Randy Seaver has mentioned Genea.com in his posts over at Genea-Musings for quite some time. He had a post today about William and Kate’s ancestry. As I have royalty in my tree two (I did not get invited to the wedding though!), I decided to check out what Geni.com was all about.
The tree that I looked at didn’t go back very many generations, so I couldn’t connect it to my European royalty. I am sure there must be a connection somewhere though! Instead, I decided to look up some family surnames to see if there were any matches.
I put in Algrava, which is an uncommon, made up surname for my relatives. The surname was originally Pacheco. Sometime between 1900-1910, a couple of the relatives took on the surname Algravia and it’s variants Algrava and Algarva. My lines are the only ones in the US who use Algrava and Algarva, so I’m pretty sure that anyone I find with that surname is related.
My first search turned up four names. Three were by one submitter and the other by another. I was happy to find that I had cousins in geni.com. But I cringed. The information given is wrong, wrong, wrong! The surnames are not correctly given for the people listed. A couple were not born with the surname Algravia, but are shown with it. One female is listed under Pacheco Algrava, but her maiden name is de Melo. And, another is given the wrong first name.
I know that geni.com is not responsible for errant information that is input into their online family trees. But, darn it! I didn’t think I’d see so many errors right off the bat. I guess I’m more annoyed that people continue to upload information to online databases without proof, but treat it as fact. I understand that people are eager to find people who are related to them. But, that eagerness, leads to so much errant information.
I know that this is not a new problem. Since the first day family trees have been uploaded to the web, their have been typos and errors. It’s why I’m so reluctant to participate in any of these online projects. I guess I should have a different attitude. I should be submitting my well documented information to set the record straight.
It’s a pipe dream but I think that online family trees should, at the least, contain some sort of source material. Even a simple source notes like “letters from my Maria Pacheco to Jacinto de Mello, 1890-1910” or “Conversations with Joe Smith, 3 May 1990” will tell someone searching for that name that the information given is from people’s memories and not documents.
When I reread what I’ve written, it makes me sound like a research snob. Like my tree is better than your tree. (Not you specifically!) I certainly don’t want to discourage folks getting started in genealogy from sharing their information. We all benefit from each other.
I think this age of online genealogy lends itself to the myth that genealogy can be done quick and easy. Just watch any of the genealogy related commercials and they lead you to believe that if you plunk in a name you’ll suddenly have your tree back four or five generations. Unless you are one of the few lucky folks whose line is well documented it’s going to be a long hard slog with many great finds and many frustrating afternoons coming up blank.
I haven’t yet decided if I will contribute to geni.com or any other online database. Half of me really wants to set the record straight. Or, maybe slap a hand or two for putting in the wrong information. The other half of me is not sure I really want my information shared so widely–the information that I’ve taken so many years to put together.
I’m in conflict with myself!
Have you submitted your information to any online databases? Which one do you prefer? Do you find one to be of better quality, more reliable than others?
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com