The Perils of Ancestry (.com)

I admit, when I started building my family tree on Ancestry, I got super excited whenever I saw the shaky leaf symbol that indicated a hint and enthusiastically added the suggested person to my tree. Then I went back over it, trying to find the record that indicated a connection – and often found the hint was instead generated by someone else’s undocumented tree.

The problem with this is that, without a record or source for that info, trees quickly become quagmires of mix-ups, double-ups, and straight out errors. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen trees with several versions of the same spouse, or children born after their supposed parents died, or even names that don’t match the record they’re linked to! When you gather with other genealogy geeks, you quickly learn that trees on Ancestry are considered dubious, for these very reasons.

Part of that is because Ancestry is great at pushing DNA testing, but less so at introducing people to family history research. If you’re a newbie, as I was, you have to go elsewhere to figure out the first steps and standards of genealogical research.

I was lucky in that I’ve trained and worked as a researcher before, so I managed to avoid some of the pitfalls, and quickly worked out how to improve my research.

And so, for NZers who are new to genealogy, I highly recommend Auckland Libraries’ guide to family history research, as well as these videos on starting your genealogical journey put out by the NZ Society of Genealogists, and an excellent book by Anne Bromell called “New Zealand Beginner’s Guide to Family History Research”. If you’re on Facebook, a good group to join is Genealogy New Zealand and Beyond.