How to handle people posting facts on Ancestry.com that are not true?

How to handle junk on Ancestry Trees

Ancestry.com member trees provide a useful platform to share genealogical data. However, not everything in an online tree is accurate and you shouldn’t accept information without validation. What do you do when you encounter individuals who post inaccurate information in online trees?

Double check the accuracy of all information before you add it to your tree

You will soon find that people have connected themselves, on Ancestry and other websites, to Thor and Priam of Troy.

Did you catch that?

FICTIONAL CHARACTERS!

If egregious errors can appear, you can bet smaller errors lurk on member trees. I’ve found my own errors. Folks have questioned some of my theories until they share new information with me. Every high quali ty genealogist has made mistakes. You might have one, or two.

In the video, I share an example that keeps popping up on my line for the potential father of Charles Gordon who was born in Pennsylvania and died in Ohio.

Discussion of Charles Gordon begins at 1:47

So always double-check information before you add anything new to your family tree.

Check Your Work, You Could Be Wrong

Every genealogist makes mistakes. Mistakes include transcription errors and deliberate falsification. Some researched created conclusions based on the best available information at the time.

Before your blood pressure raises when you encounter “junk,” be sure you know your facts and have based your conclusions on a reasonably exhaustive search of quality records.

Is it possible to fix the trees of others on Ancestry?

The problem with users, who have their trees on Ancestry and other platforms, is each person have ‘THEIR TREE.’

Few individuals like to admit they made a mistake. Many insist they are right and everyone else is wrong. They don’t want your input. They can do whatever they want.

However, there are some folks, like myself, who will happily reevaluate my research when someone shared quality information. Hopefully, you’ll encounter someone open to working together. They may have new information for you to consider. Perhaps you’ll have further details for them. In either case, hopefully, you’ll come to a resolution of your conflict, and both adjust your trees.

Which will you encounter? You’ll never know unless you contact them.

Steps to Attempting to Correct Junk Information

  1. Reach Out
    Reach out to any person with an error in their tree. Share your reasons they may have an inaccuracy and request their feedback.
  2. Write Up
    If you encounter a stubborn individual, let them be (while gritting your teeth). In the meantime, be proactive and write up what you believe to be accurate. Reference your source material and refute the inaccurate information.
  3. Share
    Create a document, such as a PDF, and attach that to your Ancestry.com profile in the Media Gallery. Don’t just stop there. Create additional content away from the Ancestry platform such as a blog, a genealogy society newsletter, or a published family history. Push the more accurate information throughout the likely spaces for researchers to encounter. Make sure your research is available.
  4. Be Patient or Move On
    Sadly, Ancestry.com member trees are hard to correct if someone is inflexible. You have to ignore folks who stubbornly believe they descend from Thor and Odin, or in my case think a man was born in Pennsylvania to individuals from North Carolina who don’t appear to have ever left that state.

Be Prepared for Compounded Errors Due to ThruLines

Ancestry.com has rolled out ThruLines, which for better or worse, draws suggested relationships from public and private searchable trees. Your red flag radar may likely scream, “Wait! This will only compound the errors caused by inaccurate trees!”

It’s possible the ThruLines will help Ancestry users find new paths to previously unknown genetic cousins. Conversely, ThruLines may esclate the problem of inaccurate facts on member trees. It’s too soon to tell.

Therefore, be cautious about the ThruLines. At some point, you might have to ignore the suggestions.

Those are my tips, but I want to hear from you. What do you do?

Posts like these come about through our survey, which you can respond to here. Your questions may become a future blog post or video.

For more videos about Ancestry.com, be sure to check out this playlist:

Follow these tips for handling the false information that appears on Ancestry Member trees. #ancestors #genealogy #research
Family History Fanatics

Family History Fanatics

Andy, Devon Noel, and Caleb Lee are the Family History Fanatics who have been excited about genealogy for over 40 years, collectively. We have a top rated YouTube channel in the genealogy niche and continue to grow every day. Andy and Devon travel to conferences to teach in person, join webinars that others put on, and host and promote their own virtual genealogy conferences. We also have published seven books on genealogy, DNA, and memory keeping. In short, we're everywhere you want to learn, Blog, Video, Print, and Conferences! Support us by visiting FamilyHistoryFanatics.com to learn more.

10 thoughts on “How to handle people posting facts on Ancestry.com that are not true?

  1. You’re absolutely correct about ThruLines compounding errors throughout the system. A few years ago, I looked at who had saved some photos of my grandparents, checked that person’s tree, and reached out to say (nicely) that the person’s tree was not correct but I was happy to share what I know, sources and all. The answer I got back was (quote): “Oh, I did this for a friend, just real quickly using what she told me, and I’ll let her know what you said.” Fast-forward to this week, when I see the incorrect garbage from that tree showing up on ThruLines. No sense trying to talk sense into this person, since it isn’t her tree. How do I know my tree is correct? SOURCES prove it. Plus, it’s my own grandpa, who I know for a fact didn’t remarry after grandma died, since grandpa lived with us after he was widowed. On the other person’s tree, my grandpa remarried…more than once 😉 Thank you for letting me rant!

    1. Marian,

      Rant away. That’s frustrating that folks aren’t willing to update the trees they are the contact person for. This is one reason I don’t like “My Tree” Platforms. I remember the days when I posted my trees on GeoCities. I had let it slide for a few years and went back to find out I had so many errors (perpetuated by GEDCOM file sharing without sources). I took down the website to eliminate the errors. However, I still find folks citing me as the source of their bad information. It’s important to correct errors that I created. Why couldn’t this person take down that tree or fix it? I know not.

  2. I have a story too. Someone posted one of those old charcoal drawings of a father, mother, and daughter as a child, supposedly my 3X great-grandmother. First of all, the clothing didn’t match the period when she would have been a child. Then when I asked what made her think this was our ancestor, she replied, “Oh it probably isn’t. She just has the same name.” What the heck!

  3. Do NOT let it bother you, Just make sure you tree is correct for your family. Recheck your documentation and know you are correct. Inform Ancestry that you disagree, but there isn’t much you can do if the other party only wants names and NO documentation. I had that problem and I had the documents for prove, she did not care. Oh well!

  4. Actually one of these people is related to me. I had a destant cousin who did a family tree (our side included) and when my mom saw it she noticed that he had her dad’s (AKA my grandpa) birthdate wrong. When she pointed this out to him he got frustrated and angry. He’s never changed the date and now he’s gone. Not only that but through some documentation we found we have discovered that this was not the only mistake he made. Although there are places in the tree where even he states that what he has might not be accurate. Still I do see this as a dimly lit path that I can follow to check and then double check to see if I’m on the right track.

    1. Sadly, many people won’t change their tree, and when they pass, the falsehoods are challenging to quash. Many genealogists have errors in their tree, so collectively, we should all be open to others, challenging our accuracy. It’s not meant to attack your methodology but to substantiate it and collaborate.

  5. Susan Spencer married William Hoffman and lived and died in Indiana.
    Susan Hoffman married Samuel Snyder and lived in Ohio, moved to Iowa, and died there.
    They are clearly not the same person. However, there is a tree on Ancestry that has Susan Spencer Hoffman also married to Samuel Snyder, and includes their son Alfred (my grandpa) in that tree. The timeline is like “married William Hoffman. Had x children. Married Samuel Snyder. Had son Alfred. Had child by William Hoffman. Husband William Hoffman dies. Husband Samuel Snyder dies.” It doesn’t make sense.
    I have 1900 census records for both families in their respective states.
    The woman who has this tree hasn’t been on Ancestry in over a year (including before I sent her a message about it, apparently). So I just check her profile from time to time to see if she’s been on yet.

    1. I know how frustrating this is. This is one of the problems of not having a collaborative tree. Who knows how close the tree owner was to the case and whether they realize their mistake. So, I hope the tips helped and then we have to let it lie. (Sadly).

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