Genealogy Pet Peeves

I’ve spent the afternoon reviewing hints at FamilySearch. That’s taking me to a variety of profiles where there are sometimes records to be attached, but more often a potentially duplicate profile.

So, here are some pet peeves about those various profiles.


“GEDCOM data” is not a source. Someone adds a name (middle name, maiden name) or a date (birth, marriage, death) and they leave the completely unhelpful note that this information comes from “GEDCOM data.” If you are unfamiliar with the term, GEDCOM is a type of file used to create family trees in software. It can be any kind of software. My mom’s second cousin gave her a printout of her research years ago (decades ago). That would be GEDCOM data, and you know what? That is not a source. I happen to trust this second cousin’s research, but all GEDCOM files are not created equal. You may as well say you heard it from a Magic 8 Ball. If you’re copying the information from someone else’s family tree, at least put their name, add the date that the file was created. I feel like people who put “GEDCOM data” as a source either don’t understand or they don’t want to understand that the information could very well be wrong. They’re trying to give it some legitimacy when, in fact, it means nothing.

Correct Spelling

Today, I’ve encountered many instances where someone added to a profile, “This is the correct spelling. It is my name.” Hah! That may be how you spell your name today, but this is the profile of someone born in 1758. Unless you have physical documents written by that ancestor himself (or herself) consistently using that spelling, guess what? It’s irrelevant. Spelling of names has been quite inconsistent over the years (and the centuries).  Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a literate ancestor who left diaries and letters and they spelled their name consistently. In that case, direct your fellow genealogists to where these documents can be found. If you have them, get off your duff and scan them and add them to a digital database accessible by other researchers. Then instead of saying, “This is how I spell my name” you can say, “This is how our ancestor spelled his/her name.” And I will still bet you money that there are official records where our ancestor’s name is spelled differently, because different people were writing it based on what they heard (or what they saw if they were copying it).

A Source and Not a Source

On the profile of a fourth great grandfather, someone helpfully listed his children as listed in his will. They don’t match the names of the children attached to his profile. Where is this will? Is there a digital file? Did you physically go to a courthouse and read it? The list appears to include the ages of the children (all adults at that point), but were those ages from the document or from a different source? What is the date on the will? It’s not that complicated. Officially, this is called “citing your sources.” Unofficially, throw me a bone to tell me how I can find and review this document for myself.

Our Family Tree

It’s important to keep in mind that you’re not working on “your” family tree. It’s “our” family tree. You should want to get it right for yourself, for your cousins, and for your children, if you have them. Yeah, it’s really cool to look at a family tree and trace your lineage back to kings. And then you take a closer look and some of the connections cannot possibly be right. It is absolutely pointless to have incorrect information on the tree. Who are you fooling and why? Make every effort to get it right, and if you don’t have the documents to prove it, at least be very clear and honest about where you got the information. Maybe that old family legend is true, but no one is going to be able to figure it out if you don’t admit where it is you heard it instead of just treating like the gospel, because that’s what you heard. Somewhere.

About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have two cats and a husband.
This entry was posted in Genealogy, My Life and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s