One domain to rule them all, One domain to find them,
One domain to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mormon where the servers lie …
Much has been posted online recently regarding the increasing “collaboration” between Familysearch and other providers, such as Ancestry.com, FindMyPast, MyHeritage, BillionGraves etc. And much has been said in the past regarding accuracy of online data. Don’t get me wrong, I was only too pleased six years ago to have access to online data through such providers, and made great steps in a very short time provisionally traversing my direct paternal lineage through to the mid-sixteenth century of Kent, England. However, I was also fortunate enough to have lived there most of my life, and found it very easy to access paper records at the former Centre for Kentish Studies in Maidstone, or at Canterbury Cathedral Archives, to verify the data which was being presented to me. Of course, I also have good knowledge of the Kent place names and surnames which were represented. As such, I often find myself adding ‘alternate’ (read ‘corrected’) names or places to Ancestry transcriptions, and reporting faults on transcriptions at FindMyPast.
However, what about colleagues in the USA, or Europe, or Australasia, who may not have such knowledge and take what is presented to them as a true reflection of the original.
I recently located an Ancestry tree containing an ancestor who appeared to have (incorrectly) married his own mother, and consequently had an incorrect list of children and siblings attributed against them. Having spoken to the tree owner, it turns out this was as the result of merging trees and/or data.
We have recently been told that Ancestry have been concentrating a lot on overhauling the software which sits ‘behind the scenes’, some of which no longer suits today’s data or user demands. I think that a concerted effort should be undertaken to semi-automate data checking to stop such obvious mistakes happening. I know that the Merge wizard in Family Tree Maker had such checks. I have not used FTM for a while, and frankly I have now decided to maintain my master set of data on my own blog, and will not be updating my Ancestry tree (which is now 3 years out of date) or any other online presence.
I know I will miss out on ‘hints’ via Ancestry – well, hey, I’ll just check things manually. My tree is now large enough that I would probably not keep up with the hints, anyway. That way, I can focus my research, and if any of that research develops in error it won’t propagate to everyone else’s trees in 10 milliseconds !! There will only be me to blame.
My opinion is controversial, I know, especially when I have made use of data shared on these sites by others. Yet I too have spent time researching and value the effort and accuracy of my data, and welcome any comments to correct innocent mistakes on my part. In this way, I feel my research is more than a data-mining exercise, and benefits from accuracy and local knowledge.
When websites such as those above accept transcriptions and pass them through their ‘checking’ process, are they simply accepting a concensus of opinion as to what a scribble represents, or are they calling upon volunteers with more local knowledge to provide a more weighted contribution. I doubt contributors outside of Kent would have been able to decypher a parish record containing the signature of minister A Egerton-Brydges (Anthony) I recently discovered – my local knowledge certainly helped on that one (and others!)
Accuracy of data must start rising up the priority list of genealogy data providers, in my opinion.
Otherwise we will find we are all next in line to the English throne and Jesus is our nephew!