Why Should You Prove Your Genealogy?

black and white image of gavel with a notepad and the words why should I prove it

Why should a family historian bother with trying to prove their genealogy research? It’s our tree, we can do what we want, right?!?

What’s the point of creating a family tree if it is full of errors? Folks will claim they:

In many cases, these statements are purely fiction.

A Fact Without Sources is Fiction

The simple truth is that you prove your genealogy because otherwise, you’re just passing off fiction as your family legacy.

Screen capture of genealogy details about Johann Andreas Mack from FamilySearch.
If ancestors on your family tree have no sources, you are likely dealing with fiction.


To put it another way, without supporting evidence you should add the names of your favorite fictional characters as a relative.

Establish the Accuracy of the Facts

Don’t assume that a person on a paper tree or in an online database is accurate, no matter who did the research. Prove the genealogy research by reviewing the research of others, or analyzing your discoveries again.

In my video, Peer Reviewing the Research of Others, I showcase how even a national leader’s tree was full of mistakes.

Often, I come across trees that provide the wrong gender of a relative. In one census, they are listed as a female son but in all other records, they are listed as a female daughter. I felt this relative smile when I straightened out the census errors.

(Check out this video to merge profiles in the FamilySearch Family Tree who have the wrong gender in their profile).

Establish the Accuracy of the Relationships

Many family trees have gnarly tangles resulting from the lack of thorough research. In the past, many researchers were lucky to access vital records and census records. With the rapid pace of online genealogy, modern researchers have access to vital records, census, church records, newspapers, tax records, land records, probate files, city directories, passenger lists, immigration records, and so much more. As such, we are discovering the inaccuracies in the research that preceded our efforts.

  • Researchers discover that more than one Charles Smith lived in a particular area and married a woman named Mary Beauchamp.
  • Genealogists are discovering that some children in a family tree were nieces, nephews, guardians, or other relationships not of their direct issue.
  • Family historians are discovering errors in family records because informants didn’t actually know who the identities of their parent’s parents.

In the past, many researchers built their family trees based on a hand full of records. These days, researchers strive to prove their genealogy by exhausting as many records as possible to answer their question.

A few years ago, Ron Tanner of FamilySearch indicated that as family historians began adding sources and document to profiles on the platform, the number of changes to a profile decreased or stopped altogether.

As researchers share their sources and attempt to prove their genealogy collaboratively, the fighting amongst researchers decreases. (Watch this video from James Tanner about why FamilySearch and it’s open edit family tree is a benefit to the research community.)

Learn More About Your Ancestors and Their World

If you want to become a better genealogist, you should write about your ancestors using supporting documents.

Record by record, you can write birth stories, marriage stories, death stories, and more about your ancestors. You can then piece them together into published books. Don’t worry about writing “The Big Book.” Write a book about one ancestor and discover more about who they are and the world around them.

As you write each story, you may discover further mistakes on your tree that you need to correct. You may discover you’re lacking necessary supporting documents. In short, you will prove your genealogy research all over again as you take time to turn records into written stories.

(If you need help doing this, order and apply the principles in my book A Recipe for Writing Family History.)

As individuals attach sources to their tree, they will learn something about their ancestors beyond chart information. These people become real, rather than fictional characters. 

Find Overlook Relatives as You Prove Your Genealogy

Time and time again, as you prove your genealogy by reviewing what you know, you will look at original sources. You may have looked at them before. Others may have discovered them before you. Regardless, as you peek at the record, you find NEW NAMES!

I taught a feisty gentleman how to build his tree on FamilySearch.org. He was heck bent on telling me there was no one else to find on his tree. It was F-U-L-L!

Wouldn’t you know it, the first record we examined to prove that his genealogy was accurate, we found an overlooked relative.

On a census, a male relative had a child that was not listed on his tree.   The man was silenced and shocked. Upon further review, that overlooked child led to more relatives to add to his tree.

Take time to validate your family tree to catch the overlooked ancestors who are hoping you will find them.

Prove Your Genealogy To Be True

Many cultures for millennia have concerned themselves with who they are and where their ancestors originated. When we take the time to prove our genealogy facts, we ensure that future generations do not feel lied to due to shoddy work (rather than hidden secrets).

Black and white photo of gavel and a note pad with question mark with the words Why should I prove it?

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

6 thoughts on “Why Should You Prove Your Genealogy?

  1. Thank you for your service at the family history center! I have been working in my ward to inspire people to seek out the stories and sources first. Slowly, their hearts are changing.

  2. Thank you, great lesson. I know people always come to the family history center and just want to find a name to take to the temp,e. I know it's more than that and always tell them to start finding sources for their ancestors. Such great stories to be found.

  3. I have submitted several patriots for the American Revolution and the Civil War. As I put all this information gleemed from documents into a timeline, I begin to see their life. These names become real family that walked this earth. I can begin to put a biography together for others. Those family members that have not been bitten bu this adictive hobby called Genealogy❤️ I have just realized that I have been doing this for almost 20 years..,not bad considering when I started as far as I knew was my Greatgrandfathers name. I have found Civil War, Revolutionary War Patriots and am now working on my Mayflower. All documentation accounted for. I am so very proud of our very rich family history, I never would have discovered, were it not for Genealogy.

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