Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Don't Take Your Existing Family Trees for Granted

Today's blog reminds me of a term from my Navy days called "putting yourself on report".  The phrase means one is voluntarily admitting to committing a serious offence.  In my Ritchhart/Ritschard family line I have know for many years that for three successive generations starting about 1602, Ritschards were the Bailiffs at Oberhofen Castle on Lake Thun.  I learned it from the Family History book "Richhart Ritchhart Ritschard: A Swiss-German Family From 1500 Until 1993" published by Bettye Anderson Richhart in 1993.  It occurred to me, however, that I had not entered that fact into my Family Tree Makes software program which is my master file for all my genealogical research.  So,  I located within the book the details of the three individuals who had held this position and began to enter the details as an "Occupation" fact in the program. 

To my great surprise I discovered that the second of the three men was not listed in my tree.  I had skipped a generation!  I first entered this information into my program and as a tree on Ancestry.com around 1994, so this flawed information has been out there on the web for almost 20 years!

Had I taken the time, anytime within those many years to look generation by generation at the birth dates of the successive Ritschards in my family line, it should have triggered me to take another look, as the birthdates went from 1563 to 1605.  That is a forty-two year gap between generations.  When I entered Melcher Ritschard b. 1584, that narrowed the gap to a much more acceptable twenty-one years.

The big question is: How many people throughout the world have imported this information into their data bases without catching that error?  I am afraid the number is huge.  My excuse is that for four generations the names run Melchior, Melchior, Melchior, Melcher, Michel and Michael.  However, it is an excuse and not a very valid reason for the omission.  So the moral of the story is: don't take for granted the data in your family tree--especially on your major family lines!  It is worth taking a few minutes to scan through your major family lines and make sure the generation gaps make sense.