Posted in Genealogy 101

Leafy Family Trees

The whole time I was trying to come up with what to write about this topic, I couldn’t help but thinking of an episode of Friends.  You know the one where the girls lose the apartment because they don’t know what Chandler’s job is.  Anyways, there is a scene in that episode where Phoebe is giving the questions and asks what their favorite thing about trees is.  To make a long story short, the answer Phoebe is looking for is “leafy, leafy.”

While this proves my point that everything in life can be related to an episode of Friends, what better way to describe our family trees on  If you’re not familiar with or their infamous leaves, let me explain it to you.  When you enter information on your family tree, Ancestry begins to pull from their databases any information that could possibly be attributed to that person.  Also, any time new information is found for someone in your tree these leaves pop up.  This can cause an onslaught of “leaves” appearing on your tree.  Just yesterday I had 100+ “leaf notifications” on my tree.  Talk about a daunting task!

I’ll admit, I get a little excited when I see these leaves.  Maybe, just maybe, that one missing document I have been looking everywhere for to break through a brick wall has finally appeared! More often than not, this isn’t the case.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love, but I can’t be the only one who yells “IT’S NOT THAT EASY” at my TV whenever their commercials come on.

Regardless if you’re a seasoned Ancestry professional, or you’re new to this whole thing and eager to grow your family tree, I have a few tips that may just help you deal with these leafy trees.


Check…and then check again

Don’t get in the bad habit of just glancing at the “hints” and assuming it matches your ancestor.  The dates could be off just enough to where this information cannot be your ancestor.  The trick is, no matter how daunting it may seem, it to break down each hint.  Look at the dates, the way names are spelled, and the locations of where this person was during their life.  Is there enough doubt in the information to discredit the hint?  This is especially important when dealing with other family trees.  The worst thing you can do is to just take someone’s word on what is “fact”.


Pick a Starting Point

You have a death date for an ancestor that you know to be 100% true.  Use this information against the information that you find under the leafs.  When you have one fact that you know is undeniable, it gives you something to compare to.  Don’t have a date, but have a particular location?  That’s okay too!  Use the location that you have and map out the information in the leafs.  For example, if you have an ancestor who was born in England and died in Pennsylvania, what is the likelihood that they had a child in Tennessee?  Think about how people traveled back then and see if the travel makes sense.  It’s fun to think of all this information as a giant puzzle.  The information you have is the boarder and you have to find the pieces that fit in the middle.


Don’t Get Overwhelmed

It’s easy to see all the leafs and get overwhelmed.  The key is to not let the leafs feel intimidating.  Select one branch of your tree and focus on that.  Believe me, I’ve tried to just start at the bottom of the tree and work my way through the leafs.  This approach is next to impossible.  You’ll find that verifying one leaf’s information will lead to another leaf which will lead to another leaf.  Take it one person and one family at a time you’ll have a much more enjoyable time pruning your tree.

…and if all else fails, just channel your inner Phoebe!

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