A few weeks ago I conducted an experiment. I found 21 Family Trees on Ancestry.com that had the wrong death date for my great-grandfather Joseph McGinnis. It's actually an easy error to make as the death record is for a different Joseph McGinnis. It was an error I too made many years ago (pre-internet) and one I shared with a few other researchers. When I discovered that it was the wrong man, I wrote to anyone I had previously shared with and told them.
So I was taken aback to discover these 21 trees with the wrong death for my ancestor. I decided to write a letter explaining the error and directing the owners to a blog post I wrote going over the facts and clarifying the two Joseph McGinnis males.
My Note Explaining the Error
Here's what I wrote. I deliberately kept it short and to the point. My experiment was to see 1) how many tree owners would respond and 2) how many would correct their error. I should add that I verified that the owners are active and are online every few days. So they have had plenty of time to respond to my note.
Hello [fill in name of tree owner]The results of my experiment
Your death date of 1877 for my ancestor Joseph McGinnis (husband of Fanny Downey) is incorrect. The Joseph who died on that date was a different man. I have documentation to prove this.
For the facts, please see my blog post at http://olivetreegenealogy.blogspot.ca/2013/01/a-case-of-mistaken-identity.html
Lorine McGinnis Schulze
Olive Tree Genealogy
6 out of 21 tree owners responded. All responded favourably and thanked me. Did any of them correct the error?
- 1 owner signed in as recently as today. She has not corrected the error.
- 1 owner signed in yesterday. His tree is now private.
- 1 owner removed the incorrect date. She is a woman I have also corresponded with many times over the past 16 years.
- 1 owner told me had made the correction. He has not. His online tree still shows the same error.
- 1 owner removed the incorrect death date but entered a different year and location that is not correct
- 1 owner wrote to me and gave me her private email asking me to share information. I replied 2 weeks ago with info and have not heard back from her. Her tree no longer has Joseph McGinnis or his wife in it
So the final summary is that of 21 tree owners, 6 responded and only 1 removed the incorrect death year (without substituting more incorrect details)
I hate to say this but the time it took me to write to each of these people and then read and respond to those who responded, was not worth my time. It irritates me to see bad or incorrect genealogy perpetuated but from now on I am going to grit my teeth and spend my time on other more worthwhile genealogy pursuits such as bringing more free genealogy records online to Olive Tree Genealogy website!
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