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Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Slow and Steady Hare v Tortoise

Seems I'm on a bunny kick since we were talking about going down a rabbit hole last week, but the allegory of the rabbit and the tortoise is perfect for why we need to use caution when accepting info from other people's trees.

The family tree sites give you several opportunities to add people to your family, and it's exciting to get those little green hint leaves on someone you're researching, isn't it? Ancestry frequently offers me "possible parents" for evaluation, but I have learned to be cautious about accepting these.

The same cautiousness applies to the "ThruLines®" in their DNA app. I have several potential ancestor suggestions that I was initially thrilled to see! I have been looking for these people for years, and I was so happy I had taken that DNA test! Until I reviewed these and other potentials, and found there was no documentation proving these were my great-grandparents.

Potential Ancestors
"Potential Ancestors"

In fact, when I checked these and other hints, I was the main source for a lot of the online trees! But, Ancestry has given me the opportunity to discuss and learn from these distant cousins, who may have documentation that they have not put online. So, with additional research via emails, these can be great sources of new hints about where to find valid documentation like birth, marriage and death records, obituaries, censuses, etc. I have shoeboxes of clippings and photos about people I don't know that I inherited from my grandmother, these people may have those too!

Speaking of online trees, it is really easy to look at other people's trees online at any of the big companies, and for free at FamilySearch. Again, you have to be careful about blindly accepting these ancestors without looking for backup records that could/should be attached. One of my brick walls Is James Carroll, born ca. 1795 in PA. When I ask Ancestry to show me other family trees with a James Carroll in them, there are, literally, HUNDREDS. One of them has over 134,000 people in it (see below). But look at these, there are NO ATTACHED SOURCES and ONLY ONE RECORD in these trees! So, how do they KNOW? If you are interested in joining the DAR or any other society/organization that may have scholarship opportunities for your kids, you need a paper trail. Most of my hint trees are sourced from - guess where? - other trees! Including my own that I've been building for 30 years!

My latest tree discovery took me back to the day I first fell for accepting a hint I desperately wanted to be true when I discovered a picture of James Carrell, born in PA in 1796, lived in OH, and died in IL in the right era! I saved it right away! How cool was this? I could not wait to show my family!

When I started to further research this guy, with his dates, and, lo and behold, there were TWO James Carrolls. TWO. But, they had different wives, and different children. THIS James was NOT my James.

Boy, was my face red.

However, I have one DNA relative, a recently discovered 5-8th cousin who has gone to all the trouble to build a tree with James Carroll with BOTH wives and over 20 children by, apparently, copying other people's trees to build her own. I need to email her to introduce myself, and clue her in to the right wife, Rachel, due to our shared DNA. Thank you, Ancestry, for another opportunity to make a new friend and glean new data!

When you are reviewing other trees for accuracy, be sure to check the easy stuff first. How old was the wife when she bore the children? Too old? Too young? Do the family names repeat? There should be some juniors or first born sons named after their grandfathers if you are researching in the 19th century. If you save them without documentation, your own tree should be PRIVATE till you can prove your research, to stop the spreading of false information which is becoming so prevalent in our new hobby!

I hope you are enjoying researching as much as I do. If you're getting frustrated, send me an email at and let's talk. I love looking at other people's trees!

Thanks for stopping by, please like and share this blog and my Facebook page (@WhoIComeFromGenealogy). For the record, I am not compensated by any of the referenced sites in any of these blog posts.


Leslie Ryan


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