[Above is a screencap of my first genealogy website, created in 2002]

What are the most important things I wish I had known when I started my family tree?

1. Cite Absolutely Everything

Oh gosh, if I could go back in time and change only one aspect of my research so far, this would be it. I have so much content that is completely unsourced and unverifiable. I merrily collected data and photos and never noted who gave it to me. I ended up having to start completely over with an empty tree last year. Don’t be like me!

2. “Member Hints” are Just That – Hints

Do not blindly accept “hints” offered to you by software like Ancestry. I did this for years and collected a soggy mess of uncited, often incorrect data. Yes, that could be your ancestor – or it could be a mistake that has spread wildly through Ancestry like a virus. Use the hint as a suggestion of where to look for real evidence. Speaking of evidence …

3. Some of the Best Stuff is Not Indexed

FamilySearch is an unbelievable source of scanned documents, but only a tiny percentage of that goldmine has been indexed. “Indexing” is when a human reads the document and types it up in a way that can be searched. Incredibly helpful and incredibly time consuming. I work mainly with Luxembourgish records, and they are almost never indexed. I have to know where to look to find the record I need. I often find that information in LuxRoots!

4. LuxRoots is Worth the Effort

If you are researching Luxembourg ancestry, I’m sure you have heard of LuxRoots.com. I sampled it early on and found the site navigation and payment system completely baffling (I still do). But when I finally sat down and forced myself to figure it out, it was really worth it. There is so, SO much data there.

5. People Want to Help

This can be a lonely hobby, but it doesn’t have to be. I have found so many helpful, earnest, warm-hearted genealogists in Facebook groups. They take time out of their day to answer my questions, translate my record, or guide me in my research. I wish I had joined them sooner!