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Old 06-03-2013, 08:12 PM
 
1,879 posts, read 1,783,290 times
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Has anyone ever come across inaccurate family tree charts on their searches? I think one needs to be particularly careful of ones on Ancestry.com.

For example, I came across a chart which listed some unknown person as being an aunt. That was news to me as I'd never heard of that person before. It said they had died in 1942 which could only have made them a twin of one of my relatives (who had come in quick succession after the marriage. However, I thought I would do a bit more research first before asking relatives. I did in fact discover on a much more accurate and extensive family history chart that a person with the same name (a distant cousin) had died in 1942 but had been 45 at the time. I wondered whether this was whom they were talking about and when I saw this 45 year old person's parents first names (same first names as my grandparents), I realised what must have happened - they must have misinterpreted findings from my state's BDM records. .

Now, my state's BDM records is an excellent resource for genealogists because it doesn't just include dates but for births and deaths, it includes mothers and fathers first names and for marriages, it includes maiden names which is very useful if you didn't know those particulars beforehand. For births, deaths and marriages, districts are also included which helps narrow things down even further. However, one really does need to check and confirm that one has the right person before including it on a chart.

It is a bit convoluted but what had actually happened was this (all names below are changed):

Let's just say this false aunt was listed as "Mary Jane Woods died 1942 in the district of Smithtown". When I googled the name "Mary Jane Woods" died 1942, I did in fact find an accurate family history chart which had a "Mary Jane Woods" nee "Forest" of Smithtown and she had been born in 1897 and died in 1942. Her parents names were "John and Jane Forest". My grandparents names were "John and Jane Woods".

Thus, I realised that what probably happened is that the person who had done the inaccurate ancestry.com charts had come across a death record in BDM in 1942 of "Mary Jane Woods" of Smithtown whose parents were listed as "John and Jane" (no surnames of parents given on death records). Thus someone obviously assumed that the "John and Jane" listed must be "John and Jane Woods" of Smithtown whereas in fact, "Mary Jane Woods", was in fact a "Mrs Woods" nee Forest, who was the daughter of "John and Jane Forest" of Smithtown.

I did hit a bit of a hitch when I tried to find the birth record of "Mary Jane Forest" even though I knew from the aforementioned more accurate family history chart that she had been born in Smithtown, thus she should have been on the state's birth records. However, when I went to the birth records and just listed surname "Forest" and names of parents "John and Jane" and filtering for Smithtown, I found a list of 6 children - one of whom was "Marie Jane Forest" - the different spelling of first name had meant it wasn't found when I first checked birth records.

Now there are quite a few charts with this mistake on it listing "Mary Jane Woods died 1942" because with ancestry.com, I believe one can link a lineage to one's own chart. So everytime I see this name listed as being an "aunt", I cringe. I now realise that one can't trust the ancestry.com charts. Luckily, the other charts I've seen re family history are far more accurate but I was lucky that I had them to check. Otherwise, it would have been quite easy to make the same mistake.

So one really has to be careful and double check things before listing people on their charts.
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Old 06-03-2013, 08:28 PM
 
Location: San Marcos, TX
2,572 posts, read 6,262,662 times
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I can give you a good example of incorrect trees! When I was new to using Ancestry, I started my own tree and worked on it for a week or two. Then I decided to work on my spouse's. Worked on that for about a week, and somehow at that point I guess I logged in to the wrong tree, and inadvertently attached HUNDREDS of her relatives to my own tree!

Ack! had no idea how to fix it and also no idea how to make it private either, so anyone going off my tree for their own purposes was bound to have all kinds of crazy-wrong info.

To make matters worse, I had one Ancestry member emailing / messaging me (through the site), "yelling" at me for this or that being wrong, with demanding messages like "Exactly HOW are you related to so and so???" and otherwise complaining to me for having screwed up info but with me having no idea how to fix it.

It was pretty awful. So yeah, definitely verify everything yourself.
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Old 06-03-2013, 08:30 PM
 
Location: too far from the sea
17,996 posts, read 17,150,498 times
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Ancestry is famous for that. The one reason I delayed joining Ancestry is due to what I'd heard about people copying false information and spreading it across the site.

Now that I've been on Ancestry for a while I can't tell you how many times I've found incorrect information. I even learned that my own grandfather died in Vermont. He did??? He did not. It was on almost every tree on Ancestry that had him. I got so mad I emailed one person and asked them to change it--they did but they wrote back and said that ordinarily they wouldn't.

Why do family history then? If they're just making it up it's not family history. What you're supposed to do is to look at other trees to get ideas and then go and do the research yourself. Sometimes, especially if it's really way back in time I will snag some info. from someone's tree if it is well documented and the documentation is something like a war record or an early church record. Something I can look at and be convinced that it's probably true. It's not even fun if you're just making it up.
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Old 06-03-2013, 08:33 PM
 
Location: too far from the sea
17,996 posts, read 17,150,498 times
Reputation: 30133
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sally_Sparrow View Post
I can give you a good example of incorrect trees! When I was new to using Ancestry, I started my own tree and worked on it for a week or two. Then I decided to work on my spouse's. Worked on that for about a week, and somehow at that point I guess I logged in to the wrong tree, and inadvertently attached HUNDREDS of her relatives to my own tree!

Ack! had no idea how to fix it and also no idea how to make it private either, so anyone going off my tree for their own purposes was bound to have all kinds of crazy-wrong info.

To make matters worse, I had one Ancestry member emailing / messaging me (through the site), "yelling" at me for this or that being wrong, with demanding messages like "Exactly HOW are you related to so and so???" and otherwise complaining to me for having screwed up info but with me having no idea how to fix it.

It was pretty awful. So yeah, definitely verify everything yourself.
Wow. I would have felt so upset and embarrassed. I'm not that great at the techie part so I would probably do something like that.
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my posts as moderator will be in red. Moderator: Health&Wellness~Genealogy. The Rules--read here>>> TOS. If someone attacks you, do not reply. Hit REPORT.
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Old 06-03-2013, 10:27 PM
 
9,667 posts, read 7,644,282 times
Reputation: 17511
A local historian mispelled my g-grandmother's middle name and turned it into another name entirely - in a book she wrote about their county's history. Many of my relatives still lived in this county and were friends with the local historian. They tried to set her straight, but she just wouldn't have it and the error made it into print, much to my family's annoyance.

Now, that incorrect middle name is everywhere online. I've contacted a few people with the true backstory, but only a few have been kind enough to respond and correct the error online. The originator of the error is long gone now.

Frustrating...this was the same woman who would consistently address me by my parent's given name on Christmas cards and letters when I was a child and teenager. I am named for my grandparent, not my parent, and the two names bear no resemblance at all to each other.

Last edited by CraigCreek; 06-03-2013 at 10:37 PM..
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Old 06-03-2013, 10:35 PM
 
9,667 posts, read 7,644,282 times
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Another site lists one of my mother's closest cousins as having been born in another state from where she actually was born. They also have her still living - at 117. Actually, she lived to the very ripe old age of 102.

My family was always very fond of this cousin and spent much time with her, so as she had no children of her own, I contacted the person who'd clearly confused her with another individual with the same name - and got no response whatsoever. According to their website, she's still listing as living in Texas at age 117. Never lived in Texas in her long life, and has been gone for the last fifteen years...but you'd never know it.

It seems so slipshod to me to go for someone to the trouble to post a vast amount of dubious information, even if it's been cribbed from others' websites, then refuse to correct errors after valid notification is received from reliable sources. Passing along inaccurate information - not innocently, or by accident, but after you've received convincing evidence otherwise, particularly from family members or friends who knew the individuals involved or who have primary documents with accurate information, is very disrespectful not only to the erroneously listed individual(s), but also to remaining family members and friends, it seems to me.
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Old 06-04-2013, 12:49 AM
 
Location: Pacific NW
6,415 posts, read 10,037,563 times
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There is no such thing as a 100% correct tree. Unless, maybe, it has like three people in it.

All online family trees are flawed. Including mine, which are pretty darn good. But lots of them are utter trash. You need to carefully evaluate them before even using them as a clue.

Some things that may indicate it's an okay tree:
Sources are cited
Will have families with more than one child
Won't have years that are WFT 1600-1800 or some such rot.
Won't include kings, queens, or anyone who lived before, say, 1500. Or Pochahontas.
Will not contain tens of thousands of people (though several of mine are in the 20K range ... but I promise, they're not bad)
Will have been recently updated.
You can't contact the submitter - or when you do, they don't respond.
All the husbands and wives were born on the same date (or year) and place.
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Old 06-04-2013, 01:24 AM
 
1,879 posts, read 1,783,290 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EnricoV View Post
There is no such thing as a 100% correct tree. Unless, maybe, it has like three people in it.

All online family trees are flawed. Including mine, which are pretty darn good. But lots of them are utter trash. You need to carefully evaluate them before even using them as a clue.

Some things that may indicate it's an okay tree:
Sources are cited
Will have families with more than one child
Won't have years that are WFT 1600-1800 or some such rot.
Won't include kings, queens, or anyone who lived before, say, 1500. Or Pochahontas.
Will not contain tens of thousands of people (though several of mine are in the 20K range ... but I promise, they're not bad)
Will have been recently updated.
You can't contact the submitter - or when you do, they don't respond.
All the husbands and wives were born on the same date (or year) and place.
The bolded bit is probably true. A lot of charts will have spelling mistakes in names. Even in the accurate charts that I was talking about, one relative's husband's surname is slightly misspelt on every single chart out there - I have a feeling that is the result of other relatives providing the wrong spelling - the relative herself died many years ago at a youngish age and the relatives haven't really kept in close touch with the widower (who remarried).

Quote:
Won't have years that are WFT 1600-1800 or some such rot.
What does WFT stand for?
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Old 06-04-2013, 02:55 AM
 
480 posts, read 335,643 times
Reputation: 1022
Yes, I've found plenty of incorrect info on ancestry.com, but I still use the site anyway. I've almost made it my lifelong mission to correct the bad info in my tree and then convince other people to fix their trees. In spite of all of its problems, ancestry.com is still one of the best sources for doing online genealogy (IMHO).

One of my biggest pet peeves, though, with ancestry.com is that there are too many people there who suffer from what I call "Princess Syndrome." Almost every branch of their tree eventually turns into either royalty or nobility--because they're so sure that their 15th great-grandfather was the Duke of Such-N-Such or the King of Swabia. About 99.99% of these trees are complete bullsh-t. Mark Twain said it best: “Aristocrats don't immigrate.”

My second pet peeve is that many of the people who use it are completely illiterate when it comes to history and they don’t think before they grab records and attach them helter-skelter to their tree. This sometimes leads to some funny goof-ups: They will attach Civil War records to people who were born 25 years after the Civil War ended. (Did he fight as an embryo?) There’s also a distant cousin in my tree who swears she has a photo of another distant cousins who died in 1769. (I want to scream: The camera didn’t exist in 1769, you dumb b-tch.) Another distant cousin has a photo of our 5th great-grandmother who died before the camera was invented, too. Then about 25 other people loaded this photo into their trees without questioning it.

Even though it aggravates me at times, I will still use ancestry.com but I will never blindly accept any of the clues without doing my own research and testing its veracity.

Last edited by RDM66; 06-04-2013 at 04:15 AM..
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Old 06-04-2013, 05:12 AM
 
11,686 posts, read 13,083,410 times
Reputation: 30973
The one I love is, source: "Smidlapdorpher Family Bible." OK, great. Gotta love those fat old family Bibles. And where is this treasury of Smidlapdorpher family records..................right, no one knows. Every idiot Smidlapdorpher has just copied this over and over. In my family I finally found someone who actually claimed to have known a researcher who had known the family member who had the Bible. Hmmmm. And since this woman who supposedly owned the Bible is deceased for decades, where is the Bible?....has anyone actually seen it, much less touched it???????????

One excited soul, bless him, excitedly wrote that he had a copy of a family record page. GREAT!!! He sent it.

The copy was someone's (his I expect) smudgy notes of the same unverified facts that are attributed to this elusive "family bible."
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