I often come across data on what could be a relative, only to find the record belongs to someone who is not related, or was not the person I was looking for.

Where do I record this information, so I do not research the same person again but keep it for if/when that person is found to be a person of interest?

  • Darren At the moment this question is at risk of being closed because it is similar to others already asked. I suggest that you use the search box at the top of the page to find previous questions on "research log". When you have read them (and their answers), decide what else you need to know and edit this question accordingly. Then people can provide you with new information not already available, if that is what you need.
    – Fortiter
    Nov 11, 2012 at 12:20
  • @Luke, I don't think this is a duplicate for genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/1524/… -- it's asking about searches that had positive results, just not about the right individuals. But I do agree with Fortiter that it overlaps with other questions about keeping a research log.
    – user104
    Nov 11, 2012 at 15:50
  • 1
    Not a dupe and the close tag should be removed. See my answer below. Nov 11, 2012 at 16:24
  • 1
    I see. My vote will eventually age away.
    – Luke_0
    Nov 11, 2012 at 20:49

4 Answers 4


This question is definitely not a duplicate! The question deals with the problem of recording the details about persons that we might be interested in, but before we know we are interested in him or her. I would suggest the OP edit the question to make this clear.

If the information is about a person, the easiest way to handle it with most current software is to simply create a new person record with only the new information and do not link that person record to any other existing persons or families. You will still be able to find that record when you search, so the information will not be lost. Later, when you learn enough to know who the person really is, you can either merge the record with an existing person record or just get rid of it.

This is getting precariously close to the whole topic of how do you transition from the "person-oriented" genealogy that we all do when we are beginners, to the "record-oriented" genealogy we must learn to embrace once we are dealing with generations way beyond living memory. Your question is really the very, very critical question of "how do I store my evidence before I really know what it means?"

I wanted to tell you to "create a new persona" for the information, but that's another topic that should be explored separately.

  • 1
    I would have upvoted this, except that the last two paragraphs use terminology that isn't explained. I know what you mean, but will Darren?
    – user104
    Nov 11, 2012 at 16:19
  • The last two paragraphs were not part of the answer, so any explanation is not required. Their purpose was to serve as a tickler to learn more. Nov 11, 2012 at 16:33

While I largely agree with Tom's response, I can think of situations where it may not be as black-and-white. I have certainly come across "interesting" information by accident that I didn't want to explore there-and-then because it might detract from the main topic I was researching.

In principle, creating a 'persona' (i.e. a separate person entity that is implied by that one-and-only source) would work but it could take a significant amount of time to construct it and add the appropriate details and citations.

Another possibility is to have a 'To Do' list and record informal details in there. In my case, this is just a text file into which I might paste a Web link, or search results, or even just a note to go and re-check something.

  • Tony, Very good points. When I'm hot on a trail, there's no way I have the patience to stop and record tangential evidence into personas or other records. And I am not organized as you are with todo lists. I try to organize my notes, but I admit it's very difficult. But when I come across a record that seems it could be someone I know I am or will be interested in, then I do take the time to record the info into a persona. Nov 13, 2012 at 22:35

Depends on whether you are researching a particular person or gathering information on many individuals whose surname or location is relevant to your research.

In the first case, regardless of how the research of the "wrong" individual is recorded (as a separate persona, in research log notes, etc.), there should be a record in the original individual's profile that there is another person with similar details whose records have already been evaluated and been found not to apply - and the reasoning behind the conclusion. I use a custom event called "Other Relationships" where I can record that X is not the same as XX, and point to where the details are recorded.

In the second case, you probably would create working files, in whatever format(s) you prefer (database, spreadsheet, text file, even flow charts), to work through the original sources. Transfer to genealogy software with linkages between individuals could on a case-by-case basis or wholesale by source.


I use private family trees on Ancestry as a more-organized version of their Shoebox. For the case in my answer to How would you handle a census record that is almost certainly the target family but which has too many discrepancies? I set up a separate tree for the same-names family that kept showing up in the Ancestry hints, that isn't the family I'm researching. If a record comes up in a search and I see that I have linked it to the hint-family's tree, I know that I've already analyzed it and decided that it belongs Somewhere Else and it isn't my focus family.

For desktop software, you could keep the information in a separate file, so that it would be available to merge into the main file if the person turns out to be a distant cousin, or if you needed it to refer to. A research log and notes are also helpful -- write out a proof statement in your files saying why you thought this record was NOT the person you were originally seeking; this will allow you to remember and review your reasoning.

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