The current “trendiness” of genealogy, and the push by sites like “Ancestry” to get people interested in their family history has a downside – apart from hundreds of trees that are started and then deserted – for those of us who take it seriously. I do use “Ancestry” – indeed, have my whole tree up there – and it can be very useful for filling in gaps that you can’t find information for…though only if the names you draw from other peoples research have themselves been researched. Like many others, my tree is public, and anyone is free to take information, sources, documents and citations from it. However, there is a tendency for many trendies to want to take shortcuts, so just take information from trees without researching themselves, thus passing on information that is often not correct, which in turn has a pyramid effect as others take the information and add to their own trees. There are also those who are just headhunters and only interested in how many people they can add without checking anything at all. A guy on a genealogy page recently was bragging about the 20,000 people he had on his tree. When challenged about whether he had checked the sources for all of them, his comments suddenly stopped. Obviously…no!
I have just add d a convict to my tree – one of several who are closely related. This one is directly related to my maternal Grandmother’s sisters son’s wife…in other words, the wife of a first cousin. Thinking to check information against other trees, the results were fascinating, and a lesson on checking sources. Incorrect spellings of a prominent name, due to an obvious transcription error, was shared amongst the three trees I looked at. Incorrect naming of children, adding children twice – they were using census…as most of us do for England…but had added, for example, an Evangeline D born 1838, and an Evangeline Dorinda born 1838. The error there seems pretty obvious to me! They had made this error with three children, as if the family wasn’t big enough already without an extra three. They had poor Thomas Street arriving here in 1811 to start a 7-year sentence, then arriving again in 1816 to serve another 7-years. Poor bugger! A bit of research, and tying together some facts from the Colonial Secretary’s Papers – it’s all there – would have shown the 1811 arrival to be correct. As it is, the guy has a really interesting history here, and made quite a bit of money after being pardoned – something they don’t seem to have picked up on.
And people hate being corrected when they make mistakes. I have commented on three trees about inaccuracies, and been ignored. One woman, who I had quite a bit of correspondence with, made three errors with MY bloodlines…she added one colourful son to a cousin (he not only had different parents, but was born in a totally different area) who, despite my pointing out the incorrect parentage, is still there in her tree. She also had an incorrect birth date for a GG aunt, and had attributed her to a non-conformist meeting house record…despite the Priscilla she attributed it to having a different mother. All three errors are still there. Needless to say, I don’t trust any of the information on her tree.
I love seeing an interest in genealogy, but making people think that you just type in a name and off you go, and a little leaf popping up next to a name will give you all the correct information you heed is total bullshit. It is all about filtering and researching. There are no shortcuts!
Tim Alderman (C) 2015