I am starting to feel like a genealogical Frodo on my way to Mordor. I am mired down in duplication and errors. Every time I focus on one part of my pedigree, I find error upon error and a haze of duplication. For example, while doing the Mayflower investigation recently, I noticed in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree that my ancestor Philip Taber (b. 1646, d. 1693) had 25 name variations and the Title of Nobility of Captain. In addition, he had 20 different wives and sets of children listed.
Ancestry.com is not any better and may be worse because it acts like it has the authoritative answer. unfortunately, I have found just as much confusion. With most of the sources being listed as from Family Trees or indexes without references to the original records.
Both FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com can be helpful on occasion, but once you get to the point of doing some serious research in records beyond those easily available online, they can both turn into sirens luring you to crash on the rocky shore of brickwalls.
Do I have to avoid the sirens' call and stop looking at my online family trees just to get some perspective? A few blog posts ago I wrote about the problems with copying online family trees. I have no intention of copying them, but what to do? I get dozens, perhaps hundreds of notifications about new connections from my online trees while at the same time I am revising my main database with new information. If I take down my trees, all my suggested contacts and sources will probably be lost, but if I don't take down my trees, they will soon be woefully out of date. They will contain lines that I have eliminated from my primary database. One solution is to use only online trees that synchronize with the online trees. That might work.
But looking beyond the online trees, the real problem is that doing the research and correcting the trees makes little or no impression on the vast ocean of copied databases. Almost none of the owners of the online trees seem to care whether or not they have correct or incorrect information. As I change my database and put more accurate information into my own family trees online, I find almost no interest in any of the changes I am making from new research. The ocean of trees continues to increase and my solitary lighthouse on the shore grows dimmer and dimmer in haze and fog of copied errors.
Sometimes I wish I could start all over again without any relatives.