Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fruits of Genealogy

A recent article in Internet Genealogy magazine was titled "Forbidden Fruits" which will be discussed more later. But it made me realize that we often equate the results of our family history research in the terms of "fruit".

We call the items we discover the fruits of our labor. We search long and hard and when we finally find the desired bit of history, it is every bit as satisfying as biting into a fresh piece of juicy, ripe fruit.

Birth and marriage records that you probably have at home.
These are low-hanging fruits.
Then there are the low hanging fruits. That is the information that is easy to find such as information you already have at home or, census and vital records discovered on easy to access online databases such as or Ancestry Library Edition.

Lastly, are the Forbidden Fruits, the topic of the April/May 2017 issue of Internet GENEALOGY. Sue Lisk, the author of the article, uses the term Forbidden Fruit to discuss the information you find in  other people's published family trees. Some of the fruits of these trees can be diseased, withered or rotten on one side.

She cautions us to to resist adding other people's family trees to our own without evaluating them carefully. She lists six items to look for in assessing someone else's tree:
  1. Is it a healthy tree?
    1. What is the size of the tree? Is it too large? If it has tens of thousand names the researcher probably has not worked on each name individually and carefully. If it is too small, the researcher is probably just getting started and may not have any new information for you.
    2. Do they include the sources of their facts? Information without documentation is pure fiction.
    3. Is the data entered carefully and consistently? Are there lots of misspellings or dates that don't make sense? Like a woman giving birth at either a very young or a very old age.
  2. Study the structure of the tree. 
    1. Does it follow a direct descent from your common ancestor, or is it from a lineal line? Lineal lines might have access to documents that did not get passed on in your line.
    2. Again, do they list the sources of  the material? Verify the data in original sources.
    3. Information on still living individuals should be marked "Private".
  3. Lookout for "grafts". People sometimes insert portions of other people's trees into their own,  intending to come back later and research them more fully. You can recognize grafts by these traits:
    1. They do not list any sources.
    2. They reach beyond the scope of the rest of the tree. If one line is much more fully developed than the rest, it is a graft!
  4. Odd growths on the tree. Often, you will find the same information posted on many people's trees, including the mistakes! When you see this, it means that people have copied someone else's tree into their own.
  5. Examine the crown. Most commonly, the further back you research, the harder it becomes, and necessarily, you have fewer records. Some of the branches won't be as well filled out. If a family tree has LOTS of information going further back, AND the information leads to a famous ancestor or royalty, examine the tree carefully. Check out all connections for yourself.
  6. Watch for falling branches. Other people's trees may contain small mistakes. But because the rest of the tree is well researched and well sourced, you may incorporate the mistakes into your own tree. Check ALL of the information carefully.

Read the complete article and other interesting topics in the magazine. Available at the Medina Library. 

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