I realize computer programming is often about details and managing exceptions.
I realize that there are reasons comouter programs have default settings. Those settings usually come from initial assumptions about the data being analyzed. Sometimes it is dificult to program around every exception and every nuance in a potential dataset. Default swttings give software a starting point. Apparently Ancestry.com’s default setting is that all people are alive.
Rather ironic for a website devoted to finding dead people.
I decided to experiment with the Ancestry.com app on my phone and the screen display for Sarah Gibson indicated that she was living. This Sarah Gibson is my fourth great grandmother. I realize that currently the file I have contains no dates of vital events for her.
But my Ancestry.com database knows that Sarah Gibson is my fourth great grandmother (it is displayed on the screen after all) and it knows that that I have a death year of 1848 for her son. This database of mine also contains my own date of birth.
But this post isn’t about me.
It’s about Ancestry.com’s default value for Sarah’s “alive or dead” status showing as living.
I know that I have no dates of vital events for her in my file and that everyone is apparently assumed to be alive unless they are shown to be dead. But shouldn’t there be some point where that default value for living changes? Maybe that point could be when the tree displays the fourth great grandmother for someone born in 1968 (which would be me)? Maybe that point could be when the person being displayed has a child who died in 1848? I don’t know, but it should be somewhere.
Ancestry.com touts sophisticated matching algorithms for DNA results. You would think they could figure out that my fourth great grandmother is likely dead and not likely living. That seems a much easier probability to calculate.