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Genealogy Research

Avoid Common Mistakes in Your Genealogy Research!

Recognize and avoid common genealogy mistakes in your family history research. Grow a healthier family tree!

Are you making one of these common genealogy mistakes in the search for your ancestors?

Genealogy mistakes happen, and these common genealogy mistakes I’m going to share with you?

Well, I’ve made them all at some point in my research. 😲 Let’s keep that from happenng to you!

Genealogy Mistake #1 – Making Assumptions!

One of the biggest and easiest mistakes genealogy enthusiasts make is making assumptions. 

We may assume our ancestors did the “normal” or usual thing. They stayed in one area. They got married and had children in the “usual” order. They were upstanding citizens. The family’s oral history is correct.

You get the picture.

Avoid this common mistake by questioning everything!

I made the classic mistake of assuming my 4th grandparents married and had children in the usual order.  I spend years in search of a marriage record and other records on their life together. 

As it turns out, they had a much less conventional relationship. They never married, but had many children. She did not want to give up her rights to property she owned to a man with a gambling problem.

Because I had assumed they had married and had children, I lost out on a lot of research time and learned a valuable lesson.

If you’ve made an incorrect assumption in your genealogy research, let me know in the comments! 

Genealogy Mistake #2 – Going Too Fast

A mistake made by many people pursuing their ancestors is simply going too fast! 

Finding an ancestor in the records is exciting. I understand that completely. After all these years of researching my own ancestors, I still get a thrill when I  discover an ancestor in a new record.

Yes, the genealogy dance is real!

Researchers can find themselves rushing through that ancestor’s record to find the next one, and the danger is overlooking vital clues to your research in that document. Resist the urge to rush through a record.

The records we use in genealogy research were created for a reason. Take the time to understand the purpose of the document and exactly what the document is telling you about your ancestor. This can point you to more resources.

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Genealogy Mistake #3 – Not Checking Databases for Updates

Do you regularly go back and re-check previously searched databases for updates?

We live in a digital age and many genealogy related databases are being updated. The major databases of, FindMyPast, MyHeritage and FamilySearch frequently update and add to their collections. 

Sign up for company’s email list to learn about the latest updates and additions to their databases.

Remember that state and local archives, genealogy societies, cemetery sites such as FindaGrave and are being updated, too. 

Put a reminder on your calendar for every few months to do a quick check for new records and collections on your most frequented genealogy databases.  Your brick wall buster may only be one newly digitized collection away!

Learn more about new record collections on the major genealogy databases in How To Find NEW Records on the BIG Four (4) Genealogy Databases.

Genealogy Mistake #4 – Failing to Review Previous Research

Failing to review your previous research is a common mistake among researchers. 

If you are stuck trying to find an ancestor, go back and start at the beginning. Put away all preconceived  ideas about your ancestor and review the research you have done. 


When you have been working tracing an ancestor for a length of time – and many researchers have long standing brick walls – you have gathered a lot of information on your ancestor.

You have also gained a lot of research experience and are a different researcher than you were at the beginning. Reviewing your previous research on an ancestor allows you to recognize new clues you did not recognize as important at the time of your earlier research.


Remember, genealogy mistakes will happen. We are human, after all. Let’s minimize those mistakes, so none of us will have to chop a branch off that family tree. That’s a painful experience!

Keep Learning

Keep building your genealogy research skills with this video on census research.

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  • Joe Garonzik


    If you plan to do another “avoid common mistakes” article, you might be interested in reviewing/noting our little book, SUSTAINABLE GENEALOGY, by Richard Hite, which I would be happy to send you.

    Joe Garonzik

  • C.A.

    My Father’s maternal grandfather had 3 wives, where 1 marriage was registered but the other 2 were not. For the last few years, I have been searching for the MOTHER of my Father’s MOTHER together with this grandfather. I have only one Canadian Census, 1906 ( June) and then she dies in September 1906.(no death certificate). The grandmother was Sara Gross (no maiden name given) together with August Wilhelm Gross. I do not know how to proceed. She has an immigration record of 1904 but she was one of the names (300) that were detained and examined at the NewYork Harbour. The ship had been undergoing fumigation and sterilization of the baggage as it crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the 10 day trip from Bremen, Germany to New York City Harbour. How could I find out more info about the quarantine ? Being from West Prussia , this grandmother, I cannot find anything about her. Any suggestions ?

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