Creating an accurate family tree may be a challenge. But, if you’ve discovered errors already in your family tree, it’s more doable than you may think. These 6 secrets can help you refine your searches and find the most accurate information for your genealogy.

Get sloppy with spelling

Before licences and other strict spelling records, name variations were extremely common. Even census workers often misspelled names. Or, because they were in a hurry, they abbreviated in strange ways. For example, Margaret may have become Margret or Magret very easily on a record. That’s to say nothing of a difficult-to-spell surname. Be flexible with your names from the 1800s back!

You don’t need to travel to do genealogy

Almost everything nowadays is online or quickly being indexed. You can do almost all of your genealogy right at home. And even if a record is inaccessible online, sites like Ancestorcloud reach out to on-site genealogists who can get you the information you need.

Beware of errors

Many times, overzealous amateur family historians will connect family members of a similar name and place without checking facts. Especially when building off of other people’s trees, you may find “parents” that actually died prior to their children’s birth or a marriage date. Or, you may find an ancestor who apparently lived for over 150 years! Search for the original sources if you can, and take dates with a grain of salt. has some features that can catch this kind of misinformation.

Talk to your older relatives

And do it today! Write down what they remember, or get audio recordings of their stories. Then find records: photos, articles, obituaries, military papers, etc. Getting your information from the original source will keep it as accurate as possible. Plus, it’s fun to find these articles firsthand!

Be flexible with military records

If you’re having trouble finding the records of a veteran ancestor, especially during WWI and WWII, try searching for a slightly earlier birth year. Many men lied about their ages to be able to enlist in these wars.

Oral and family histories may not always be true

People embellish, underplay tragedies and shame, or forget simple facts. Like the genealogist’s version of the telephone game, facts distort through the generations. Your family may not have actually come over on the Mayflower or fought in the Revolutionary War, despite how fascinating and important these stories may sound.

Your surname also was probably not changed by customs at Ellis Island. Many families actually changed their own names on arrival so they would sound more American. Make sure you research these kinds of stories carefully to get the truth of your ancestry.


How have you made your family tree more accurate? We want to hear!