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.


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.


  1. I agree, so frustrating when it seems people are just out to add as many names to their trees as they can, and even boast about it.
    Far better, and more interesting to delve deeper into their lives and as a result add sources.
    A good vent but maybe you needed something stronger than a coffee!

  2. I agree with you 100% about Ancestry Trees. "Once bitten, twice shy"... is my motto. I think the biggest danger comes from the "specials" Ancestry offers from time to time. This encourages some "eedjits" to jump on, create a "tree" chucking anything on which looks vaguely appropriate then, when their 2weeks free subscription is up, they take off "into the wild blue yonder... leaving a total mess.
    I OBJECT HUGELY to having my entire family grafted onto a tree via a bloke with the same name as my 3x Great Grandfather and was deemed to have become a father at the age of 4!!! I also suspect that some go on, with the temporary free access, with the determination to cause problems... Another version of "trolling", I'd say.
    So, my valuable and expensive info on my Ancestry Tree is now "Private". It still shows up on the indexes and if a serious researcher contacts me, I suss them out first, get some info from them and happily gives them access if they're willing to "share and share alike.
    I've also found Ancestry "Family Tree Maker", which is synched to my private tree, useful for sharing info related to just one section of my tree... rather than all of it. Ezy Pezy to create a report and email direct... or print and post "snail mail" to those without Internet Access.
    Good for you for "venting" and alerting others. If more people make their trees "private" then Ancestry may be forced to get rid of the rubbish and develop measures to discourage the practice. Cheers, Catherine.


I love to read your comments. Thankyou for your interest.



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