Recent Comments

    Trust, but Verify? No — Don’t Trust AT ALL!

    It’s not just me.  You’ll find complaints about bogus family trees all over the web.

    It’s one thing to make a mistake.  It’s quite another to import an entire GEDCOM from Rootsweb or Ancestry, or copy information from an old book — or a new one, for that matter — and assume there are no mistakes in them.  And then blame the original author when your tree is now a hot mess.

    I received a mailing list post recently that I’m still laughing about.  The writer complained that she and a cousin had spent a great deal of time cleaning up their family trees because they had relied on erroneous information from an old genealogy book about their family.  The upside is that, at some point, they realized there was a problem and set out to actually do some research.

    One of the Ancestry commercials that makes my spine tingle like nails on a chalk board is the one where the lady is so excited that she found a tree that included her family and everything and it all started with one little leaf.

    One unfortunate example of assumptions run wild is Bethel Cemetery in DeKalb County, Missouri.  If you look up this cemetery on Find a Grave, you’ll find many old burials listed.  The kicker is, the cemetery wasn’t even established until the 1960s.  Most of the pre-1965 burials actually belong in the Bethel Cemetery in Andrew County, but if they died in DeKalb County, people assume they must be buried there, too.  (And many “helpful” people have been using the FAG edit system to add this “if they’re buried there, they died there” information.)

    At one time, I made a concerted effort to contact the people who created the memorials in the wrong cemetery.  I referred them to the PACT Project, where the Bethel Cemetery in Andrew County has been completely photographed.  One guy, who was actually working on the same families I was working on, was very appreciative, but most just told me they had the death certificate and that was that.  These errors continue to be perpetuated in family trees when FAG is used as a “source.”

    If I sound like a snob, I’m not going to apologize for that.  My thinking about putting your work “out there” is not so people can just blindly harvest it — which is why none of my sites offer GEDCOM downloads.  It’s also why I removed my trees from Rootsweb, and why I would remove my trees from Ancestry if I could get that functionality to work.

    do find errors in my trees.  Legacy Family Tree’s autofill, though convenient, contributes to some of this.  There are typos.  And some are just downright mistakes.  While I’d love to have people contact me and let me know they have conflicting information, what I found was that they were just copying my errors and perpetuating them.  One guy, in particular, must have spent several days copying my Rootsweb tree — and didn’t do a very good job it it, either.  He’s also copied other trees and I really feel sorry for anyone who relies on his “work” for their research, since he didn’t seem to do any.

    When I find errors, I’m disappointed that no one bothered to tell me.  Maybe the only “people” who look at my site are search engine spiders and ‘bots.  I have to remind myself that I’m really doing this for me, and if someone comes along and finds something useful, that’s great.  Hopefully, they’ll check the facts for themselves and, even if they don’t let me know, they’ll fix it in their own tree.

    But then I remember the conversations I used to have trying to get some of these things straightened out.  While I’ve found a few people who re-married in another state without benefit of divorce (or widow(er)-hood), I really doubt one of my Pulleys married two more times after he died.

    So I gave up, and I guess lots of other people have, too.

    Leave a Reply