Are You Part of the Solution?

The Internet is both a boon and a bane to genealogical research. While it is easier to communicate and discover than ever before, it is also easier for lousy research to spread. It seems like bad genealogy goes around further and faster than Charlie Sheen’s tweets.

Keyboard Macro

Keyboard Macro by Chris Kempson, on Flickr.

Do genealogy long enough and you will find some, shall we say, “less than stellar” family trees online. Some are blatantly and obviously wrong. It’s easy to ignore a tree that has a woman born in 1700 giving birth in 1810. What is harder to ignore is something that looks plausible — especially if it’s something we’ve been looking for some length of time. Get desperate enough and one can completely overlook the lack of sources on the tree that was just found. Or, what sometimes happens, someone will add a “theory” to a tree, then someone else reads it and — voilà — it morphs into “fact.”

 

There are those, such as one of Dick Eastman’s readers, who believe that information on the Internet should “never be trusted.” I have had associates tell me that they won’t post any of their research online “because there is so much junk out there.”

Yes, there is a lot of junk out there. But as the axiom goes, if you’re not part of the solution then you’re part of the problem.

More and more people are coming to genealogy via the Internet and do virtually (no pun intended) all of their research online. Of course they’re going to find a lot of junk if nobody bothers to post the “good stuff.”

In the days of the Internet before blogs and social media, there were two choices for correcting bad information: contacting the person who posted it (with the hope that they would change it) or have your own online tree or website and post your research. That second option used to be kind of difficult, especially if you were technologically challenged.

Now with blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and the like, there is no technological reason why you can’t post your own data. If you can type, you post something online in some form or another. Consider these possibilities:

  • Have a blog
  • Contribute to a wiki family tree, such as WeRelate
  • Contribute to a research wiki, such as the FamilySearch wiki
  • Post old family photos on Flickr
  • Donate your family tree (either in hard copy or GEDCOM — or both!) to a library and/or genealogical society
  • Contribute an article for a genealogical society’s blog or newsletter

Lorine McGinnis Schulze has a great blog post about some erroneous POST family information that’s been floating around cyberspace. She goes point by point what is wrong with what has been taken as “fact.” She then posted her own research — with sources — so that people can see what really is known about the family. What a great example of getting the “good stuff” out there.

It’s easy to discount everything online as junk. But before you throw in the towel, ask yourself this: “Am I part of the solution?”

New Collections at the Ohio Historical Society

The Ohio Historical Society‘s Manuscripts & Audiovisual team has processed and catalogued several new collections. Some of them sound quite exciting, such as VFM 5699 “Civil War Muster Rolls, Payments and Enlistments” and VFM 5755 “30th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry Muster Rolls.”

The complete list can be found on the OHS blog.

So Many Records… So Little Time

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I’m behind in posting Tombstone Tuesdays. In fact, I’m behind in posting darn near anything!

The problem has not been a lack of things to write about. On the contrary — I have LOTS of things to write about. The problem is time and the lack thereof. As I have mused to my friends and colleagues, it is an unfortunate truth that labors of love are often pushed aside by labors of “gotta do.”

Don’t get me wrong — I love my day jobs. I truly enjoy preparing materials for the websites I work on. I’ve had the pleasure and the privilege of working on some very interesting projects. But as I’ve discovered as I’ve delved more deeply into various records, websites and blogs, there are more records and resources available than any of us could hope to cover completely in our lifetimes.

That thought could be rather depressing. I’m trying instead to think of it as a challenge and a comfort. It is a challenge to get through as many meaningful, interesting resources as possible. It is also a comfort to know that we as researchers will never be bored.