Clutter in the Family Tree

I wanted to post a quick hello to my followers old and new, and assure you that I have not dropped off the map.  I’m currently in the middle of some pretty exciting research into my Sicilian and Czech lines respectively, and hope to have some good information to share about these latest adventures.

In the meantime, here’s something to think about while I’m off in research mode: Clutter in the Family Tree.

When you are a new family tree researcher, or perhaps even after years of research experience, it is sometimes tempting to enter some information into your tree that you’re just not quite sure about.  You hope someday you’ll return to clean it up, but let’s be honest, it doesn’t always happen.  If you’re anything like me, you’re guilty of this.  And it’s bad.  And I’ll tell you why.

Clutter in the family tree is the same as in your home.  In my house every flat surface has something on it.  It’s almost as if I cannot leave a flat surface bare!  If I don’t stay on top of it, the flat surface soon hosts a pile of mail, shopping bags, kitty toys, mittens (it gets cold where I am baby!).  Soon when I come home I can’t find a spot to set down my purse!  And I really need to set that purse down because it is heavy!  And necessary!  And proven to be the real deal!  And it’s cute!  It has proven itself to be worthy of a flat surface to rest upon.

The same principle applies to your family tree.  If you allow the clutter to accumulate, soon you will not be able to find a flat surface to set the correct information on.

I have this issue in my own tree.  A long time ago I put down the name of a woman who I thought was my ancestor’s husband.  Soon I added children to the marriage because I knew they were her children but not really sure if they were his.  Now, going back it turns out that this woman was not married to my ancestor at all!  And now I have managed to put this bad information into my own tree, but also am truly not sure where else this bad information may have been posted!  It is going to take a heroic effort to clean up this “pile” of bad information.  And unlike some who may just let it be, I feel the obligation to go back and try my best to correct this bad data as best I can.  What a mess.

Now that I’m more experienced, do I still allow clutter to be added to my tree?  I try not to, but certainly I am guilty of wanting to add people or connections to my tree that may not be proved.  But now what I do is I create an “alternate” tree starting with the clutter and when I confirm that this is correct, I can add it back into my main tree.  And my main tree is hopefully, going forward, the source of my truth on the subject.

When in doubt, do not add.  Leave names, dates, places, anything blank until you have proven the fact to yourself through good primary sources and good research.  It’s OK to leave a blank surface.

Oh, and go clean off your kitchen table while you’re at it.