Here are a few more things I tried and found out:
4. Click on the name listed as “Owner.” This brings up a box that includes the following information:
- Profile (including other Family Trees they have on Ancestry).
- Contact information. I have found many tantalizing clues on GenForum and the Rootsweb mailing lists, only to find that the researchers’ e-mails were no longer active. I am hoping for a bit more success through contacts here.
- Last log-in. This is important to me because I want to know if they are still interested and are keeping their research current, or perhaps this was just a passing fancy.
5. You can find pictures of your ancestors. Ancestry also has a page where you can also do a name search for pictures, but if the name is common, it may be easier to pull up the trees and then see what is there.
6. If you have published some of your own original research, see how much of it has made it into these trees and how it is being used. My two main contributions would be with the Moores (identifying Samuel Moore as the father of William Spencer Moore and Bud Mathis Moore) and the Lewises (putting together the Elisha Berry Lewis-Martha Poole family and identifying E. B. Lewis as the son of Elisha Lewis and Rosannah Dalrymple). The former shows up in a couple of trees, one erroneously, and the latter shows up in one tree, that of a researcher with whom I have corresponded (and he cites my e-mails in his WorldConnect tree).
7. Surprises. No, not necessarily eye-popping revelations or brickwall solutions, but something you may not have expected. I kept getting hits on a family tree called “Heartland of Texas” and finally, after inputting a few names from all over my family tree, realized that this database included both a significant branch of the Floyd family tree (my mother’s side) and part of the Norman family tree (my father’s side). There were even some Moores here and there (though not as a family unit, but rather as spouses of other families that were associated with the Floyds and Moores, such as the Lathams and Rainwaters). A few Normans did live in Baylor County (where my mother’s family settled and she grew up), but there was no obvious connection. What was going on?
I did a search on “Heartland of Texas” and the family name of the “home person” and pulled up information on the person to whom the tree belonged: a “native and lifelong resident” of Baylor County who is apparently also involved in research of other (sometimes non-related) families. When I clicked on the link to view the page on Ancestry, there was a list of e-mails of contributors. It appears to be one of those “combined tree” databases that researchers in certain localities create. This piqued my interest, and I am going to contact the lady and let her know about my own research that fits in here; it would connect many of the names that appear. Baylor is one of those “small population” counties, and just based on my mother’s family I have always thought a combined database of this type would be doable and interesting.
So, although aside from a relatively small number of researchers who put up detailed and well-sourced family trees, many of the trees do not contain a whole lot of new information that would significantly advance our research, we may still find material that contributes building blocks here and there. It’s just one of those bases you gotta touch – just in case.