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How many trees does a genealogist need?

By Amber Lowery

Perhaps the real question is: is there such a thing as TOO MANY trees? I would answer that with a resounding NO. But then, I probably have my own forest of trees by now, and I am all for saving the trees. Why so many trees, though? 

Each genealogist is different, so each person has their own method for collecting information and sorting and separating it. Some people like to work with one big tree and keeping everything in one place. Others like to separate their maternal and paternal trees, or create new ones for spouses and partners. Then there are people like me. I build LOTS of trees, for lots of people. But again, why?

As a genealogist that also spends a significant amount of time working on DNA matches, I build quite a few easy trees. Easy trees, also known as “quick and dirty trees,”  are quickly built, but minimally researched family trees, usually created to find a connection between yourself and DNA match. 

When I am matched with another tester, and find that person has not built an extensive tree, I will use the tree they have and with a little research, branch it out and find the connection. I would say I am successful about half of the time. The other half….well, I hold out hope for my match to fill in their tree a little more. If I get enough similar matches together I can usually build out more for my tree and move on to new matches and discoveries.

One caution about building this type of tree is that if you do it on a publicly available site, such as Ancestry,  you want to make sure it is unsearchable and can’t be found. Since your research tree may be inaccurate and will have no supporting documentation, doing this will prevent others from grabbing incorrect information and using it as fact.

Want to learn more about building easy trees to help with your genealogical research? Have questions about Ancestry or our other genealogy databases? Come by the library and visit the staff in Local History and Genealogy at Main Library. We will be happy to guide you in your research.

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