Beware Mr Smarty-Pants Database

The commonest mistake made when beginning analysis on-line is surprisingly counter-intuitive: an excessive amount of precision. The very fact is, the extra element you embody whenever you question a genealogical database, the much less probably you’re to search out something helpful.

Simply suppose. You understand your Michael Barrett was born on March seventeenth 1868 (March seventeenth, St. Patrick’s Day, being the commonest birthday for the nineteenth-century Irish), married Mary Murphy on September 14th 1890, had kids John (1891), Mary (1893), Michael (1896) and Delia (1898), and lived all his life within the townland of Ballybeg, Co. Mayo. Fastidiously enter all of this  right into a search kind and you’re assured to search out nothing.

All it takes is a single non-matching merchandise: within the originals, (the web page recording Michael’s beginning was used to mild a hearth in 1898); within the database transcripts (the transcriber had a late night time and dozed off over the wedding file); a single merchandise misreported by the household (John was really born in 1890 and there are four  Ballybegs in Mayo). The response from Mr Smarty-Pants Database would be the identical for all: No Match.

Nothing like some beginning information to get an excellent fireplace going

Don’t get me fallacious. Understanding these particulars might finally present proof to unlock the reality. However to start out off, it’s essential solid the online as large as doable. What number of Barrett births are registered in and round all of these Ballybegs between, say, 1864 and 1870? What number of Michaels? Are you able to identify the precise marriage registration, utilizing solely the names, not the reported date? What are the ages given within the 1901 and 1911 censuses? Do they match one another, or the ages you suppose you understand? (Unlikely.) Are there different Barrett households in and round Ballybeg in 1901 and 1911? Any with heads of family of an age to be siblings of Michael ?

The most important websites –,, – all funnel their customers like this, beginning off broad and ending slim, as a result of it’s by far the best method to make use of their information. Their search interfaces pressure you into it. They know what they’re doing. They know their databases are silly.

In the event you’d like an much more ranting model of this, I’ve gone on (and on) over at YouTube.