While researching "Cyrus D. Ward" on Ancestry.com last night, I discovered something completely disturbing. EVERY record said he was born in New Jersey. Every census, every military record, every record. BUT, nine out of ten family trees said he was born in Pennsylvania! My gawd!!!
I am a huge fan of "the more people researching their family tree the better!" More people is a good thing. The more people, the more money, the more time invested in the hobby, the more responsive companies and bureaucracies are going to be to our wants and needs.
However there are responsibilities inherent to our research endeavors. Responsibilities to our ancestors, to our descendants, and to ourselves, to get it right. Just because someone says something is true does not mean it is. Treat it as a clue or a hint, not as a fact. Prove it to be true or false BEFORE you pass it along to others. That is how you serve your ancestors, your descendants, and your own integrity.
Here is a simple little dictum to begin with "Someone else's unsourced family tree is not a source!"
And to my beloved Ancestry.Com, you could help the cause by stopping telling your subscribers that they are. I love them shaking leaves, and you properly describe them as "hints." But then when the subscriber saves the "hint" to his/her family tree you then qualify it as a "source" when it is not. The act of saving a hint does not in any way change it qualitatively or quantitatively, it is still a "hint." Keep hints as hints, and sources for facts.
End of rant.
Copyright © 2011 by Kevin W. Walker