(+) Can You Trust Online Genealogy Data?

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

“I found it online, so it must be true!”

Of course not. If you have been involved in researching your family tree for more than a few months, you already know the truth about online genealogy data. Or do you?

You can go to almost any of today’s online genealogy sites and find information that appears to be false. I’ll pick on FamilySearch.org as it is a free and open database, making it a good example that everyone can see. However, similar examples exist on most of the commercial (paid) genealogy databases as well.

The first example is that of Mary Allyn. According to FamilySearch at http://www.FamilySearch.org, Mary married Henry L. Brooks in Connecticut on 21 April 1564. You can find that “record” at https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/F7G9-14N.

As I remember from my history classes in school, Connecticut didn’t exist in those days. The only people found there in the mid 1500s would have been American Indians, and the name “Mary Allyn” sure doesn’t sound like an Indian name to me! In fact, Dutch explorer Adriaen Block first visited the area in 1614. The first settlement from the New Netherlands colony was a trading post not far from present-day Hartford, and the first English settlers arrived in 1635. It would therefore seem silly to claim marriages in the area in 1564.

In a similar vein, you can find a birth record in FamilySearch for John Smith born in Hadley, Massachusetts, on 6 May 1600, as listed at https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FHGP-ZHL. That is obviously twenty years before the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts and 59 years before the town of Hadley was first settled!

Shouldn’t these so-called “facts” be checked? Isn’t the Internet increasing the amount of bad data floating around? Isn’t it a bad thing to allow false information to be posted online where others will find it?

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