I received an extensive comment in response to my post entitled, "Jumpstart Your Family History in Ten Steps: Step Three -- Correcting entries and adding sources." Normally, I would address these issues in my Rejoice, and be exceeding glad... blog, but since the comments were made here, I will answer them here. I may not reproduce the entire post, but only those portions that need further response. Here I go with my reply. The comments from the commentator are indented.
I am related to several colonial Virginia families, and on the 17th and early 18th century families I watch and loosely watch, I am seeing their profiles on FamilySearch Family Tree getting worse not better, without constant attention.The nature of the FamilySearch.org Family Tree is that is accumulates all sorts of pre-existing data from multiple sources. The further back in time you go, you will naturally have a greater pool of potential respondents. The original data in the Family Tree goes back over a hundred years, so you can expect that many people have inherited the data, wrong or right, that has been promulgated for that period of time. I suggest that focusing on the 17th and even the 18th Century until the Family Tree settles down will prove to be very frustrating. Your efforts need to be directed to solidifying earlier entries until you have eliminated many of the controversial individuals merely by discovering that you are not really related to them at all.
It seems there is a human tendency to want to have exact dates and places, middle names, and parents for every profile. There is also a tendency once something is in print to not question it further.
Making the assumption that what you have recorded is "entirely accurate" and that any changes from your own data are "wrong" is a dangerous way to approach the Family Tree. You may be correct, but there is always the possibility that you are not and it is important to build up to these types of issues with careful, fully sourced entries.
Some new additions are easy to correct, such as finding out that an ancestor died on the day he made his will, though the will was then, if that is correct, held by the heirs for a full year before they presented it to the Court. Mothers who marry their sons-in-law that is pretty easy to figure out. Multiple women married to the same man with the same names and birth dates within a 10 year span can usually safely be merged. And these are recent additions.Watching and correcting new, unacceptable entries in the Family Tree is one of the basic functions of building an accurate and stable product. Entries that are unsupported by sources or when the source is trivial, such as "GEDCOM" or some such nonsense should be automatically reversed or corrected.
Requiring us to type something in the "Reason This Information Is Correct" block, helps though I am developing a strong aversion to "per gedcom" or "my gedcom." If the term "gedcom" is typed in that block, I suggest the "Save" button not be enabled.
Another ingredient that seems to make the situation worse is an article published in the early 20th century about the family. A lot has been learned since then, and some of what was written was incorrect, however the information from those articles is still being added.
For the Calvert family of Stafford and Prince William Counties, Virginia, people add exact dates and places that are not known and relationships to prominent people from earlier 20th century published sources or from their gedcom data where there is no support.Rooting out traditionally recorded errors will be one of the biggest challenges of maintaining the Family Tree. We can never expect that our "corrections" will remain corrected as long as there are people who are unwilling to think before they make changes. But the incidence of this happening will become less and less and finally disappear over time. Again, here the issue is trying to work back so early in time when the Family Tree is still in flux. I can assure you that the changes die off as you add sources and address those who continue to try to make changes. The Family Tree is a "last man (or woman) standing" type of program.
Here I omit some of the commentary from the original comment. You can see the entire comment on the blog post cited above.
I guess my points are profiles of people living in colonial Virginia families in the 17th and early 18th century that I watch are not getting better, but worse. The issue seems to be a human need for completeness and is exacerbated if information about the family was published in the early 20th century, ie., if it is published it has to be true and I don’t need to do further researchYes, there are some pretty silly opinions and some very casual users of the Family Tree, but these people seem to disappear from participation over time. Again, the issue here is that you started with a huge pool of these people. You should have let them fight it out among themselves and only stepped in when the changes stopped happening. You have to wait a while until these people get their opinions and old, inaccurate data out of their own system and stop looking at the Family Tree. Believe me, it takes a while but then when you work up to or back to this level, you can begin to do the work properly. Remember, the Family Tree is the solution, not the problem. Your relatives have always had this inaccurate information for over a hundred years and it isn't going to be resolved overnight.