Oh, I’m serious. Think of a world where you do genealogy without every creating a family tree.
No tree on Ancestry.com or in Family Tree Maker or whatever your most beloved software or online source is. Nope. Never.
Trees are Boring.
Have you ever tried showing a family tree to someone in your family? What was the reaction? Was it “this is awesome” or was it “uh, huh.” The names are meaningless unless you know them. People like pictures. People like stories. There are no visible stories in a family tree. And the pictures are usually teeny tiny.
Everybody else’s trees are full of nonsense/garbage/errors
“If only everyone kept a tree like mine!” HA! (Not mine personally. I have tons of stuff to clean up. 🙂 ) The amount of time that gets wasted by those of us in the genealogy community worrying about everybody else’s trees and how many errors and what not are in them, well, we’d get a lot more genealogy done if we weren’t doing that. And seriously, why do we care? Just because someone puts a mistake in a tree doesn’t mean you have to believe it. Or put it in your own tree. And your ancestor’s are still your ancestors. And the facts of their lives are still the facts of their lives. Bad trees don’t change that.
Trees are really just a handy place to hang a record or image
We have no idea why anyone puts any given fact in a tree. They might attach a record. But you still have to go look at it and guess that person’s thoughts. I’d rather not. I’m guessing 99.9999% of all trees do not have attached proof summaries and discussions of why they are entering the data they are entering. Attached sources are just documents. They may or may not be evidence of some question that we don’t know.
It’s all about the story. The emotion. The picture.
Have you every picked up an interesting lineage? Or some summary of a person or families life and been totally caught up in it? Made that emotional connection? Got the chills from a picture? Because that is what we are after. Right? Telling the story. Making people come back to life. Honoring those that came before us. Boxes with lines and a name and a birth date don’t do that.
What if, instead of building trees, we wrote lineages or stories?
Back away from the tree. Pick your favorite ancestral couple, and document their life and family. Include sources and narratives. And then start working back. I bet you think it through a whole lot more. I bet you avoid silly errors and have a better understanding of the people.
Then go show that to someone. Will you get a “this is awesome” or an “uh, huh” ?
I have come to the point where I truly believe that a tree is not the end goal. It’s a “paint by numbers” genealogy tool if you will. I want something more than that for my ancestors.