I will be honest: I use the online trees for clues and leads when I’m stuck or when I’m working on a new-to-me family–leads and clues, not facts. Sometimes it’s just to get me jump-started.
Personally I get the most benefit out of them when the problem is relatively recent and the bulk of the people lived the majority of their life after 1880. There are more records in general and the best tree (not the most common one by any stretch of the imagination) is one that has records attached to it. Of course people do attach wrong records and can make incorrect conclusions (they do that in books as well), but at least one can view the records and see what they have located and decide whether it fits the people in question or not and whether the conclusions drawn are warranted or not.
Ya gotta read and ya gotta think. That’s true anywhere.
Often after a few minutes with a tree one can easily tell if it’s going to potentially have leads worth following or not. It’s good to keep a list of trees that have not been all that helpful. My list is not being shared and it’s not for public consumption.
I recently discovered an online tree that did contain links to records that I had not located in my initial searches for individuals in a new-to-me branch of the family. It also contained some errors in conclusions. As we’ve said before, if you decide to use the trees:
- do not merge the tree data into your data automatically–never ever.
- verify what you see in the trees–always–all the time.
- don’t believe everything you see in the tree-even if it looks like a good apple–there can be a worm lurking inside.
- consider contacting the compiler-especially if it seems as if they are working on making an accurate tree–remember that some tree compilers are good about correcting errors. Others are not.
- think, think, & think.