How Inaccurate Data Becomes Accepted (and the problems it causes)

One of the issues I like to climb up on the soapbox and rant and rave about, is accuracy (or the lack thereof), and how more and more people are accepting anything they find on the internet as being “good enough”. They are looking for some obscure branch of their family, somebody somewhere threw up a webpage that mentioned that obscure branch of their family, they hit up, and low and behold, there is that webpage.

Seeing as how this is an obscure branch of the family (their line died out, or they were very very distant cousins), the “researcher” really isn’t concerned with spending a lot of time with it – it’s just another notch in the family tree, so to speak. They accept what they found on the web at face value because it doesn’t conflict with what they know or care about, put it in their tree and move on. Little do they know that several of the names and dates are really “best guesses” (and therefore slightly off).

Some time goes by, said “researcher” places his family information out on the web. Somebody coming along that is very interested in that obscure branch of the family, hits up Google, finds the new “researcher’s” website, gets excited, but then starts to find serious problems. They contact the “researcher”, only to discover the “researcher” actually just pulled the information off of another site, and they don’t even remember what site it was. Turns out they may not be related in the first place. The person who came along and finds the problems and researches the information, they’ve just wasted their time .

Sound familiar? Head over to David Lambert’s Blog and read his article about Gravestone Transcription Interpretation. He details just such a scenario from start to finish, including the steps that could have saved everybody a lot of time and trouble, especially for future generations.

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