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How Accurate Will a Self-Performed Genealogy Search Be?


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Type: Article
Prepared by: Elizabeth Larsen
Word Count: 528 (approx.)
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How accurate a self-performed genealogy will be is up to the researcher.

It is very easy to be led astray by sloppy records unless extreme diligence is followed. However, it is very possible to perform your own genealogy search.

If you are the researcher, start with yourself. You can hardly go wrong there as you know your full name, using maiden name instead of married, and your birth and baptism dates, marriage date, graduation dates and other pertinent ones just for you.

Then, look into your parents. Usually you know all those important names and dates. Find your grandparents by asking relatives, searching the family Bible or searching closets, cedar chests and old boxes of saved correspondence.

Ask a lot of questions of any available relatives and friends. Jot down all notes and save them as you never know what will be valuable later on. Well written and accurate books are invaluable for helping you start out on an extended search. You will learn how to find land, marriage, birth, death, military and census records.

This is where things get interesting. You will start to wonder if you really know your own name. We are all human and humans make mistakes. Exhausted doctors may record the wrong name or date. Census takers are notorious for mixing up sexes and dates. Many of your grandparents were immigrants and hard to understand when the census taker asked questions.

Marriage records are usually accurate as the people involved are in good health and spirits and there are witnesses. Death records are not so accurate as the people are bereaved and may not even know the right names. It is not uncommon to find the wrong names or even no names for parents of the deceased. My family did not know my grandmother's maiden name. I found it in the wonderful books written by Riobard O'Dwyer about the Beara Peninsula in Ireland.

Always keep an open mind. That is the most important thing to remember in order to maintain the accuracy of your research. Names changed, dates changed, counties changed boundaries, people tell little fibs about their birth dates or maybe they can't remember when they immigrated.

You do not need a licensed genealogist if you are able to travel to the area where your ancestors originated and find their records or if you have access to a computer. All records will be online someday.

Pretend you are a crime scene investigator and find as much evidence as possible. Then, look through and organize that evidence. When you have enough amassed, send away for original documents such as, birth, death and marriage certificates. If these all match and you can find your family all together in the census, you probably have the right ancestors.

Probably? Yes, you still keep an open mind. There may be cousins popping out of the computer and they might have different data. It is very possible to perform your own accurate search but use all the help available and document every single thing you read or write.

Elizabeth Larsen has researched her family tree for 35 years. For more information on beginning a good genealogy, lots more tips and reliable web pages go to

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