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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dealing With the Playground Bully on the FamilySearch Family Tree -- Part One: I begin the process

One of my online friends shared a response received as a result of detaching an unsuitable source from a relative on the Family Tree. The response raises a number of fundamental issues about the way the Family Tree operates and the way those who are contributing their family history to the Family Tree should interact. But before I get into an analysis of the operation of the Family Tree and the conduct of its contributors, here is the message my friend received:
So you are not related to my line in anyway? By the way are you working for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Family Search? If not cease and desist! from working on my pedigrees. 
This is my problem with Family Search. That anyone who wants to can go in and delete or change anything that they choose to with out consent of the submitter. 
That file was submitted due to the change from family trees. it was easier than typing it in all over again as there are more than 13000 names on it.
to say that this is not a source is ludicrous. 
Please do not touch my line again. Go mess up someone else's pedigree. Am I angry? yes! You are not helping you are confusing and causing chaos and unnecessary work for those of us who have worked for over 40 years!
From my viewpoint, this comment raises a whole litany of issues. Of course, I am forced to guess at exactly what happened here. I suppose that PB (playground bully) made some change to an entry in the Family Tree and tried to attach a complete GEDCOM file as a "source" supporting, in PB's mind, the validity of the changed or newly added data. I further suppose that my friend did not think that the addition or change was either accurate or appropriate and detached the source. I would further assume that my friend made the same evaluation of attaching a GEDCOM file as a source that I would have made and that is that a GEDCOM file is not appropriately cited as a source for information in the Family Tree.

Now, assuming that my suppositions are correct, the first issue that needs to be resolved is whether or not a GEDCOM file is a "source" as the term is used in the Family Tree program? But before we get to that issue, we need to make sure we understand the issue of a GEDCOM file. What is a GEDCOM file? It is probably not necessary to note that PB has no idea about a GEDCOM file for the simple reason that PB referred to what was attached a source consisting of a file called "" which is an actual website for the GED Testing Service LLC website for testing for General Educational Development, i.e. testing for a high school degree. A GEDCOM file is a computer text file and the acronym stands for a Genealogical Data Communications file. If as PB asserts, this particular GEDCOM file has about 13,000 entries (I am always suspicious of exact numbers when it comes to the size of a file), then it is a rather long document. Because a GEDCOM file is a "text" file, it can be viewed with any word processing program and can be imported into dozens of popular genealogical database programs. But as a raw GEDCOM text file, it is pretty much useless.

Let's suppose that somewhere in this long text file (GEDCOM) the information supporting the change or addition made by PB exists. How am I supposed to find it? The source referring to a particular GEDCOM file does not give me a way to either locate the file or examine it in any way. I must assume that the GEDCOM file is located on PB's computer or on some storage media, i.e. a floppy disk. Using this as a source is similar to citing an "Ancestry family tree" as a source except that there is a possibility that I could find and examine the Ancestry file.

But the information contained in a personal family tree is not a "source;" it is a user created artifact. So what does Family Search (and most of the users) accept as the definition of a "source" in the context of the Family Tree? Here is a further question. Are the users of the Family Tree supposed to know anything at all about GEDCOM files or anything else for that matter before editing, changing or removing information from the Family Tree? Hmm. There is, of course, no test for participating in the Family Tree, so why do I care whether or not this person (PB) knew what he or she was talking about?

A more basic question here is whether or not the children playing on the playground are subject to any rules at all? Can the "bully" define the rules of the playground? From a practical standpoint, the real bully on a real playground can impose his or her rules for a while, but what I am suggesting is that the Family Tree is not a playground where bullies get to define the rules.

So do the rules that do exist for the Family Tree allow someone to do what the PB did in this instance?

Moving to that question, let's start with the FamilySearch Help Center article entitled, "Creating a source in Family Tree." The lead sentence in that article gives us some guidance about what is and what is not a source on the Family Tree. Here is the quote:
When you create a source, you can enter important information about that source. This information helps you and others understand what the source is, where to find it, and how to understand its reliability. A source can either link to an online record, display a document from Memories, or be a citation that tells you where to find a copy of the record.
There are several criteria here that apply directly to the issues raised by PB's comment. But I will need to address these further issues in a new post. Stay tuned for further installments.

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