Background - My interest in family history began in 1965 when I started researching the ancestry of my father's parents. My grandmother lived next door and would talk about how she eloped with my grandfather when she was fifteen. Her parents immigrated to Minnesota from Quebec when they were children and Grandma didn't speak English until she went to school. My grandfather was buried on my 13th birthday, which was pretty traumatic. He was born in West Virginia and came to Minnesota as a boy with his family.
While living in Alaska in the mid-1980s, my ten-year-old son, Michael, was attacked by a guard dog, causing some life-threatening health problems and multiple surgeries for about four years. He also had seizures that would put him in a coma. I was divorced and, as a single parent, could not find childcare because of his health and could not work full time. I moved to Salt Lake City in 1990 with the intention of becoming an accredited genealogist so I could have a flexible work schedule and do something I enjoyed.
While working on this goal, I met the children of Owen Paul Allred, when they became friends with Michael. Owen had recently been divorced and was awarded sole custody of his eight children, ranging in age from 3 to 15. Marriage wasn't on my mind nor his; however, our children decided to play cupid and we were persuaded to get to know each other. When asked if I could cook, Michael told them that I was a very good cook, so Daniel, six at the time, used his imagination to get my attention. He came up behind me one day, hugged me around the knees and said, "Mommy, my mommy".
Owen and I were married in November, 1990, and remained in Salt Lake City, where he was born, until the fall of 1992. Shortly before leaving Utah, my husband legally changed his name from Owen Paul Allred to Asa Josiah Allred. In 1997, I adopted Asa's seven youngest children and some of them changed their names as well.
Asa's Allred ancestors had converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1830s, so I erroneously assumed that all of the research had been done and I wouldn't have to do any of his genealogy. Because I did want a copy of what had been done, I went to the Family History Library and downloaded Asa's lineage from the Ancestral File. I took it home, loaded the GEDCOM file on my computer, and expected to print it, put it in a binder and admire it from afar.
If you have ever tried this genealogical shortcut, you will understand why I was in for a rude awakening! Although the Ancestral File is a great research tool, it needs to be used as a guide to further research and each individual needs to be able to document and verify his own lineage, personally. Being in print does not make something true. Some of the Allred families listed in the Ancestral File have more than 30 submitters.
The associated problem with this is is best explained by example. Suppose I submitted a family with four children. I have access to the Family Bible, so I have full names, complete dates but I am guessing on the place. A distant cousin submits the same family, but she uses nicknames and guesses at the dates. Another distant cousin also submits this family, uses some nicknames, and the spellings for some of the names are different than the way I found them in the Family Bible.
As each of these submissions are received by the Family History Department, the files are merged. If the information isn't the same, a family with four children might end up with sixteen children as some or all of the original four are entered two, three or four different times. The mess this creates is overwhelming.
Since the success of many research projects are the result of collaboration with distant relatives, I would strongly suggest submitting your ancestry by GEDCOM to the Pedigree Resource File (PRF). (FamilySearch.org) Files from different submitters are not combined and sources are available, as well as the name and address of the submitter. Your file will rapidly be added to the PRF and included in the cumulative index as each CD is produced. When this program started in 2000, the Family History Department was receiving 1.2 million names a month. These CDs are available for purchase at a reasonable cost for home use.
My neat little book on the Allred family wasn't to be. Asa's father compiled Allred Family in America, so we had a copy of that book on the shelf, which would have to do for the time-being. I didn't know where to start to get a clean database on this lineage as I felt it was important to verify the lineage and document all of the data on the family group sheets. I could tell that this would be a very difficult and time-consuming task, so the project was set aside for another day.