Posted by on March 22, 2014 in Research

We all make mistakes – especially when we are brand new to family history. In this video Crista Cowan shares some best practices for identifying and correcting common mistakes in your family tree. She’ll also share a few bonus tips for correcting mistakes in the trees of others.



  1. Adriana

    Thank you for posting this video. I always like a reintroduction to the basics. Sometimes you get so ‘into’ a genealogical project that you forget to go over your information again. You just assume all your prior work was correct. I randomly started looking at a person I thought was “done.” I found two incorrect records and I found a piece of missing information, a father-in-law, I was looking for for years! It’s worth it review even your most thoroughly researched ancestors.

  2. Glenna

    Crista! Thank you so much for this video. I typically do all my research and data entry, etc., from FTM, simply because I feel the consistency is important. I’m, therefore, not that familiar with a lot of the things you can do from the online tree. I have a small test tree I’ve been working on, trying to tie an aunts’ first husband to his step-brothers, and I think I’m going to work this one strictly from Ancestry. This should be a great learning tool.

    I sincerely hope a lot of people watched this video because you answered a lot of questions people ask on the FB site.

    You’re awesome….thanks!!

  3. Donna L. A. Glazier

    I just watched the video on finding mistakes in the family tree and I found it very informative. I learned some of it from trial and error. But I did not know the correct way of entering dates and so now I have a lot of correcting to do. Also, I usually add the mother’s married name in parenthasis, and I guess that messes with the automated system. So I will need to also correct that. This video was very helpful. Thank you very much. Donna

  4. Linda J. Barnes

    Another GREAT video, Crista! You answered questions I never thought to ask! I especially appreciated your info on the correct way to input names and dates. Some of it I knew but never realized that without using a standard format that it would impede possible connections! Love your videos, girl!! Keep ’em coming!!

    Thanks ever so much!

    Linda @ The N J Shore ~~~~~

  5. Mike

    Great job Crista! Very informative, direct and full of good specific directions. Many will benefit from watching this. I know I have.

    I would add a word of caution when merging. Compare CAREFULLY before you do the merge. Many times people live in the same area with the same exact name but are two different people. I normally will merge two people only when It is plainly obvious the two are the same person.
    I just ran across this yesterday when someone doing a line before me added sources from two people with the same name in together. I had to go back to the records and leave notes regarding who was who.

    I have also seen where a person fixing “doubles” did so with their photographs, and all of a sudden “Aunt Mary” was titled “Great grandmother Gertrude” and confusion was the order of the day for not only the person, but anyone having that photo in their own tree. My suggestion is that if you have a double photograph simply delete the one you don’t need.

    Happy paper trails…

  6. Graham Stephenson

    Is there any chance you can increase the video resolution for your videos? I am able to select up to 480p in the YouTube settings but it’s still quite grainy. 720p or 1080p would be ideal. I assume you might be using Camtasia Studio or similar software and you’d need to do this as part of the recording or upload process.

    Always enjoy your talks Crista!

  7. Jeanean Warner

    Thank you for the informative video! You have cleared up a few things for me and I will be fixing my mistakes. It also helps to review what we think we know. I always learn something new and useful when I watch the videos.

    Thank you very much for sharing,

  8. Christa is likely related to me. I have Shipman in my tree. LOL

    Warning gluten intolerance runs in the the family not sure of the source branch.

    Halsey Shipman was my great grandfather.

  9. Ken Hinds

    I have a suggestion for making it easier to identify some
    common mistakes.

    We’ve all seen those trees that have someone born before
    their father, or when their mother was 82, or some other
    combination that clearly doesn’t make sense. Sometimes
    it’s just a typo, sometimes it’s a mistaken connection.
    How about if those inconsistencies are highlighted on the
    Person Overview page?

    For example, if someone is shown born in 1823 but her
    father was born in 1850, draw a red box around both birth
    dates. If someone was born in 1870 but his mother died in
    1848, draw a red box around his birth date and her death
    date. If someone was born in 1903 but has a marriage date
    in 1862, draw a red box around the birth date and marriage
    date. If two children were born less than 9 months apart
    but not on the same day, draw a red box around each birth

    When you view the individual the problems will jump out at
    you, without having to go to a separate report. Similarly,
    if you’re looking at someone else’s tree for clues about a
    person you’re researching and see a bunch of red, you’ll
    know you need to do a little more digging before accepting
    what is shown.

    This should be fairly easy to program, and would help in
    improving the quality of trees.

  10. Laurice Johnson

    Will there ever be a way to generate an ‘errors’ or ‘duplicate people’ report for the ancestry tree separate from FTM? I have over 5000 people in my tree and going through each person or 100 at a time on the alphabetical listing is just overwhelming to me. I do try to check each person when I pull up their individual page, and make the merges when I find them, but it seems like an endless task.

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