Just Because It’s On The Internet, Doesn’t Make It So

Genealogy isn’t just about finding people from many generations ago. For many people it may include living cousins, grandparents and great grandparents ‘lost’ through family feuds, divorces, travel etc.

Imagine making a discovery online referencing your family, and as you scroll and scan through the page of information you discover to your horror that one of the following has occurred:

  • They have included harmless information but which is wrong.
  • They have ascribed relationships that are wrong, including perhaps that your relative is even a member of their family!
  • Or worse, they have written a book available online which refers in one chapter to your deceased close relative in the snippet you are able to read in a most defamatory manner. Not once but multiple times, despite never knowing them or anyone who did know them.

We are so used to everything looking professional and authoritative on the net, we can forget that the humans writing the content may make mistakes.

Lesson one – remember that just because it is on the internet, doesn’t make it so.

What do you do? Do you sit on your hands? You would imagine that if people are making their content visible to the world that they would want it to be right, and at the very least be open to a polite communication about the problem and a suggested easy solution. This avoids other people, who don’t know the difference, not duplicating incorrect information.

I’ve experienced some of these and despite using my very best manners in an email or the contact form, have had variable outcomes from which you, dear reader may learn….

Lesson two as you will see is to expect nothing and you won’t be disappointed!

Case 1: wrong information on a genealogy family tree making site. Even if your relative has passed away, it is reasonable for their death date and location to be correct, not a decade out and somewhere entirely different. Having the occupation correct would be nice too. This was not about mistaken identity, but was caused by using of records of another person with the same name. Was my cousin-so-far-removed I’ve lost count going to fix this error about my close family member? Despite being happy to hear to hear from me and share information, he never made the corrections.

Case 2: ascribed relationships that are wrong. Depending on the person, they may ignore you or reply that YOU are wrong (even if records prove otherwise, or the error refers to your own immediate relative) Just once, I was thanked and the changes were made.

Case 2: defaming a deceased relative. Okay, I haven’t actually tacked this one as I have been sitting on my hands! The book has been printed, and is available as an e-book, but frankly from what I can tell the author won’t be retiring on the proceeds and thus not really profiting from this book. Strictly speaking, it isn’t defamation if the person has died, but that isn’t the point. Should I contact them?

Case 3: a bit of a deflection, where you contact someone offering a wealth of information to support your contact and instead of replying, you find they have blocked you! If this long lost relative has ‘put themselves out there’ on a genealogy site behaves like this, you would really want to be in touch with them?

Despite hiccups like these, there are many moments making it all worthwhile. As you use cyberspace to explore your more recent family history, you’ll sometimes from an error or gap in information discover a rare gem – a fabulous living relation who you really enjoy getting to know. I’ve found several now!

Lesson three – somewhere among the rubble you’ll find treasure, just keep digging!!

Researching on the web is great - providing it's correct.
Researching on the web is great – providing it’s correct.

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