Thursday, February 23, 2006

Anonymous Genealogy

Everyone has pet peaves, right? Well one of mine is the proliferation of genealogy web sites with little or no identification of the owner and/or the source(s) of their information.

How would you feel if you went into a library, picked up a book on your favorite subject and after reading it, wanted to know more only to discover that there is no author or bibliography listed!

The Internet is a publishing platform, and yet so many of the established standards adhered to by authors (for as long as there have been printed documents) have gotten lost along the way.

The webmasters of these sites fall into two categories: those that don’t realize what they are doing, and those that deliberately don’t want you to know who they are. This post certainly will have no impact on the latter.

Genealogy is a hobby with tremendous emotional impact. As people discover information about their ancestors it can affect their lives. So, it is critical that we (as an industry) make sure that the information we publish is accurate and properly sourced.

It’s one thing for a genealogist to be sloppy with their research, but it’s simply unacceptable for webmasters to do likewise.

Well, here’s the bad news. There is no one policing the Internet, so we have no one to turn to for help. The only solution is for YOU, the genealogist, to demand better quality of information from webmasters.

If you come across a web site and cannot tell who created it, or where the information came from, write to the webmaster and complain. Let them know that you want to use their information, but cannot TRUST it without them coming out of their shell.And if you cannot find a way to contact the webmaster on their site, contact me and I’ll do my best to help you identify the owner.

Of course, this does make me wonder if there is a need in our industry for some sort of service where you can find out who is responsible for a certain web site. Hmmmm…

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