The Online Genealogist

John Brugliera

The Online Genealogist questions Annecestrees* answer

No, I’m not aiming towards an Ancestry.com mutiny with this recent run of posts; it just so happens that they’re so HUGE and have SO much going on!  And as I will point out, it’s a double-edged sword.

Check this out…

Ask Anne

Ahhh, yes.  This is the genealogical equivalent to a debate on religion or politics.  There are some strong opinions out there, for sure.  Foreshadow, foreshadow…  And check out the pages and pages of comments!  Which I will read AFTER this post.

I fully agree with Ancestry Anne’s answer… to a point.  You just knew that was coming, eh?  If you’re the number one genealogical website, shouldn’t there be some types of *gasp* standards set for the massive amount of Public Member Trees (PMTs) they host under their Ancestry.com name?

I can’t go merrily updating James Brown‘s Wikipedia page claiming that he has risen from the dead and will be appearing for a limited engagement at Bellagio’s poorly-named O Theater in Vegas.  Wikipedia won’t allow me to do that!

Why do we use Wikipedia?  Because, overall, it is the most reliable encyclopedia of EVERYTHING; because they have standards.  Why doesn’t Ancestry.com have the same mentality when it comes to their PMTs?  Huh, Anne??

Ancestry has no checks and balances when it comes to the “factual” information their members are adding to their trees.  Heck, I could totally manufacture a tree on there.  I’d link existing families to other non-related families; what’s to stop me? Or create a completely ridiculous, totally fabricated member tree; like so…

X-Men

But who should I be: Fantomex or Shard?  Hmmmmmmmm…  Yes, some would suggest Bird-Brain – heh.

OK, a show of hands…  How many of you clicked on one of the three hyperlinks, bringing you to their Wiki page?  Come on, admit it – when you did see it was Wikipedia, was there an immediate sense of relief because you KNEW that the information on their website was probably 99.999999% accurate?

Now, if you tried to post erroneous info on Wolverine‘s Wiki page, rabid fans would be looking for a bounty on your head!  But what if the X-Men links led to a “legitimate” Ancestry.com Public Member Tree?  Would your confidence level for Ancestry be comparable to that of Wikipedia’s; or more towards their “leftover” .000001%?

Don’t get me wrong, Ancestry.com is usually the first site I hit for family history research.  But when it comes to their PMTs, I was already following Ancestry Anne’s suggestion of having little trust for the information provided on “her” website.  OK, that’s not quite how she put it, but in so many words…

Did Anne’s watered-down quasi-excuse address any of these issues?  Heck, no!  It’s Ancestry’s 800-pound pink hot potato in the room.  Huh?!?  “Since we can’t control how accurate our PMT info is, we’ll wash our hands of it and say ‘You’re on your own!'”.  Think you’d see anything like that from Wikipedia?

“We’ll return to The Online Genealogist’s post in just a moment; right after this timely semi-related chuckle…”

MAD

Granted, many Ancestry Public Member Trees are fantastic; wonderfully documented timelines with viewable source images included for all to see.  But those are the exceptions and not the rule.  Tell me again, why isn’t ANY kind of proof a requirement to add a “fact”?  Have the PMT “lunatics” taken over the “asylum”?

I feel as if I’m beating a dead horse, as I know this has been a major bone-of-contention for long-time Ancestry subscribers.  Most of who would’ve never included so many bad clichés in one blog post.  Then again, maybe we DO need to yell our heads off so the PMT Dept. can hear us!

So, Ancestry Anne – if there’s even such a person – did you have to bite your tongue… uhhhhhh, bite your FINGERS, while replying to “Vicki”?

Ancestry – you expect the gazillion documents in your collection to be accurate and reliable; why not the similar high-quality standards for your PMTs?  I know of several members who have brought this issue to your attention with specific examples, yet to see no resolution.

And, no, I refuse to play the New Membership Trumps Public Member Tree Accuracy card.  Doesn’t even need to go there.  Or did I just inadvertently use it by saying I wasn’t going to??

Example

Here’s a typical scenario:  In comes a new (free) Ancestry.com member.  She adds her known family information and receives several “shaky leaf” hints.  Unknowingly, she attaches herself to an erroneous PMT, which propagates further as it shows up in other members’ hints; repeatedly… “Wow!  I found a bunch of new relatives!  Where do I join?”

So, again – Anne’s advice is sound and should be heeded, but with the above added caveat lector, emptor, venditor and a bunch of other Latin words.  Tiny  Jeez, I’d be completely lost without the internet.

Time for Ancestry.com to roll out their new PMTs slogan?… “Don’t fully trust our Public Member Trees; just use them like really good hints!”  OK, so it could use a bit of tweakage.

Now to spend a few hours reading this post’s 127 comments accumulated over the past 12 days…  I’m surely not the only one to bring up these issues.

And here’s hoping you never receive a shaky leaf for your newest “relative”, Fantomex!

* combo of Ancestry Anne, Ancestry.com Public Member Trees (PMTs) a.k.a. “Ancestry’s Trees”.  Which I realize should be Tiny

 

JohnBrugliera@theonlinegenealogist.com

TOG WEB

 

 

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4 thoughts on “The Online Genealogist questions Annecestrees* answer

  1. toni on said:

    ancestry hosts member trees. Period. There is no guarantee they are 100% accurate. If we all wait until our trees are 100% accurate and complete there will be no trees posted anywhere. I’ve gotten some very important hints and leads by reading the documentation on member trees. Without them I would still have more brick walls than I do. What genealogist would take, without question, the information from any tree they saw anywhere? Everyone started out as an inexperienced newbie. Hopefully they learned as they worked on their tree. Some people care a great deal for accuracy; some just want a big tree full of names, especially if they can “trace” themselves to someone really famous; royalty or the phantom Indian Princess. And then there’s the one who traced themselves back to Adam and Eve. I really want to see that documentation!

  2. You said it all in your last sentence, toni. I never expect anything genealogy-related to be fully 100% accurate, even Ancestry PMTs. My point is that anybody can put anything on there. There’s got to be some kind of middle ground between allowing that to occur and 100% accuracy. I, too, have found several excellent hints via PMTs. But as you said, that’s exactly how I took them as – hints!

  3. marks1153 on said:

    Well said! Hope you’ve got your flak jacket on, because I’m sure you’ll be barraged by all the folks who feel they need to rally ’round the flag when anyone makes a comment even remotely critical of Ancestry. The fact is that Ancestry’s insiders have made boatloads of money from the genealogy community. And I’m fine with that! But if it really IS a community there is also some responsibility to give back. There are many things they could do to upgrade the quality of member trees … I don’t pretend to know which way to do it, but it has been both frustrating and instructive to see the manner in which the company has refused to seriously consider the issue.

    • Hey, someone needs to keep a flood light on these issues. The more they’re ignored; the messier Ancestry’s PMTs are going to get. And while their shaky leafs hints are great “cousin bait”; they need to be scrutinized very carefully, or you’ll be chasing ancestors back on the wrong lines!

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