generations back.

      As it is often people with problems who ask me for help and advice I see plenty of problems ...


This is the newsletter for the Genealogy in Hertfordshire Web site. Comments on this blog are moderated and may be transferred to the web site where appropriate. If you have a local or family history query you want answered you must use "Ask Chris" - See box in right hand column. Anonymous comments cannot be answered.