Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Misinformation and disinformation on FamilySearch Family Tree

I just got out of a rather animated discussion about the problems caused by misinformation and even disinformation being added to the Family Tree. The problem is caused either by inattention, by negligence, by ignorance or even in some cases by deliberately adding false information to the Family Tree. The results are that unsourced and unsubstantiated changes are made ostensibly for the purpose of creating "names" for ordinance submissions. The gist of the earlier conversation was that the people adding inaccurate information were being "pressured" to meet a Ward or Stake challenge.

The question is whether or not submitting names for Temple ordinances supersedes all other considerations, such as accuracy in identifying ancestors, doing duplicate ordinance work etc? Further, does the fact that the individuals attend the Temple also outweigh any other consideration?

My opinion is clearly that FamilySearch Family Tree is the ultimate solution to these questions. The Family Tree is designed to be user corrected. This means that FamilySearch does not need to take on the task of verifying the entries and other changes in the Family Tree. The verification task is being done by the people who have a motive for keeping the information accurate and complete. Since this is a correction after-the-fact program, there is no way to prevent prevent the changes in the first place.

Let me illustrate with a hypothetical situation. Doe feels the need to "find a name to take to the Temple." It does not matter for the purpose of this hypothetical situation where Doe's motivation comes from. Doe is a relative newcomer to the Family Tree and has done no original research. Using the Family Tree suggestions in the form of colored icons, he "finds" a family that "needs" ordinances. He adds the additional children and other family members and is off to do the ordinances. Along comes Roe. Roe is an experienced family historian with years of experience in submitting names for Temple ordinances. She sees the changes Roe has made to the program and immediately recognizes that Doe is way out in left field. It takes Roe an hour or two, but she corrects the wrongly added family members and in doing so, discovers duplicates and is certain that Doe falls into one of the categories I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Who is right? Who is wrong?

I can answer this question by saying neither Doe nor Roe is either right or wrong. Perhaps Doe should have been more careful in adding new people to the Family Tree. Perhaps Roe should not have attributed some motivation to Doe when she really did not know why Doe put the "incorrect" information into the Family Tree and would really have no way of knowing that motivation. The fact is that there will always be a certain amount of ordinance work that will be done for the wrongly identified people or other reasons. The nature of a program such as the Family Tree allows for this kind of situation, but the program also allows for corrections to be made by anyone who knows the correct information or cares to look for it.

So, those who find themselves in the position of Roe are angered, frustrated and at least upset at having to correct Doe's mess. Guess what? That is why and how the program was designed the way it is.

We can liken the Family Tree to a motor vehicle. We would all like to drive a car that never needed repairs. Some of us so dislike the idea of having to make repairs to our cars, that we buy a new one every few years or even every year. The fact is that we are really just pushing those repairs off on someone else. Those of us who drive the same car for 15 or 20 years get used to the idea that maintenance and repairs are necessary. This is what happens with the Family Tree. We can't really expect a new program every time we have a maintenance issue, but we can expect that the program will allow us to make those repairs. We have been living in an artificial world where we control our own "family tree." There are those who would still like to live in that world. Now, we are in the "real world" of maintenance and repairs. This will take time and effort, just like owning an old car. But in this case, unlike the car example, the effort is worth the time and trouble.

Let's stop griping about the situation and get to work. Adding sources helps to keep the integrity of the Family Tree. Get busy.

1 comment:

  1. Annoyed is how I felt about few cases. Just yesterday I had a chat with one who mis-merged two very different persons (in FamilyTree) - both have same names, wives have same first names, fathers having same name, but born 7 years apart, died 7 or more years apart, from same state, but died in different states. One restricted (a VIP) and one not restricted (not even a VIP). Now the program engineers are having a fit trying to undo the merge. Duh!

    Now because of a peculiar discovery of another person only yesterday- one person having two sets of parents, 2 wives, different sets of dates, etc due to an error in an old genealogy book, we the cousins are having a fun time trying to separate one person back to 3 different persons with same name.