Removing pre-1787 "USA," db_errors

+12 votes
Should we replace USA with the CORRECT data, or leave that up to the profile managers?
in The Tree House by James Luper G2G6 (7.5k points)
retagged by Dorothy Barry

3 Answers

+17 votes
Best answer
Thanks for your interest in improving the data in profiles, Jim.  We are all working together collaboratively on profiles, so when I see an incorrect location for a time period, I change it.  But I always look up the information first, to ensure that I am editing correctly - simply removing "USA" for a pre-1775 location isn't enough.

For example, I recently updated a location on a profile that was Kittery, York, Maine in 1678.  Checking the history of Maine, I learned that the colony name was Province of Massachusetts Bay.  To ensure that the current location wasn't lost, I added information in the Biography section of the profile "...born in 1678 in Massachusetts Bay Colony, now Kittery, York, Maine" so that others reading the profile will better understand the relationship between the current and past names of that location.

I do the same thing on my own profiles for Pennsylvania county names, because I'm more familiar with how they change (though I still look it up to be sure).  I'l list born in Northanpton County, Pennsylvania in the location field, and in the Biography section, list Northampton County (now Monroe County) Pennsylvania.
by Star Kline G2G6 Pilot (570k points)
selected by James Luper
Agreed.  Both the pre-1776 suggestion for removing USA, and your then and now addresses approach will turn out to be the best of all, hopefully.  Kinda liked the GEOREF comment, too, but how would that work with everything in constant motion thru plate techtonics?
+5 votes
I would not change anything from 1776 or later because it was in 1776 that the first document saying that we were independent of England and calling the former colonies states
by Dale Byers G2G Astronaut (1.6m points)
There is also the fact that the United States celebrated it's bicentennial in 1976 so let's not change history folks.
The 13 did become independent states upon that declaration in 1776, or after the signing of the cessation of hostilities in Paris; the USA did not become a reality 'til 1787 with the signing of the Constitution...

Can we leave USA in before it was accepted?
This is the final paragraph of the Declaration of Independence that was signed in 1776.

"We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

It refers to the United States of America on that date, it just took the rest of the world a few years to recognize that we existed.

And it seems that a few today do not want history to be accurate.

The guidelines for locations say to use the names that the people used at that time and I just presented a document showing the leaders of The United States of America used that name in 1776.

1787 is when the Constitution was adopted, period. The United States was founded Jul 4 1776 and will be 240 years old this year. The following year 1777 we were recognized as an independent country by Morocco, and a year later by France. Until the Constitution was adopted the US was governed under the Articles of Confederation which the 2nd Continental Congress started writing at the same time they were writing the Declaration of Independence and finally ratified in 1781 (Maryland took 4 years to ratify) where section I says 


The Stile of this Confederacy shall be

"The United States of America".

Be glad that you are living in the USA with a rather straight forward history and not have your roots in Central Europe... Then you would have much more to discuss.... ;-)

The basic problem is

  • Genealogy is complex
  • One field doesn't work to describe a location because location can be used to different things
    • The name of the location when it happen
    • As we see people can have different opinions when it happened also in USA so we need maybe more fields just for that
    • The name of the place today
    • The location of the place today - GPS WGS84
    • ?!?!?!?
For me doing genealogy then the priority is often
  1. Mark the place with GPS WGS84 coordinates so I can visit the house etc.again or tell other people were to find the place
  2. Use the name that was used at that time so searching in church books is easier
  3. Connect the place to a Wikitree category to learn more about the place
    1. Connect the Wikitree category to other sources about the place so I can learn more
  4. Generate custom maps for the family tree
  5. In the future start doing proximity searches ==> find all events in my family tree in 15 km from this place
Mangus, Another historical fact is that with the exception of the "Native Americans" who were here prior to European expansion into what is now called North and South America we all have roots in another country, mine came from the area that are now called England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and Germany, that I know about. Add to that the fact that some parts of the United States could not be called The United States until well after World War II so the problem is setting an date and saying that we can not use that name for that location until after that date unless you go town to town. Ohio was not Ohio, United States until 1803, before that it was called several names, the same goes for Alaska and Hawaii, but the dates would be 1959 for them. The location names fields have that problem world wide,but when you are trying to have an error correcting project that wants to impose only one cut off date for naming locations and even name spellings you can never have an accurate database. You can find the same problem with personal names, I have spelling problems with names some of my immigrant ancestors dating as late as 1929 on official documents from my home state and even have found some ancestors who had names normally given to those of the opposite gender and for those reasons I am very distrustful of the whole db error project, they are encouraging making changes without sources and for that reason those could unintentionally cause even more serious errors to be created. For an accurate family tree you need careful valid sources for any changes and for every thing put forth as a fact. For that reason I am keeping a hard copy of my family tree complete with hard copy of the source material for my family so that they have actual proof and not what someone else decided should be online in a program that could become corrupted by others.

I am very distrustful of the whole db error project, they are encouraging making changes without sources 

Sorry but I don't agree.... I think no one agrees with you....

The db_error project is the first time I see we have some questioning of the data people have you get a feeling that we have one big tree.....

Also this is the first time we get some indications of the quality of Wikitree data - we still miss information like

  • Number of unsourced items
  • Last time some edited a profile....

Should you change without a source?!?!+

If db_error report that a mother is born after a her child then you have an error..... I would 

  1. If no sources available
    1. change date or delete it and mark it as an estimate  
    2. add a {{Date Guess}} warning
    3. add a == Research Note == section with a link using {{db_errors}}
    4. add {{Unsourced}} if I miss all kind of sources

Re: Dale You could always add the location in the bio section.

If we create locations templates we could add data that a software could use to generate maps. Compare how Google get structured data fro "your" Byers-890 profile

Link Google Structured testing tool

Some other people have start thinking how to document historical people and locations so we could with a template rather easy add more fields that other software could read...

I will note that at some point there needs to be a distinction between sourced information and inferred information. The db_errors project is mostly working on information in which inference tells us something is wrong with the datum as entered regardless of sources or cited personal knowledge.

It isn't necessary to cite that I was born to a father. Every human being pretty much without exception has a father. That is common knowledge. It isn't a stretch to note that the sex of the father or the sex of the mother is factually incorrect. If the father is listed as female and the mother is listed as male then the likely cause of that is database error at least for the United States 1790-1940. For the exceptions, we have a "False Error" toggle and the exception should be noted in the biography; exceptions I can think of in contemporary US families or in various historical or international cultures is transgender parents; this is where we run into the need to cite sources because you are making an exceptional claim with family relations. It can generally be inferred that your father has a male sex and your mother has a female sex.

Special note, intersex conditions arise in about 0.018% to 1.7% of people which is a prevalence rate similar to red hair in humans.

+1 vote
Yes please correct and thank you for bringing that detail to my attention.

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