For Mother’s Day, I wrote a post about taking your tree back as far as you can go on your matrilineal line: I Can Take My Tree All The Way Back to Eve. How Far Does Your Matrilineal Line Go? Some who saw the headline for the post thought I meant Adam and Eve from the Bible. But if you read the post, you know I didn’t mean Eve of Adam and Eve. It was just trying to draw you into the article.
But, it got me thinking.. Could you do it? And how would you do it?
Well, you do it the same way you do everything else in genealogy. You build your tree one generation at a time using the Genealogical Proof Standard.
It’s the same process you would follow if you are trying to prove the family legend about how you are part Native American. Or that you are a descendant of a Mayflower Pilgrim. Or that your ancestor fought in the Revolutionary War. You do it one generation at a time. Analyzing your sources and documenting as you go.
For every generation, we recommend you follow the tried and true 5-step process that we covered in 5 Steps to a Healthy Family Tree:
- Conduct a Reasonably Exhaustive Search. Collect as much documentation that you can to prove the previous generation.
- Cite Your Sources. If you don’t know where the information came from how can you evaluate how reliable it is? And if you don’t write down where you found it, you will have to search for it all over again. And again. And again.
- Analyze Your Findings. Compare and contrast the data that you have. Don’t take anything at face value.
- Resolve Conflicting Evidence. Was someone born in 1893 or 1897? How do you decide which birth year is right and why did you decide that. Again, if you don’t write it down, you won’t remember later. (Yes, I’ve been burned by this!)
- Write Your Conclusions. Do you sense a theme here? Write It Down!
As for the trees that go back to Adam and Eve, are they correct? I personally haven’t seen one that is documented and analyzed to the degree that fits the 5-step Genealogical Proof Standard. But if you have, send me a link.
In the meantime, I’ll get back to extending my own family beyond my 3rd great grandmother Eve, trying to break down brick walls, uncovering my ancestors’ stories and hopefully inspiring a few of you along the way with new ideas—and having you inspire me in return.
But if you are trying to determine if something you see in a book, in an online tree or in a document is true, run it through the microscope of the 5 steps. If you do that and you feel like a fact passes muster, then you can feel pretty good about it.
As one of my favorite genealogists, J. Mark Lowe, is known to say, “Mull and Ponder.” It’s easy to get excited and start growing your tree as far and quickly as you can, but if you slow down a bit and think about what you see, you might not move as fast or far, but your results will be better.
About Anne Gillespie Mitchell
Anne Gillespie Mitchell is a Senior Product Manager at Ancestry.com. She is an active blogger on Ancestry.com and writes the Ancestry Anne column. She has been chasing her ancestors through Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina for many years. Anne holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook and Finding Forgotten Stories.