Are online trees worth it? I’m not so sure. I was a volunteer curator at Geni.com for many years but ultimately left because of the breathtaking incompetence of some of my fellow curators (as well as a pervasive homophobia). The strongest and most vocal users are often those peddling fantasy. It wouldn’t have to be a problem but they’re abetted by curators with mediocre genealogy skills but with a strong need for social approval. Look at the area around Pocahontas if you doubt me.
I thought maybe WikiTree.com would be better, but it turns out they have no will to correct errors. There is simply no way to remove information that is unsupported if the current manager likes it.
I did get a good story out of WikiTree, though — when I first became active there I received a series of messages from one of the admins advising me to get help before working further on my husband’s account. (What!?) Because they assumed I was a woman getting confused by all that hard DNA stuff. I was on the receiving end of quite a bit of mansplaining before I figured out what was going on. Then the admin huffily explained that he thought I was a woman because men don’t change their names. No apologies (and that seems on-brand for WikiTree).
They say the online trees will eventually coalesce into one massive online tree. From what I’ve seen so far, I imagine it will be a tree filled with massive and insolvable mistakes and pretensions.
The one I have the most hope for is FamilySearch.org. It has more than its share of silly mistakes right now but I see it as less commercial and therefore more likely to make the hard decisions that lead to good genealogy. The others are handicapped by the need to pander to a paying public.
I welcome engagement on this subject.
- Tony Proctor, “The Future of Online Trees,” Parallax View, Dec. 1, 2018.
- Tony Proctor, “Research in Online Trees“, Parallax View, Dec. 6, 2018.
- Tony Proctor, “Stop Adding Incorrect Details for My Family,” Parallax View, Aug. 8, 2021.
- James Tanner, “Can the FamilySearch Family Tree become an accurate master reference?,” Genealogy’s Star, June 25, 2016.
- James Tanner, “Comments on The Future of Online Family Trees,” Genealogy’s Star, Dec. 2, 2018.
- James Tanner, “How do the large online genealogy websites compare?,” Genealogy’s Star, Feb. 2, 2019.
Revised Sept. 22, 2021 to add link.