Ancestry is famous for the “shaky leaf.” The ads tell us how all you have to do is click. Voila, the next three generations of your family tree will appear. While I love the premise, a computer driven search that quickly find new information, I don’t always love the result.
Why? Because those “shaky leaves” sometimes include things you shouldn’t copy – especially family trees.
Ancestry family trees can provide great hints, but they are not a source in themselves! Beware of the lineage. Often users will give names and dates without explaining where they came from. Think about this for a minute. This is the equivalent of having your grandmother say “my fifteenth great-grandfather was born in…” Would you believe her immediately or would you want more proof? Also, pay attention to what photos are posted and where they came from before you include them in your tree. An image posted by another user may be subject to copyright. I just had a hint come in my tree about one of my ancestors. Someone had copied a photo I had taken of their gravestone and posted it to Ancestry in violation of my copyright. Others had copied the photo from that user and further violated the law. You need to think before you copy.
How do you know if the information is valid? When in doubt, use common sense. Birth dates after death dates are probably wrong. If you’re not sure, ask!