Re: Vetting family tree submissions to genealogy sites for data soundness #general

Lee Jaffe

I want to add one perspective that I didn't see elsewhere: that genealogy is a moving target, that any tree may be just the latest draft. I may add a questionable record to see where it leads and remove it later when it doesn't pan out.  Someone linking to my tree in the interim might naively accept my information as vetted and add it to their tree unexamined.  Or conclude I'm an idiot who knows nothing.  

My uncle keeps telling me about city directory records showing my grandparents in Birmingham, a place they never lived as far as anyone could remember.  But I added the record to my tree, as a placeholder.  Eventually I discovered other records for the couple with the same name living in Birmingham who weren't my grandparents and I removed the entry from my tree. Someone looking at my tree in the interim might draw the wrong conclusions.

I learned this lesson after corresponding with a professional genealogist who'd created a tree for a client linking to some of my data. But she had added a couple of earlier generations I hadn't discovered and I wanted to learn what evidence she'd used to support those additions.  She explained that the tree was just one of several scenarios she was trying out for her client, that she was in the process of gathering as many leads as possible before determining which was the best version and refining it.  

It's all like a jigsaw puzzle, except some pieces are missing and pieces from other puzzles are also in the box.  We start with the no-brainer pieces, the edges, then sort through the rest to see what fits.  We want as many pieces as possible and the extra ones -- what folks are calling "garbage" -- may be valuable to others.  And here the metaphor peters out.

But there  is a lot of trial-and-error to this endeavor and most trees will have a few mistakes in them, at least for a little while.

Lee Jaffe

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