Genealogy Tip of the Day: July 2, 2015

Let’s talk about accuracy.

We want to believe that our ancestors and everyone who wrote down data about them always used the same spelling, but if you have been working on your family history for any length of time, you know that’s not true.

In my great-grandmother’s case, I have seen her name spelled so many different ways, it nearly makes my head spin. Augusta Hermanie Meyn …


These are a few of the permutations. I go with Meyn because that’s on the gravestone of her parents and some of her siblings.

So when I’m trying to find information about her, I am kind of liberal about how her name is spelled, but I still try to make sure that I have the right person when accepting hints on Ancestry or Family Search, especially when accepting information from someone else’s family tree.

Because you simply don’t know — unless that person has cited accurate sources — if the information is correct.

I was recently looking up my paternal grandfather (Alfred Charles Snyder) on Ancestry and found him and his parents (Samuel Grant Snyder and Susan Hoffman) listed in someone’s tree.

The Susan Hoffman in the other tree was actually Susan Spencer Hoffman, married to William Hoffman, and they had several children. The other person believes that because Susan Spencer Hoffman was Susan Hoffman, she must be the same Susan Hoffman as the one that married Samuel Grant Snyder.

Which is simply not the case.

Susan Hoffman married Samuel Grant Snyder and they had several children. The only one who is in the other tree is my grandfather, born in 1900. The 1900 census has Samuel and Susie Snyder, along with their sons Wallace and Glen (Grandpa was born in September, so not listed in the 1900 census). The other Susan Hoffman was listed with her husband William Hoffman and their children. In addition, William and Susan Hoffman had another child after 1900, so she clearly couldn’t be married to Samuel Snyder.

No, she wasn’t a bigamist. It’s just a case of mistaken identity.

So, try to be accurate when you enter information. Try to determine as positively as you can if you have the right person. Maybe write things down on paper until you are sure, before adding a person to your family tree. A timeline would probably help, as well.

I did message the person who added my grandfather and his parents to her family tree, but she hasn’t been on Ancestry in three months. At this point, there’s nothing I can do except try to make sure my research is as accurate as possible.

Oh, and cite my sources!

Gritting My Teeth About Online Family Trees
5 Ways To Tell If Your Genealogy Research Is Accurate
7 Common Genealogy Research Mistakes to Avoid

This tip has been brought to you by WCGS President Carol Foltz.

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