As a beginner genealogist you are excited to get started on your family tree. But there are some common mistakes that you need to avoid in order to successfully build your family tree.
Don’t let the idea that you are descended from famous people obsess you. Although it is fun to think about, most people will have a mix of good and bad relatives. Some may be famous in their own way, but have never made it into the history books. And you may end up being related to a famous person in some peripheral way, but it is a mistake to let it become the main focus of your family tree research.
Yet another common mistake is to take it at face value that family stories are 100% accurate. Often there is a grain of truth to family folklore, but it has been twisted over time so that it isn’t entirely accurate. Whenever a story gets passed around, it changes just a little with each re-telling of it. So, over many generations, the story becomes less and less close to what really happened. Use family stories as a base from which to launch your investigation, rather than as facts. One of your jobs as a genealogist is to verify all the facts that you collect.
Keeping all those facts straight can be a challenge so you will want to be sure that you start your family tree research with some sound organization. Develop a system that makes sense to you. You can use binders with pocket dividers or keep everything on the computer in files under appropriate folders. Lack of any organizational system is a common mistake for any beginner in genealogy and it can cause a lot of problems. Staying on track with a system will prevent you from covering the same ground twice, confusing folks with similar names and losing information altogether. It really is the foundation to any successful family research.
A fourth mistake that is commonly made by beginners is overlooking living relatives. Always make sure that you contact all of your relatives, even if they are distant relatives or you have lost contact with them. You just never know when you will stumble upon someone who has already done a lot of research and can help you with yours.
Finally, share what you learn! Some people think that no one else could be interested in their personal family tree, so there is no need to post it online. But that is a huge mistake. There are people out there searching for information that you hold so post it online, join forums and use the social media to reach let others know that you have gathered information about your surname. One of the rewarding aspects of genealogy is all the new people you will meet. I’ve discovered distant cousins that I never new existed, yet now call friends and you can too!