GENEALOGY PET PEEVES

Tracing your family roots can be a fun and personally fulfilling adventure, but it can also be a journey littered with road blocks, mysteries and setbacks.


I am now in my third decade of researching my personal family history and my tree to continues to grow with both direct and distant relatives, primarily on my very well documented paternal side of the family. Having well known historical figures as direct ancestors has certainly helped me in my quest to document as much of my family history as I can, but not always; having famous cousins - mostly distant cousins - has allowed me to add more information to my family tree, but only from publicly available information. It seems that all of my famous distant cousins are not keen on knowing their less famous (or in my case, completely unknown) relatives.


It's not only my famous cousins that don't seem to want to be contacted. I have reached out to dozens and dozens of DNA matches and people who have shared ancestors in their public family trees, only to hear crickets in response. Not everyone ignores my attempts at contact to gather and share information, of course, but the "hit" rate on receiving a response is dismal. Those that have returned my enquiries have been terrific, even if they could not offer much information about our shared ancestors. At least they had the decency to respond.


The advent of online genealogy and DNA testing services has opened up the world of family history research to millions of people around the globe. Based on my personal experiences with the online family tree community, I would say that the majority of these individuals have set up trees or taken DNA tests out of idle curiosity more than a drive to truly dig deep into their family history.


Based on my own personal experience, I have compiled the following list of my persona pet peeves when it comes to ancestry research online:

1) People that don't respond to emails: If someone takes the time to reach out to you about family ancestry research, and you have publicly listed your contact information, please respond even if you don't have the answers the sender is looking for.

2) Incorrect information: This one comes up frequently on other site member's family trees. If you don't take the time to verify the information that you are putting into your family tree, please do other members a favor and make your tree "private". This is a significant problem with online sites such as Ancestry, Family Tree, etc.

3) Translation errors: Most paper records are digitized - or translated - into online documents by volunteers. Since most census forms were written by hand, understanding and correctly translating the information into digital records can be difficult, but some records are so poorly translated that it makes me wonder who is checking the records before they are put online. I've seen so many records with blatant errors that I stopped trusting the digital versions almost immediately and now open and read every document myself to ensure accuracy.

4) Nasty responses: The only thing that annoys me more than no response at all is a nasty or defensive response to reaching out to someone about our shared - or potentially shared - ancestry. This doesn't happen very often, but it has happened often enough to be annoying. I am not personally trying to lay claim to an old family estate (how that would even work is beyond me!), nor am I looking for a hand-out from ANY relative, rich or poor. While some people may attempt this, I doubt that it is truly a significant issue with the online genealogy community. Also, like many families, I have ancestors who were born out of wedlock. This stuff happens - frequently - and has absolutely zero to do with your own morals or personal behavior. Denying someone is related to you when the DNA evidence clearly shows that they are won't change history. No one likes to find out that one (or more!) of their ancestors fathered a child out of wedlock, or had to put a child up for adoption, but these things did - and still do - happen. It's a part of your family's history, whether you like it or not. In my own experience I have found several previously unknown family members through DNA matches and have even helped a few DNA matches identify who their parent or parents were. Everyone deserves to know their family history, so even if the idea doesn't thrill you, take the time to help someone find their family history.

5) Useless hints: This particular pet peeve is aimed squarely at Ancestry . com, and is incredibly frustrating for this author. I know that Ancestry probably uses computer programs to find and publish hints on their system, but often the hints are so far off base that they are downright annoying. Why would even an A.I. (artificial intelligence) program suggest a hint for someone that was born in 1770 and died in 1822 when the record shows a marriage or birth in the late 1800's? The same holds true with birth records and I've seen hints suggesting that an 80 year old great aunt gave birth to a child at that age. Another annoyance for me personally is not being able to select which hints I want to see or not. I'd love to be able to shut off hints that are simply pictures of flags that, for some reason, proliferate on Ancestry; ditto for hints contained in other member's online trees. The ability to select which types of hints you want to see would make the whole Ancestry experience so much better, it's a wonder they haven't thought of this yet.


That's my rant for today. Nothing too terribly heavy or dark, just a few annoyances that I felt necessary to get off my chest - sort of an internal "spring cleaning".


Happy searching!




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