Friday, March 31, 2017
Finding Francis -- Part Two
Working on the FamilySearch.org Family Tree is both interesting and challenging. The nature of the Family Tree is that it is an accumulation of over 100 years of un-reviewed and unsupervised genealogical submissions. In addition, much of the information in the Family Tree has been accumulated from traditional surname books and family traditions that lack any supporting documentation. Added to that are a number of extended pedigrees based on pure speculation. The reality is that every family line shown on the Family Tree ends at the point where documentation disappears. Although the lack of documentation commonly occurs with the immigrant to America, the ends of lines can occur at any point where there is no substantiation in adding a child to a family.
During the past few weeks. Substantial attention and research has been conducted concerning Francis Tanner, my fifth great-grandfather. As I pointed out in previous posts, the main point here is the lack of any documentation establishing the parents of Francis Tanner. Tradition would have us assume that a person named "William Tanner" married to one or more of four different wives was the father of Francis Tanner. Interestingly, the posts on the Family Tree do not even accurately reflect the content of the surname books. Despite this obvious lack of documentation, deleting the relationship between Francis Tanner and the then existing "William Tanner" initiated a flurry of contributors adding back in the traditional family line without any substantiating sources.
This opens a real issue concerning the integrity of the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. Is the Family Tree, as was stated at its introduction, going to be source-centric or is it merely a venue for speculative, unsupported and obviously incorrect contributions? There are no internal safeguards yet established to assure that an addition to the Family Tree is supported by sources. As has been done with Francis Tanner, a user can add individuals without any supporting sources and without birth or death dates or any places associated with the entries. See this entry as it was added to Francis Tanner.
Interestingly, those who are still trying to maintain the entries for "William Tanner" are certain that the person named "Elizabeth Cottrell" had no children with her husband "William Tanner." As I noted in a previous post, my explanations about the need to supply adequate documentation resulted in a complaint to FamilySearch. In effect, the addition of an Elizabeth Cottrell is a duplicate.
There is an obvious need to nurture and encourage contributions to the Family Tree. This includes those who are less experienced researchers. But there is also a need for a balance between allowing unsubstantiated and sometimes imaginary contributions and the nurturing process. This is especially true when contributors claim to have sources but refused to provide them.
Contributors to the Family Tree will eventually have to confront all of these issues. As I have long maintained, all pedigree lines eventually end either because of lack of additional documentation or because research into the existing documentation has yet to be done.