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

Monday, March 20, 2023

The real limitations of Artificial Intelligence: Incomplete, Inaccurate, Misleading, and Flat Out Wrong

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is getting a lot of online commentary lately. Some of the pundits are wringing their hands about how many jobs will be lost when AI goes mainstream. See "23+ Artificial Intelligence and Job Loss Statistics [2023]: How Job Automation Impacts the workforce." and many other such articles. It is interesting that all the statistics cited seem to be speculation since the only reference to any kind of study is one statement that says, "Artificial intelligence and job loss statistics,,," without referring to any specific statistical studies. I am not intending to pick on any one article, but this type of response to technological change has been occurring steadily since 1811 in England with the luddite movement objected to mechanized looms and knitting frames. 

A short time ago, I wrote a blog post entitled, “How will Artificial Intelligence affect Genealogy?” where I pointed out several inaccurate statements made by a ChatGPT response about one of my ancestors. I decided to try another response, this time, using a general request to write about doing genealogical research in Portugal. I spent some time recently reviewing genealogical research in Portugal for a Sunday Class from the BYU Family History Library. A recording of the class will shortly be posted on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel. 

Here is the description I used to elicit the response below.
“Describe the availability of genealogical records in Portuguese and archives in Portugal with citations to useful websites”

Genealogical records in Portugal are typically held by the Portuguese Civil Registration Offices, the National Archives of Portugal, and the Catholic Church. These records include birth, marriage, and death records, as well as census records, military records, and property records.

The Portuguese Civil Registration Offices hold records from 1911 to the present day. [This is not correct, Portuguese civil registration records go back to 1832 and These records are available to the public, but access is restricted to those who can prove a direct relationship to the individual(s) named in the records. The records can be requested online through the website of the Portuguese Ministry of Justice:

The National Archives of Portugal hold a variety of genealogical records, including parish registers, notarial records, and other documents related to Portuguese history. These records are available to the public and can be accessed in person at the National Archives building in Lisbon or online through their website:

The Catholic Church in Portugal also holds a significant number of genealogical records, including baptismal, marriage, and death records dating back to the 16th century. These records are typically stored at the parish level, and access is often restricted to researchers who can prove a direct relationship to the individual(s) named in the records. The website of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference provides information on how to contact individual parishes to request access to these records:

In addition to these sources, there are also a number of online databases and websites that can be useful for researching Portuguese genealogy. Some of these include:

FamilySearch ( a free online genealogy database that includes a variety of Portuguese records
MyHeritage ( a subscription-based genealogy website that includes a large collection of Portuguese records
Genea Portugal ( a website dedicated to Portuguese genealogy research, with resources and databases for researchers. 
It's important to note that the availability and accessibility of genealogical records in Portugal can vary depending on the region and the specific records being searched. It may be necessary to consult multiple sources and organizations in order to find the information you are looking for.

On its face, this seems to be adequate and helpful. However, I am reminded of a book published about my family line. Here is the citation to this book. 

Tanner, Maurice, and George C Tanner. 1923. Descendants of John Tanner; Born August 15, 1778, at Hopkintown, R.I., Died April 15, 1850, at South Cottonwood, Salt Lake County, Utah; [Place of publication not identified.

The conclusions contained in this book about the “original” Tanner immigrant ancestor to Rhode Island are inaccurate, incomplete, unsupported by sources, misleading, and have caused many people to be lead away from doing accurate and complete research. I have to say the same thing about ChatGPT response. 

Here are just a few of the problems presented by the seemingly innocuous ChatGPT response about Portuguese genealogical research. 

1. The best places to find instructions about genealogical records in Portugal are the FamilySearch Research Wike article that begins with Portugal Genealogy and The Family History Guide article on Portugal
2. The ChatGPT article points to both FamilySearch and MyHeritage as sources for researching Portuguese genealogy. The statement is correct but previous statements about the location and availability of both Catholic church records and Civil Registration Records are contradictory and misleading. FamilySearch has huge numbers digitized records of both Civil Registration records and Catholic Church records online for free. In addition, the Portuguese National Archives, correctly identified as Torre do Tombo National Archives, also has accessible parish and civil registration records. The ChatGPT statements about the availability of both the parish registers and civil registrations records are misleading and wrong. In addition, MyHeritage has 14 collections of indexes to Portuguese Church records, but these are mostly indexes and have relatively few copies of the original records. 
3. The link provided to does not exist. Although, is a Portuguese public internet database on family history and genealogy, mainly concerning Royalty and Aristocracy around the world.
4. The link to the Justice Department is for current records and as it the case with most recent government records around the world there are privacy limitations for access to these records. 
5. It ends up that huge numbers of Portuguese Catholic Church records, Civil Registration records, and other records are available on the website. Many of these records are accessible through the FamilySearch catalog and others are accessible in the Images section. 

In short, there are one or two links in the ChatGPT article that are helpful, but the rest of the explanation is either wrong or misleading. Finding and researching Portuguese genealogy records is far easier than portrayed by the ChatGPT article. 

If you decide to use ChatGPT or any other artificial intelligence source, I suggest that you become aware of the limitations and possible issues from text generated by anyone artificial or real that misstates facts. Before you jump off into the current trend of artificial intelligence, try using some of your own. 

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