Family Tree Data Stablity
Yesterday I finished a several week project reviewing my wife's family tree data back six generations since it has been a few years since we last looked at parts of it and there have been some changes to the Family Tree program.
This consisted of checking all the data on direct ancestors back those six generations, which reached to 1801, all those ancestors children, and all those children's spouses. This would be about 500 people.
I found a fair amount of housekeeping since some new record collections have been released so there were a lot of new record hints to attach. But there were a lot of those new sources that had already been attached, correctly, by other people. There were about five source hints that provided new children to add that we had missed in our original research.
Many sources I had put on the records were created before we could add dates to sources so I added all those dates.
The place standards had been improved so that instead of linking to just a large municipality, I could re-link all the place names to the farms, churches, and cemeteries within the municipalities and get the timeline map to show much better locations.
I checked every Change Log for changes in Name, Birth, Christening, Death, Burial, and for Merges.
As far as problems I found:
Insignificant - that is, items that cause no harm at all and could just sit on the record for decades until someone bothered to take care of them such as: several of the people who attached sources left christening events under baptisms (This was even on people that already had christening events with the same information) or had left multiple instances of the same residence that really were redundant when attaching sources. These meant quick fixes for the sake of a pretty looking profiles.
Style differences - that is, things that different users do differently that are not an error, just different. I only found one instance of this. One user in one small area of the tree had made a single edit on several records changing names from, for example Hans Olsson / Våge to Hans / Olsson Våge. That is shifting peoples' patronymics from the first name field, where Geni and a few other websites say it belongs if there is no middle name or specifically designated field for it, and moving them to the last name field. (https://www.norwaydna.no/gedcoms-and-genealogy/norwegian-names-en/norwegian-names-in-genealogy-software-en/ ). I moved them back with a note to that effect and included in the note that I've found that the search engine works best when the main name is Hans Olsson / Våge and an alternate name is Hans / Olsson.
Errors - I found two. In one case a user had merged two brother of the same name born five years apart so I restored the one. In the other, a source hint had been transcribed with the child's name one row off from the rest of entry and the user attaching it had created a "twin" for an existing child so I merged to two of them.
Overall I am very pleased to see how stable the data was and the improvements others had helped with. I'll be doing three more generations and before 1801 the source records are not as good so it will be interesting to see how things look there. I should mention that I have not been keep up with notification on people my wife follows at all. We found it was just too bothersome to dig through weekly lists of non-issues.
Gordon Collett ✭✭✭✭✭
I should mention that this was all done on the new pages. They work great. Particularly after I realized you can add dates to sources right there in the Details page sources side bar.2
Great job! It's great your review found no significant issues/conflation. Now that you are 'caught up' and know that the status is good for all these profiles - it will make Following any new changes that much easier to verify - whether they are good, insignificant or conflating. This is essentially what my Idea about agree, disagree or 'unknown' would do - except it would leave that residual 'mark' of your agreement on those profiles/details.1
Congratulations, @Gordon Collett . That's what I find too, and I think it is what we all aim for. Polishing up profiles is time well spent.
A general comment. To me, @genthusiast's suggestion to leave marks of agreement on details would be incredibly onerous. Isn't it enough to follow the profile or the descendancy or the ancestry, and not object? Or, to edit the profile and not change most of it? Or, ignore the stable parts of the tree and pay more attention to the unstable parts. It seems to me that where there is stability we don't need any marks at all. Much of the tree is "once and done": done right the first time, stable from the start.
Where there is not stability I make a Note and move on, confident that it will be sorted out eventually to genealogical proof standards.
For some of my surname projects I also have a Family Group where we can discuss the problem profiles.0
The Idea of leaving residual agreement - if everyone did that - would just allow that consensus to collaboratively be seen - and might further impede bad changes. But as I mentioned - once you have done "a several week project" and gotten caught up - then to have all that work show in addition to making following so much easier - but the Family Tree isn't just for me ... So yes it is another collaborative layer. I'd much rather take a few more seconds to indicate what details I agree with than to not have that recorded while putting forth such an effort.0
I've made over 30,000 profiles and edited hundreds of thousands more. I have no need or wish to watch them all. In my view, such an added layer would be beyond burdensome and contribute nothing to collaboration.0
The question is: is it collaborative or stable to have good/known conclusions/profiles change? I vote no (even if the change is to add an address for which there already exist a reference to the location). For the past 10+ years this risk has allowed instability to creep or potentially grow in profiles(I'm glad Gordon and dontiknowyou don't see it in their trees/experience but it doesn't mean the risk isn't there). I hope the implemented features now and future will continue to impede this risk.
The Idea isn't necessarily about Following more profiles (if you don't wish to) - it's more about your review of a profile and collaboratively portraying your agreement, disagreement or uncertainty concerning its details.0
Way to go Gordon! - and through your work on your own tree you have been such a great help to all of us. Your feedback and insight has played a large part in the development of the new pages we are now enjoying. Thank you so much.1
"... and might further impede bad changes."
Unfortunately I find that bad changes are mostly made by people who don't read the information that is in front of them. Giving them more information to not read isn't going to help.
It may well help in the small number of cases (in my experience) where an incorrect change is made in good faith.2
I, too, have found little damage has been done over the years to my ancestral lines. But this does not mean Family Tree in itself is in good shape. When I examine more distant relatives, and work on surnames common to my branches, then I do find individuals and families that have been completely confused with those of similar identity. Plenty of relationships to amend, sources to be transferred and Alert notes to be added!
Maybe why the advice from some FamilySearch employees has been to stick to monitoring ones closer family members. Doing this would certainly save me many hours of work, in untangling the mixed-up profiles I encounter on a weekly basis.1
Like @Paul W I spend a lot of time detangling the tree. I enjoy detangling and I concentrate on the tops of tree fragments, those "brick walls" everyone struggles with. Because I do surname studies that means I build tall skinny trees with many branches where the surname "daughters out". Those branches often are stubs, but I always try to find all a daughter's husbands. That means the stubs very often break through someone else's brick wall. The skinny tree rapidly grows grafts to other tree fragments. Detangling is very gratifying.4
I admit I've not fully thought through this yet. But could it be used to prompt a pause before changes can be made?
A warning on the page that "X number of users are in agreement that the information on this profile is accurate. You can make changes but you must tick (or un-tick) this box to indicate that you have read this warning."1
@ColinCameron I like that thought. Perhaps it could be in conjunction with the Alert Note feature (which I believe/suggested before should have such a tick box - just my opinion).
But offering of such a collaborative agreement feature - I believe should be based upon those collaborating members thorough review/tag of profile details and indicating their total 'percentage profile agreement'. yes ... i already know if you don't agree with something change it... but for those of us with limited time (or easily distracted by Community or other research...) having the ability to tag/indicate such on each detail in a profile would be a starting point. Plus, I believe showing collaborative agreement should indicate whether someone even needs to 'redo research' or just pay attention to any further Record Hints. If there isn't anything more to do on a profile - move on to another - don't cause problems by forcing bad data into an already essentially complete profile. With the new edit every field indexer/transcriber this makes getting a profile essentially complete further away - unfortunately it creates more work to redo the Sources...
I would also like the ability for Family Groups to indicate such collaborative agreement on near family relations - so that people know the near family is already managing/Following the profile (again, move on and research some other profile).0
Wouldn't the politest thing to do is to allow the originator of the tree to accept or reject an addition or change to the originator's tree? That means the originator has the obligation to attach or not attach information from their own tree, public or private. A public platform it may be, but that should not and does not entitle anyone to change, mutilate, sabotage, or destroy someone else's tree. These so called contributors should be required to attach the proper proof if they are given the right to make changes to anyone's tree. I have been chided on more than one occasion for not providing valid evidence, like a marriage record for which I have yet to find one, yet the contributor could provide a baptismal record and attach her parents to my tree. So I insist on any contributor to my tree to provide the proper evidence or proof and allowing me to do my own due diligence before attaching the contributor's information to my tree. Then familysearch.org sends me an e-mail saying I may be related to Marie Antoinette. As I began researching Marie's tree I find there are some glaring mistakes in the information provided, such as one ancestor dying some thirty years prior to the year shown on the tree. And that was just one mistake. If familysearch.org's promotional e-mail can't get the data right, what makes anyone think that its okay to be changing, adding, deleting information on anyone else's tree? Or is it familysearch.org's belief that they are entitled to cause confusion just like God did at the Tower of Babel?0
No, @Pauline Anthony, that doesn't work, for the simple reason that there is no such thing here as "my tree" or "someone else's tree". It's all a single, collaborative tree, and the "originator" of any given profile is often lost in the sands of time and vagaries of evolving data-recording systems.0
@Pauline Anthony After the 'My Tree' feature is implemented - announced at Rootstech 2023 as an upcoming feature - perhaps there can be some automation of reverting the Tree back to 'My Tree' when some person jumbles it all up. That should make recovery from other's errors easier I believe. However there is a bit of ambiguity in the announcement - so we'll have to wait and see.0
Whatever happened to COPYRIGHT? The people making changes to any data I have entered are not even related to me. Confusion! Disaster! It looks more like, I don't like the way this person entered a name, such as John, so I am going to change it to Johannes or Johan or Hans. It is still the same person. The same thing with surnames. We all know that there are a dozen different ways of spelling someone's name whether it be a first name or a surname. Just look at the horrible census index for names. If anything needs to be fixed it is those kinds of records. You don't see these records being changed. These people have nothing better to do with their time and are just creating confusion and destruction of another person's hard work, researching and entering data. A requirement should be limited to direct ancestry only and then they should only be permitted to request changes providing proof or evidence of why the change needs to be made. And I am not even mentioning using a convention of coming to a probable viable conclusion when no solid evidence exists, just circumstantial evidence.0
Many of us share your exasperation in having to constantly revert incorrect changes made by careless users to the thoroughly researched inputs we have made to our relatives' records.
However, if you had looked into the nature of the Family Tree project at the outset you would have realised it has an open-edit format and that users have no copyright entitlements relating to their contributions.2
“A requirement should be limited to direct ancestry only”
So you won’t be adding any siblings? Or aunts and uncles? Or great aunts and uncles? Meaning that anyone who didn’t produce any offspring will never be added to the tree?3
"In exchange for your use of this site and/or our storage of any data you submit, you hereby grant us with an unrestricted, fully paid-up, royalty-free, worldwide, irrevocable, sublicensable, and perpetual license to use any and all information, content, and other materials (collectively, “Contributed Content”) that you submit or otherwise provide to this site (including, without limitation, genealogical data, images, writings, documents, materials, recordings, discussions, information, and data relating to deceased persons or anything else) for any and all purposes, in any and all manners, and in any and all forms of media that we, in our sole discretion, deem appropriate for the furtherance of our mission to promote family history and genealogical research."
For the particular problem of which form of the name to use for a person's profile, are you aware that on FS, the answer can be "yes"? You can enter as many Alternate Names as you want. The Find function gives equal weight to all of a profile's names, regardless of which one happens to be in the Vitals box, so you can find your relative whether you search for him as "Hirmann Tamás" or as "Tom Bodroghy". (Yes, that's a real example.)2
@Pauline Anthony I have inherited plenty of photos and documents of people who are not direct ancestors, and many are not related to me at all. I see NOTHING wrong with adding these information and / or images to their memories. Occasionally it will change vital information. Example: my grandmother's 1923 high school basketball team did very well that year and I have a team photo with all of their complete names written on the back, their nick names, and what position they played and whether they started or were subs. I looked up and found most of them in the tree. In some cases this enabled me to give a birth estimate where there was none, although whether they were seniors or juniors in 1923 was not stated, but it was better than no birth date that a few of them lacked. It gave me the ability to give a residence fact for 1924 when I saw they died in some other state. Most of the time the information was already spot on and I was simply adding a family story and a teenaged photo of the person.
I also do lineage research for a lineage society, and when I find new information, such as wills that name additional children, I will not only add the wills to sources, but add the additional children.
I think all of this is a positive contribution. I think the real problem comes in when merges are done when two individuals have similar names but are not the same person. Also I seen several people complain about errors that turned out to not be errors. Everyone needs to be vigilant and open to the fact that new information is always becoming available.1
As others have stated copyright of a simple family tree is irrelevant.
Feist v Rural means mere sweat of the brow work in trivial arrangements does not attract copyright in the US. In that case alphabetically listing names in a telephone directory. In genealogy it's the arrangement of names into a family tree. Only one way it can be done correctly and thus it's a trivial arrangement for copyright law purposes despite the significant sweat of the brow work often involved in work out the correct arrangement.
Database right is also irrelevant since that's a sui generis intellectual property right and only extant in the EU and UK. Since Familysearch is not based in any of those jurisdictions it doesn't come into the picture.0