‘I can trace my tree back to Adam and Eve’ and other things NOT to expect when starting your genealogy


It’s Back to School and over at Little Bytes of Life Elizabeth O’Neal is asking what we think our students need to learn.   Elizabeth states that our “students” could be:

    • genealogists of any level, from brand-new to advanced,
    • children and/or teens,
    • genealogy bloggers,
    • disinterested family members who roll their eyes when you talk about genealogy
    • even ourselves, sharing something we wish we had known before we started

I thought about some things that I have noticed lately and some things I wish I had known when I started out and wondered if perhaps the new genealogists among us might gain something from my list of things NOT to expect when starting out:

My Top Five List of Things NOT To Expect When Starting Your Genealogy

  1. Do not expect to trace your ancestry back to Adam and Eve. Yes, there really are people who will tell you that they have traced their tree back to biblical times and that you can do the same. And no, it is not possible as it simply cannot be documented. totetude-family-tree-one-kid-md
  2. Do not expect that online trees will offer sourced and proven research that you can easily incorporate into your tree. And never ever simply download a GEDCOM of an online tree into your family history software.  My advice for those wanting to use information from online trees is to be cautious.   More especially when the tree offers no documented sources.  Use the information you find to point you in a direction for further research and adopt the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) in moving forward.  What is the GPS?  It is the process used by genealogists to determine what the minimums are for our work to be considered credible.  More information on the GPS can be found on the site for the Board for Certification of Genealogists  and in the highly recommended book by Christine Rose titled ‘Genealogical Proof Standard:  Building a Solid Case’.  The GPS is definitely something I wish I had been schooled in before I started!
  3. Do not expect that every record you need will be found online. Although there have been huge advances in digitizing and indexing record collections, we are nowhere close to having it all available online. If you are serious about your research you will, at some stage, need to reach out to an archive or other repository without online holdings, and sometimes you may need to make a trip to a local county courthouse yourself.  Lori Samuelson of Genealogy At Heart wrote an excellent post addressing this topic which I think is well worth reading.
  4. Do not expect that you will be able to access every record you need for free. I am constantly amazed at those who complain about having to pay to view a record.  It would be wonderful if every record we needed was freely available but that is not the case and I suspect will never be the case. FamilySearch.org provides all its’ collections for free and there are many free collections on other sites.  However, there will come a time where you will need to pay to access a record.  Companies spend money finding and collecting records, digitizing and indexing them, and creating databases and websites.  They have employees to pay and other costs to recover and of course, a profit to make.  Why should we expect that they make their collections available to us for free?
  5. And perhaps the hardest for those of us passionate about our research…. do not expect that every family member will share your enthusiasm for what you’ve found. Many of them might think you are kind of strange for spending so much time and effort ‘looking for dead people’.   Keep researching anyway!


So what CAN you expect as you start out?  You can expect to find a large and interesting genealogy community full of wonderful people ready to help with any questions you may have.  You should expect to continue to learn and should take advantage of the many webinars, blogs, newsletters, conferences and institutes, genealogical and historical societies and the many experienced genealogists out there willing to share their knowledge.   And in my opinion, you should expect to give back in some manner … index some records (find out more here), volunteer your time and get involved in your local genealogical society,  take photos of a gravestone for someone or offer look up services at your local courthouse, blog about your research so that others also researching those lines may find you and collaborate with you.

There are some things to NOT expect when you are starting out but there are a lot of wonderful things you CAN expect as you get started on the journey to finding your ancestors.


16 thoughts on “‘I can trace my tree back to Adam and Eve’ and other things NOT to expect when starting your genealogy

  1. Great advice, Kindredpast. I actually ran into somebody a couple of days ago who swore up and down that she had traced her ancestry to Adam and Eve. Mmmkay. Thank you for participating in this month’s GBP! 🙂


  2. I totally agree with #2. I use online family trees for clues where to look next and have had reasonably good luck with that, but I would never add information to my tree without independently validating it. I’m also willing to pay for records that can’t be found online–so much better than leaving a question unanswered.


    1. Thanks for your comment! I can’t even imagine what it costs to store the millions of documents that some sites provide access to! I am always happy when something is free (aren’t we all?!) but I am also happy to pay to access a record that I can’t get to any other way.


  3. It’s hard for some people to accept that they can’t just go online and have everything they want handed to them on a silver platter. And the Ancestry.com ads are a big part of the problem in my opinion. I actually had one person say that he wasn’t going to follow up on anything he couldn’t find online.
    Mary Foxworthy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mary, you are so right! Those Ancestry adds make it look like every record is right there just waiting for you to sign up 🙂 Don’t we wish that were true 😉 Thanks so much for your comment!


  4. A lot of fun–thanks for making me smile. It’s almost hard to remember those pre-internet days when we had to hand-crank the microfilm to find documents. So even though I wish everything was online…not yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent suggestions – I especially like the one about everything not being online. Each time I hear someone say they can’t find something and it must not exist, it never fails – they have only looked online.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks so much for your comment! I’ve had the same experience with folks who say that a record just doesn’t exist ‘because they can’t find it online’. 😉 Very frustrating!


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