When creating our family history, we want it to be accurate, not only so that we ourselves know who we are, but so that those who follow in our footsteps can build off of accurate family history work. But how do we know if our family history is accurate?
Am I Using Accurate Sources?
Keep your family history accurate by only using trustworthy sources. The best way to do this is with primary sources, or secondary sources you can trace back to a primary source. (For a list detailing what sources are primary or secondary, see our previous blog post here). Tempting as it is to trust rumors, never record a story as fact unless you can find documented proof.
How Can I Tell if My Facts Are Accurate?
If the information you’ve found has been listed the same way in multiple locations, chances are its accurate. If you have found the information on a primary source, again, it’s most likely accurate. However, if you’ve only found information from a secondary or third source off the internet, double check it. Some people may change birth dates or other facts to make their history more coherent, not realizing the Joe Smith they’ve found isn’t the same Joe Smith in their family.
At the same time though, keep an eye out for phonetic spellings. Joe Smith and Joe Smyth may actually be the same person, especially in the older days before name spelling became standardized. Compare birth dates and other facts to ensure that they are the same person.
How Do I Know if Other’s Information is Wrong?
If other’s information doesn’t match up with what you’re finding, try to follow the trail back to where they got their information. If you can follow it back to primary sources, it’s most likely accurate. However, if no sources have been cited, or you can’t find the primary source, the information may be inaccurate, and should not be integrated into your family tree. As painful as it is to find a source and not use it, it’s better to not use it than record inaccurate information that other people may then record from you.
Am I an Accurate Source?
If you’ve followed all of these guides, then you can make sure that those who follow in your footsteps know you’ve done your work correctly by citing your own sources. If you are unfamiliar with, or need to brush up on source citing, learn how here.
Once you’ve found your family tree and have dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s, be sure to share your findings with your family. Preserve memories and history with MyCanvas.com‘s free family tree templates!