Using Wacky Trees as Blog Fodder


Can you use “errors” in the trees as fodder for blog posts? Note: this screen shot was used for an example and is not implying there are trees with incorrect data on Sophia Elizabeth (Derle) Trautvetter.

Last week I gave a webinar on creating genealogical blog content. As regular readers know, I’m not a big fan of memes, writing prompts, and similar content creation processes. That’s great that it works for some, but it’s not for me. It’s just not how I operate. I feel the best blog posts come from actually doing research, thinking about that research and the records that have been found, and analyzing the information one has located.

Probably one of the best ideas for generating blog content came to me today. Of course, that was after the webinar was over.

For a variety of reasons, I’ve virtually stopped trying to submit corrections to those who have incorrect information on members of my family in their online “trees.” It feels like a losing battle. By “correct” I’m not talking about situations where two researchers may reach different conclusions from the same set of records. I’m talking about a tree compiler who has dreamed up that a relative of mine who lived his entire life in one county and appears on a tree as having actually been born four states away. Or an ancestor who is born in northern Ireland, comes to Canada, returns to western Ireland to marry, appears in eastern Ireland for a census and then migrates again to the United States–with no discussion of why these records are on the same man (who has one of the most common Irish last names there is).  Or those trees where someone is born before his mother is born. Examples about.

The egregious errors are what really concerns me–at least inititally. Keeping on top of all the corrections borders on an exercise in futility. I’m not the genealogy police and I don’t feel that it’s my job to correct all the obvious errors that I encounter. I don’t go around in old published genealogies tearing out pages that are riddled with errors–although I have been tempted.

Putting my information on a public tree is one option. I also choose to not have a public tree on the sites with my information for many reasons that we’ll leave for a future post. Others may choose to publish their version of things in a public tree.

But the errors are a concern and simply ignoring them isn’t an option. My ancestors deserve to have their story told as correctly as possible.

So I’ve decided that creating blog posts summarizing the correct information might be a good idea. Blog posts with sources for the “right date,” “right name of spouse,” “right place of birth,” etc. I realize that genealogical conclusions are subject to revision if new sources become available. Most of the truly frustrating errors are not because there’s “new” information hidden in an archives. Most of the truly frustrating errors are ones where the laws of time, space, and biology have been ignored. I’ve decided that blogging about what is “right” is one way to get the correct information out there.  I’m well aware that many of those who have the erroneous trees will never see my postings or will choose not to modify their tree.

I’ve also decided that these posts are not really about the person who is incorrect and that these posts will not mention where the incorrect information is located. In fact, these posts may just be about the ancestor in question and the specific facts of his or her life that appear online in an apparent alternate reality. The point of these posts are not to “out” someone by publicly stating that they have incorrect information.

Online publication may not be permanent and has limitations, but one has to start somewhere.




4 thoughts on “Using Wacky Trees as Blog Fodder

  1. Jane Coryell says:

    My favorite error is when a person is listed as dead at a date, then listed as alive at a later date.

    I still add corrections to help anyone else who is looking at the family tree with an error. Of course, I do this only when I’m sure that I’m right. I’m very unhappy with the new version of Ancestry because they seem to have omitted the possibility of leaving a comment.

  2. Barbara Young says:

    I have been involved in what one might call a sticky situation. It is in regard to a situation where a person found that the person in the family she was helping had ancestors who married first cousins. She went on to say “…and I had to tell her,,,” and the lady became very upset. This apparently took place with several people around.

    I commented that I would not have come out and told her. The event took place when it was more common than in our society today would think. But, the family had kept it a secret. I would have respected that wish. I think the gathering was when the researcher was giving the finished report to the family.

    The information was in the report and there must have been plenty of things to talk about, but why bring that up? The people could read it and some would be more than happy to shout about it but others would be very hurt that the wish their ancestors was to not talk about it

    I was chastised for withholding the truth is wrong and we should all know the truth. I live by the old song ” I got along wIthout you before I met you. Gonna get along with out you now.”
    Was it necessary to announce it?

    That is my motto when out shopping and see something that I think I would like to have, The “you” becomes “it”. Maybe later, but not now.
    The family got along without knowing everything and they can get along without knowing NOW.

    I would very much like to know if I was wrong to commenting.

    I would have thought of how will this information be received, with complete shock and dismay or with laughter. I would think of the ones who could be hurt.

    • In a verbal presentation to family members, I would have focused on other things. The information regarding the first cousin relationship of the marrying parties was apparently in the report as it should be. People who can read the report will see it. I have a first cousin of a great-grandparent who married his niece. In communicating with a descendant, it was not the first thing I brought up. Eventually the descendant mentioned it and asked if I knew about it. I indicated that I did, but it was not the first thing we communicated about.

  3. will automatically mark some things as “Residence” when they are not, for example when a widow files a pension application and I attach it to the husband as well. It will appear that the husband was alive and living in a certain place after his death. I have to manually go in and change it so it shows up as pension file and doesn’t drive me nuts. 🙂

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