Friday, July 19, 2013
Public family trees
We're encouraged to upload our family trees to the web and make them open to the public. The idea is that distant relatives will make contact and information can be shared, that images and documents can be easily shared and that information from other trees can be merged into your own.
DON'T DO IT!
On Ancestry (and other similar pages) there are thousands of public family trees and they are chockers with errors. Researchers have made assumptions without checking primary sources, attached spouses and children seemingly at random, merged erroneous data with their own, added places that are totally wrong (as in the wrong country e.g. Brighton, England instead of Brighton, Victoria) and added sources that aren't really sources ( e.g. other online family trees). It's too easy now to download the app to your phone or tablet and start building your tree by adding data from other online trees.
It's not all bad. There are some gems among the dross. I have made contact with relatives to our mutual benefit. I have found some wonderful photos and documents. I have even been able to extend some branches of the tree back a generation or two and add a few twigs. But I've learnt to be very, very wary.
Genealogy is a serious research project based on proof. There is absolutely no point in adding an ancestor to your tree unless you can prove that you have the right person. If that's what you like doing - adding random individuals just to make your tree look leafy - then then this isn't the hobby for you. Could I suggest you wander over to the fiction section of the library?
OK, got that off my chest. Now I'll go and have a coffee and settle down to some Troving to restore my usual equilibrium.