The Story of Jenna and Vera
The below story was made up with the main purpose of making a point and to get people to think about things maybe in ways they hadn’t before,
Names are made up for effect. It’s a bit dramatic and maybe even a bit over cynical
BUT, none the less, I hope you’ll read it and ponder.
Especially those who record and maintain family tree databases on collaborative sites like FAMILYSEARCH.ORG..
Jennie Ologee is a great family genealogist/researcher and has been researching her family line for many years. She takes her gathering and recording of family documents and records seriously and always tries to find supporting documentation to backup information that people provide her with.
She recently discovered she was descended from a family by the name of YASNEY. Along with her enthusiasm in finding this new connection she found a book that had been published in the early 1900’s concerning this same family – “The Yasney Family of America” authored by one Wanna May Kabuck. She is excited to have found the book and starts entering the data from the book into her computer family tree software. She also takes the time to compare against online records and see how the data compares to data from those currently researching the family.
Interestingly she finds that there is a lot of conflicting information on the early family lines as recorded in this and various other sources. With some research Jennie finds out that this Wanna May Kabuck – was a “genealogist for hire” in the early 1900’s and authored various books on various family lines. But as Jennie digs deeper she finds that more recent research and information seems to indicate this Wanna May Kabuck was the author of various compilations that not only often contained a large amount of erroneous Information – but that many people considered her and her supposed research as a “genealogical fraud” - similar to what is discussed at this web site.
Jennie makes various contacts on line who have spent many years rectifying and clarifying the fraudulent claims made by Kabuck. Jennie spends many months and even years entering the family tree into her computer genealogy database – and with each name and date – she tries to locate and document each item entered in her family tree ensuring that it can be backed up by primary documents - - things like census records, probate, deed and church records, family bibles, military and cemetery records.
Jennie becomes engrossed in trying to ensure that others are not fooled by the fraudulent work of Kabuck – so she pays special attention to details and categorizing family information into two categories - - -that which can be supported by primary evidence and that which cant. This methodology very much helps her clarify what parts of Kabuck’s work is probably in error – or at least can’t be supported by known evidence. After many years of research Jennie wants to share her research with others by placing a copy of her data on line. She eventually starts using a web site called FAMILYRESEARCH.COM [name made up for the story]– and there notices many of the fraudulent errors made by Kabuck concerning the Yasney family.
Jennie spends the next 24 months – in a very tedious and slow process going name by name in her database – and comparing against what is in FamilySearch. She corrects the information on line for the relationships that were known to be wrong from Kabuck’s book – and she updates names and dates and places to be correct based on what she has compiled over the years from primary sources. She indicates with each item what documents exist to support these recorded “facts. She also points out with recorded notes etc of items that have been claimed – but for which she has not been able to find or even verify that supporting evidence exists. After a very long period of time Jennie feels satisfied that most of the bad information has been “stamped out” - at least on the familyresearch site. She feels satisfied that she has spent a good portion of her time in her elderly years setting the records straight and ensuring that the family history is recorded correctly. She feels she has left a legacy to those YASNEY family researchers who will follow.
A few years later, Jennie passes away, may she rest in peace . . . and everyone is grateful for all of her work in setting the family record straight.
. . . .
A few years later a lady by the name of VERA NIGH EVE – while visiting her local used book store – happens to find a genealogy book that catches her eye. The book is full of a wealth of neat information about some Royal family that had descendants who came to America. The book is full of coat of arms and portraits of family members. The book has thousands of names in it. And as far as Vera can tell the book is very rare and she wonders if anyone knows of the details compiled in the book. In her next visit to the local book store she notices a sale of a family tree program and she purchases a copy and installs it on her local computer. She then spends many hours at the computer entering all the names into her system one by one. She isn’t the best typist and she is a bit dyslexic so some of the names and dates get transposed. She is also totally new to genealogy software and while she learns to use it – unbeknownst to her – she has made various erroneous family connections and generated various duplicate entries as it’s a bit confusing to her at first. She is a bit “technically challenged” but she sticks with it as she is dedicated to getting the family recorded in her computer. Vera doesn’t know a whole lot about genealogical research – but does have a sincere desire to enter all the information from the book into her computer and then figure out some way to share it with others.
After quite some time Vera has most of the information from the book in her computer. It may not be perfect she says – but she made her best attempt and hopes that she can find a way to share it and that others can appreciate and see her effort on the project. Eventually as she learns a little more about on line family research – she finds a site called FAMILYRESEARCH.COM. This site allows users to upload their family data into a large world wide database - a database that is architected to allow for people around the globe to work collaboratively using a common database. A database that doesn’t belong to any one given person – rather a system that belongs to all – and in which any single user can work with others collaboratively with hundreds of other users also using the same tools.
What a wonderful tool and system Vera thinks. This has been what she has been looking for as to a way of sharing the data she has compiled. People will certainly appreciate all the many hours she spent on inputting the data from the rare book she found at the book store months prior.
Vera Jumps right into the process of uploading her data into the on line system. Being a bit “technically challenged” it takes some effort - - but after various failed attempts she finally has a successful load of her data to the online system. She didn’t exactly understand the merging process – she just kept clicking buttons to ensure the upload process completed. She would figure out any issues later on that needed to be rectified.
The next night Vera has a dream or apparition in her bedroom. An old lady appears to her in her bedroom - carrying a book in her hand – and THROWS it at Vera. The apparitional lady screams at Vera and tells her she has destroyed her life’s work – whatever that was.
Vera has no idea what she is talking about. The old lady claims that Vera has “made spaghetti” of her years of work on her family tree and she chases Vera throughout her house trying to commit all sort of evil things on her. Vera in her frantic terror – jumps out her apartment balcony and jumps to her death . . . – Those who find her laying dead - -find a book by her side - a book by the name of “The YASNEY family of America - -- by some author named WANNA MAY KABUCK” -
And now you must know that the apparition of the old lady must have been no one other than JENNIE OLOGEE . . . and the story now makes sense to you. (I hope) though quite a bit of drama – just to make a point . . . .
Some tips for fellow researchers
1) Take into consideration the difference between genealogical databases or systems that a) you have on your local computer that maybe you (or only a few people may have access to - example PAF or FTM on yor local PC b) data that you upload to databases on line such as Rootsweb or Ancestry.com where in though you retain your database separate from others - none the less others may very easily be able to COPY information in your on line database to their database and c) Collaborative online genealogical systems where there is a single database used by many users and where one person can modify or delete what another person has entered into such system (such as FamilySearch.org for example)
2) If you use all three of the above systems at different times and ways – realize – it may not be a good practice – if you are not modifying the way you work based on what type of system you are using. (private / on line and public / collaborative)
3) Before you update something in some collaborative system – seriously consider the possibility that what you may be entering – might possibly be totally wrong information. Also realize that information that MIGHT POSSIBLY be correct – is not always better than NO information at all (especially if you don’t even have a clue if it is actually right or not. And what if it turns out to be blatantly wrong?
4) Realize that even if a database on line “is yours” - if you have made your on line database “public” – information in it (most especially about early generations of a family - that may be of interest to hundreds of other researchers) then it may have the tendency to very easily propagate from your database to other people’s database - - especially through what many on line systems have created through “hints”, “tips” and other possible connections pointed out to you by the system.
5) As to the “hints”, “tips”, “possible connections” pointed out in the paragraph above by the system you use on line - which may seem like an extraordinarily wonderful tool that allows you to grow your family tree faster than ever - - - - on the reverse side of the coin – it may also be a propagating wildfire of totally false and erroneous information that few seem to be able to stamp out. What you entered very innocently – could in a few months be replicated in hundreds of individual databases – and turn out to be totally false.
6) Just because something is in print – doesn’t make it correct. And be wary of compilations that don’t report their supporting sources. Also think about how incredibly difficult, tedious and error prone it was to compile a genealogical book in the years before computers, copy machines, email, and the Internet. Because of this – the rate of transposed dates in books that went through a manual compilation process is very high. Always ty to find more recent sources to confirm what has been complied in earleir research. Even if a book cites it’s sources (which is often rare among 19th and early 20th century books ) - - many things could have been corrupted in the compiling and publishing process.
7) As you gather family data – try to categorize it into what can be supported by referenced source documents and what can’t. be sure and compile references to these source documents.
8) One of the most often regretted things regretted as a newbie genealogy morphs into a more serious researcher - - is their lack of keeping track of sources on the data they compiled.
9) Understand the difference between primary and secondary sources and what rules to use as to the reliability of your genealogical "facts".
10) The internet has its pros and cons as it related to genealogical research - - - but the excuse that many people once had - - -that they didnt have access to primary records to confirm their data - is no longer true. A multitude of source docuemnts can be found on line - much of it free of charge - such as census records, probate records, death certificates, and a thousand other sources.
11) Find others working on the same families as you - - compare notes and ideas and information and compare the information you have with others to get ideas as to its validity before you start uploading it into collaborative systems.
12) Realize that one system or database does not have the monopoly on genealogical data – don’t limit yourself – just to one system when gathering information.
13) Realize the HUGE difference between databases that are merely database submission of genealogical data people have collectd and submitted versus other databases which are based on extracts from official and primary documents. (such as the difference between a person’s database on rootsweb - - as compared to a Social Security Death Index database – as part of some online system that houses many databases).
14) Realize that many on line genealogical system are a MIX of both family tree’s submitted by thousands or millions of people - - as well as databases taken from primary official sources. And just because you find the family tree data to be highly flawed - - does not mean that the other databases taken from official sources also have a high degree of flaws - - - it’s like comparing apples and oranges – and yet many people often make an evaluation of or have a certain bias to a given system by the reliability (or lack there of)
15) Realize that doing genealogical research is much more than GATHERING/COLLECTING family information. With time - -as you spend more energy on analyzing/cross checking/weighing information that you have collected - you will become a much better genealogist - and you, instead of just getting confused by collecting more and more conflicting info, will be able to make sense of growing pile of conflicting info.
16) Realize that when using a collaborative genealogical system – where any user can update someone else’s information - - that, depending on how you update that system, you might be WREAKING HAVOC on years of research by others. One should at least consider not inputting information into a collaborative system – unless they have supporting evidence to back it up - - or at a bare minimum – report that such information has not yet been backed up by extant information. Again don’t assume that “some information” without sources/verification – is some how better than no information (about a given person etc. ) especially if you don’t even really have a clue whether the information is really true or not – and you are just passing it on . . . but what is it you are passing on . . . think twice about it.