Since 2012, I’ve been building a family tree on Ancestry. I make sure to keep a back-up of the GEDCOM, having it uploaded to multiple places like FindMyPast and Roots Magic, and stored on my computer and in the cloud. However, something I didn’t consider until recently was the benefit of periodically starting your tree from scratch.
By rebuilding your tree, it enables you to spot any errors you may have made when you first started out and were inexperienced in genealogy. You can apply the skills you’ve learned over the years to review what you know about your ancestors with a fine-tooth-comb, finding missing information, or missing sources for information. Over the years since you began your research, more records have been indexed so you might find a missing record which you could have easily ignored if it appeared as a hint in a large tree. It’s especially useful to rebuild your tree through a different website or software each time, as different sites have different record sets, transcribers, and user databases which can lead to finding more information.
Also, hints don’t always appear when you’d think they would. As I recently rebuilt a tree for DNA research, I found that an Ancestry user had uploaded a photo of my second great grandmother. This photo hadn’t appeared as a hint in my main tree, and it wasn’t labelled with a name in the person’s gallery so I would easily have missed it if it weren’t for this by-chance encounter. You could make it a ‘tradition’ or habit to rebuild your tree around a certain time of year.
Starting from scratch can also lead you to find new information which you initially dismissed, such as realising one of your ancestors had multiple marriages and you have half-cousins from that line. When I started out, I wasn’t as interested as my ancestors’ siblings as I am now, so didn’t always add the children from these marriages to my tree. Now I’m more experienced and have developed and interest in DNA, so if I notice a second marriage for an ancestor I’ll pour over it, following the lines down towards present day to try and establish more DNA connections.
Although it seems like an arduous task, especially when you have a very large tree, you might well strike gold in the form of photos and important missing records just by choosing to rebuild your pedigree. At the very least, it means you have more versions of your tree saved in case something goes wrong with your most-used site.
Have you made any discoveries through rebuilding your tree from scratch? Have you ever lost a well-built tree through a file corruption or website problems? Let us know in the comments or on social media!