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The importance of checking your facts

Check, check and check again!

With family history research it is easy to get carried away when you find something online that at first glance seems to fit perfectly into your family tree.

A few words of warning though…

You need to check that what you have found is:

  1. Accurate
  2. The correct information for the person you are seeking

Be wary of Ancestry hints

Ancestry give you hints (shown as little green leaves on the top of each person in your tree) however some of these are incorrect. Ensure that they are for the right person as they could be for someone else in your tree (especially if the same names are repeated).

Check your years – is it the right generation?

For example, it could be the correct name but the wrong year of birth indicating a previous or subsequent generation.

Also be aware that someone’s age may be recorded inaccurately. You may find several records relating to the same person which are all partly correct and some may have different dates of birth. The 1939 census recorded adult ages in 5 year increments so someone would be 35 or 40 when they were really 33 or 38.

Check the place

It could be the correct person but in a different place to that which you were expecting. I found this on one of my great grandfathers (Charles Cox) and discovered he had an earlier marriage and his first daughter Anne was the child of this marriage.

You also need to be aware of different names/spellings etc

Someone called Thomas might be Tom, Thos, or Thomas on a written record. Any (or none) of these could be the person you are seeking.

Transcription errors

Check the document itself if it has been transcribed as some of the earlier handwriting is very difficult to read. You will also be more familiar with the names you are looking for and sometimes they will just jump out at you.

I came across a situation where a record had actually been missed off the transcription but was shown clearly on the original document (right at the bottom though and not where I expected it to appear)

A final check

If you check your records carefully and if it seems correct and it fits with what you already know is correct then do add it to your family tree information. 

If you are unsure, Ancestry allows you to mark as “Undecided” or you can save to your Shoebox so you can look at it again later. 

Good luck with your fact checking!

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