The "GEDCOM data" problem
I had sent this concern to the support department. They suggested I post it here, which really doesn't seem to be the appropriate place. But support will not help me with this.
I'd been noticing for a while the phrase "GEDCOM data" as "reason" for including information. I have long considered that to be a red flag. You understand, of course, that that is not a good reason for inclusion of information, particularly if the GEDCOM file and the information in it is not specified. But based on correspondences I've had with several other users, it appears that it's pasted by your system in the automatic GEDCOM merging with the public tree. I have spent many hours, even over the last three days, cleaning up records because of this -- duplicate profiles and thoughtless and unsupported links. This unfettered capability serious jeopardizes the integrity of your public tree.
I've been told by support more than once to go and start my own tree elsewhere. Of course, that's a terrible thing to say to someone who is seriously trying to make contributions. Indeed, I have been developing my own tree on a server I started in 1994, the former genealogy.org, bought by RootsWeb in 2000 and now owned by Ancestry.com. I rebranded it ancestraldata.com twenty years ago, now using it mostly for personal research as well as a support for some of the projects I administer at FTDNA.com.
But that's not the point. I refuse to use Ancestry.com for a host of reasons. This is clearly the best alternative. Besides, too many researchers have forgotten about google and my server no longer gets the hits as it once did (3 million a week in its heyday). This is the best way to get the word out. So, the point is that I chose to use familysearch.org. (Support does not understand the sentiment.)
I wrote a GEDCOM parser, one of several developed in the community that ended up being named GEDView. It was licensed by the Polish National Library in about 1995. I mention this only to demonstrate that I understand the problems with parsing and converting GEDCOM files. Indeed, I've been told by some users here that your system sometimes accepts as little as 30%. Of course, I'm seeing only a small portions of those and the vast majority has zero sources, only the "GEDCOM data" stamp, which is very annoying.
I understand the reason you would want such a tool available to your users. But the GEDCOM is only as good as the research that has gone into producing it. Unfortunately, they're generally of very poor quality.
I have very few recommendations for correcting this problem but it would boil down to better quality controls, especially of source data. If there are no sources, the record should probably be discounted. Checking to see whether the inclusion will create duplicate entries should be an easy matter to resolve, as would the issue of causing multiple linkages. For example, here's just one of the recent submissions after such a merge. I generally like to merge duped records, but there have been so many lately -- even just for the Bennett families I'm researching -- that it's becoming increasingly time-consuming. So I did the best I could today to identify the dupes and simply remove them, not the desirable the method. But imagune this happening on several occasions to dozens of profiles. I can't spent all day every day of the week dealing with this monster.
Col Charles Scarburgh I 1643-1702 LBH7-KCY
Marriage: about 1670
Accomack, Virginia, British Colonial America
Elizabeth Bennett 1642-1719 LBHW-H9L
Children of Elizabeth Bennett and Col Charles Scarburgh I (19)
Henry Scarborough 1660-1676 GZD2-671
Mary Scarborough 1660-1716 GZD2-XQT
Elizabeth Scarborough 1670-1701 GZD2-VMM
Elizabeth Scarburgh 1671-1700 GQJJ-36G
Maj Bennett Scarburgh 1673-1734 LWTX-81C
Ann Scarborough 1675-1716 GZD2-DWS
Ann Scarburgh 1675-1719 LZ6Q-DFH
John Scarborough 1676-1743 G7RW-X2M
John Scarborough 1676-1743 GZD2-L7M
Capt. Charles Scarburgh II 1677-1724 LZ6X-K2T
Captain Charles Scarborough 1677-1724 GZD2-F4R
Col. Henry Scarburgh I 1679-1735 LRK5-CPT
Maj Bennett Scarborough 1679-1735 GZD2-L79
Tabitha Scarborough 1680-1748 MW2V-WTD
Mary Scarburgh 1681-1722 L8P1-86S
Sarah Scarborough 1683-1728 GZD2-4Y2
Sarah Scarburgh 1683-1728 G7RW-JYX
William Meredith Scarborough 1690-1735 GZDK-BSB
Colonel Edmund Scarborough 1692-1753 GZD2-HTH
I'd rather spend my time doing research. But these need to be tended to right away, otherwise the whole shebang quickly goes to pot and becomes useless. Additionally, I've seen up to as many as four unrelated families merged into one. Of course, I spend time on only a small number of families key to my research, but the work put into simple maintenance is outweighing the benefits.
I really want to see FamilySearch and the public tree become successful, and I want to do my part in that. But you need to help us help you.
My immediate recommendation would be that you put a hold on the merging of private GEDCOM files until the problems can be better sorted out. That or totally rethink the public tree and concentrate on your databases.
You probably have access to my phone number. Feel free to contact me there or by email. I don't carry a cell phone so it's most likely you'll need to leave a message.
Michael Cooley, BS MA
Former owner of Genealogy Online (genealogy.org)
Former owner of The National Queries Forum
Former instructor and speaker for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), and others
Admin for 16 Y-DNA Projects