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?”

Posted: March 9, 2011.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Hi Amy – this is one of my pet peeves. By way of example, my husband’s ggg-grandfather is present in about 15 trees on Every single one of them has wrong….wrong…and more wrong information listed for him. Despite my emails – they haven’t been corrected. So people are just copying bad information and not doing their due diligence. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to get around this – as you state in your post – is to make public the correct information with sources – so that those who are interested in knowing the truth will have this to look at as well. (And I am convinced that there are those who are just “collecting” names – and they aren’t really that interested in having correct information.) Just my thoughts !

    • Hi, Judy — You’re doing just that (getting the correct info) on your great blog! I thoroughly enjoyed your post where you bid adieu to Tilman Curbow.

      I agree with you. There are those who are just into collecting names. I feel sorry for them. Yes, it’s exciting to add a new name to the tree, but it’s even more exciting to get to really know those people (like you did with Tilman).

  • Hear! Hear! I totally agree with everything you say! The more people who get involved – especially in collaborative platforms such as WeRelate – the more we all gain from those efforts.

    • Thanks! I have to admit that sometimes I feel like a WeRelate evangelist 🙂 I see *so* much potential there.