Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, October 7, 2013

Changes in my data online?

I am still getting an almost constant complaints from various researchers worried about "people" changing "their data" online. This concern seems to come from relatively sophisticated researchers that are fearful that if they put their data online all their research will be damaged or changed by people who obviously do not know as much as they do about the subject matter. The issue of the ownership of genealogy files is like something out of the Night of the Living Dead. They just keep coming at me day after day (night after night?) with complaints about online programs and how their file will be so badly misused by relatives. Wait a minute, how could they be concerned that someone might change their data online if they don't have their data online?

On the other hand, I get the idea that these people who are concerned with the integrity of their data may have an overactive sense of their own infallibility. I can only guess but this attitude has to arise as a result of being so isolated from any others working on the same lines that they are researching that they begin to think that anything they conclude has to be correct since no one has ever pointed out the limitations of their own research. Unfortunately, the cure for their fears is the very thing they fear; a good dose of criticism and suggested changes. I long ago lost any allusions I might have had at one time about my own accuracy. As the commentators to this blog are usually quick to point out, I have my share of typos and lack to proper sentence structure. I have also spent a significant amount of time correcting my own genealogical errors.

One researcher approached me because he was concerned that a Family Tree on could be changed by anyone. I think he may have been confused with's Family Tree program. As far as I am aware, unless you invite collaboration, no one others have access to your Family Tree.

My suggestion to these people is that if they are uncomfortable with sharing their Family Tree online, that they publish their research in a print book. That way, no one can change the information.

Sorry about this rather short rant, but it seems like I am immersed in a pool of researchers who are certain that putting their data online will lead to disaster.


  1. i'm right there with you James :-)

  2. James - I can't agree - we don't have "an overactive sense of [our] own infallibility". I know very well that I make mistakes. One of the earlier bits of disentangling I did on FS FT was to data input by someone who I'd corresponded with some years ago. They'd entered the relationships in FS FT that I gave them. Unfortunately, I'd made the mistake of believing the primary records. Since then I'd worked out my error - and been gratified to find 2 other guys who'd come to the same conclusions about the error in the original. So I'm under no illusion about my fallibility. And the benefits of co-operation.

    The issue is that there is no "good dose of criticism and suggested changes" in FS FT. Before altering it, I set up a discussion about the erroneous ancestor to alert the others. No response. I tried to find their contact details. No response. That's when I could find their id. Half the time it simply says "FamilySearch" entered the data, which must surely be a nonsense. So eventually, I just corrected the data. As you know, any proposal in business has a time limit within which people must "put up or shut up." It has to be the same in FS FT.

    So I conclude that it is far too easy for people to alter data without any meaningful collaboration. After all, I did...

    If FS want people to collaborate, it is surely a nonsense to blame the customers if they don't want to use it. Isn't the answer to provide proper collaboration software? FS FT is really not good enough in its collaborative facilities. Take a theoretical example:
    - a Susan A is baptised to John and Mary A in 1780;
    - a Susan A marries James B in 1820;
    - a Susan B, wife of James B, dies in 1848.

    Someone decides these are all the same person and merges them together. Two of us decide that actually the Susan from the baptism is a different person. Can we unmerge her WITH her baptism? As I understand it, no. We can disconnect her from her parents, John and Mary A and delete the married Susan's baptism to leave a Susan with the correct marriage and death, but this has also resulted in the deletion of any record of John and Mary's baptised child...

    FS FT has an inadequate design - that baptism and baptised child should remain in the system, linked to the parents. (I'm tempted to say that it should be possible to shuffle events around between people - that may be over simplistic).

  3. Interesting column. For the record, if you have a public tree on, anyone has the right to LOOK at it, but they do not have the right to CHANGE it unless they have been invited to collaborate AND been given the rights to make changes.

    I have plenty of folks who interact with my tree who want nothing to do with making changes to it, so they get the guest access and they comment whenever they want something changed. Its not an elegant system but it works for my extended family.