Last night I ended up looking at some online family trees, shaking my head and tutting at the errors I was finding, and the errors that I was finding that were being replicated over and over again. I should say that I don’t claim to be perfect, I am only human after all.
Whilst I must confess to obtaining a certain satisfaction from finding fault and picking holes in other people’s work (which is no doubt why I spent so long working in quality assurance) I know that it is not a trait that I should be particularly proud of.
I am in the fortunate position of having local knowledge and reasonably easy access to original source documents for most of my ancestors, so I can’t be too hard on researchers hundreds of miles away from making mistakes, but what I can (and do) get annoyed about is people accepting the research of others at face value without checking.
In one case the details I was seeing have circulated online for many years, as long as I have been researching. I was suspicious when I first saw it, and later proved quite conclusively to myself that it was incorrect, but that false information is still being perpetuated.
My dilemma is what to do about all this wrong information?
I have been largely ignoring it, but I feel guilty about this because I should be sharing my data and helping others, also making contact with distant cousins along the way. The problem I have is all the time and effort that this would take, perhaps selfishly I believe this time would be better spent doing new research and not going over old ground.
The other problem is whether it would actually achieve anything if I was able to convince all those people with online trees to update them. What about those people who have copied the data and are using it offline?
The bottom line is that it is all really too much effort, but as a responsible genealogist I feel I have a duty to set the record straight. There must be an easier solution, because I really don’t have the time to correct everyone else’s data.