Genealogy is very time-consuming, research intensive and the inconsistencies can drive you batty. For example; when I research families I begin with a preliminary search in the Census and birth/death/marriage records among other sources. Once I have this information I am off to the county courthouse and/or local church to see what other information I can find.
When I get to a stumbling block I start to look at other family trees. This is dangerous and care needs to be taken, because if there is no source citations for me to double-check, their research can be wrong. On the flip side you can also find conflicting information in the official records, as we will see later on. So you have to continue and keep digging in records and hopefully the information will all jive.
Here is a situation I am encountering right now. I am researching a family, let’s call them the Charles Carter family. I gathered information from one of the family members and then proceeded to go online and do some digging. I managed to find his father Ben, and then his grandfather, Abe. This is where things started going wacky. In all the Census, it states that Ben and his parents were born in Virginia, then lo and behold 4 Census later (40 years) lists Ben and his parents birthplace as North Carolina. Ben’s death certificate says he was born in Stokes County, NC which is a different county then listed in the aforementioned Census. Another document, his enlistment papers, shows him as being born in Alamance County, NC. Before I can head to the county courthouse and church records I need to get this settled.
I headed to a few family tree where they list him with his wife, and the birth dates for Ben match the Census data. But the kicker is, a few trees state Abe Carter as the father of Ben, but the citation (Census) they list does not show an Abe with a son named Ben. The bigger draw back is there are no other types of documents/citation linked to the family trees to prove where they received their information that Ben is the son of Abe. If they showed some sort of other citation to prove it that would be different, so I would need to actually see Ben’s name as a son listed somewhere.
So now you see how relying on another’s family tree can get you into trouble. A good thing that can come out of it is you might see a name you didn’t have before and looking into it you might find some links that will lead to sources. Or, they might even list someone else that you can search and find who you were looking for in a round about way. Also don’t forget to look for other family members living close by.
One of my other families had a son who lived with his grandmother on his mother side, while all the rest his siblings lived at home. It seems his grandfather passed away and he being the oldest at 12 went to live with his grandmother to help her out. They lived two doors down from his parents and he was listed in her household, but retained his father’s last name. This was an easy match because I had him listed in an earlier census living with his parents. I also had his mother’s maiden name so this helped make the connection.
So in closing, remember to use what resources are out there, but, put them in a non-verified (I use NV) category until you can actually prove it.
Happy Digging!!! and may the research always be in your favor!!!