One Reason I Use a Paid Site Instead of Familysearch

+3 votes

Doing sourcing for Elizabeth (Merrill)Welles. She married Thomas Wells/Welles 13 May 1720. 

Her profile shows son Edmund, born 8 Feb 1720. His profile shows that birth date in data. Whoa! Born before marriage back then? Big No! Nol! (Although the bio says 1720/1). American Ancestors show the ''Barbour Record'' as " b. Feb. 8, 1720/1."  OK, now Edmund is legitimate.

However, in a, Edmund's birth date as 8 February 1720. Back to a bad date, suggesting a genealogical problem. Familysearch consistently gets the year wrong in double-dated events. One additional layer of transcription results in an error.

In an aside, entries often contain more data that later transcriptions haven't deemed important enough to include.

Just an observation....

WikiTree profile: Edmund Wells
in Genealogy Help by Jim Parish G2G6 Pilot (160k points)
Is it wrong, or is it a verbatim transcription of a Julian date, and you want a Gregorian one?  Or vice versa.
NEHGR often published town records using old style dates, so, for example, 5/4/1723 was really 4 july 1723, or, in fact, 15 july 1723, or something like that.  

Now how to decide if the dates were already adjusted...I've seen cases where three successive people updated the dates.  

Even reputable secondary sources are date-challenged.  

(not sure that came out right =) )
Apologies for my tone of voice, but this needs to be said.

You actually sound like a sources snob. Paid sources are better than the non paid sources. What a load of crap!!

As someone else said - Ancestry now uses NON English speaking and LOW WAGE earning people to transcribe. Which now makes Ancestry, a TOTALLY UNTRUSTWORTHY Source IMO.

Do you have any idea how often I see SOMERSET transcribed as SOMALIA???  Because they both start with SOM??
In my experience the transcriptions of some UK records on FamilySearch are far worse than on Ancestry. At least on Ancestry you can often see the original record, whereas FamilySearch just sends you to a different pay-site if you want to view it, so I don't even know if they just copied the transcriptions from that other pay-site too. So if Ancestry is now a totally untrustworthy source then FamilySearch must be too.

If anything is likely to drive me away from WikiTree it will probably be the constant anti-Ancestry bias that I keep reading from some users on here. Sources snobbery works both ways - free is not always better!
There are cases where paid sources are the ONLY online sources. Each site that has sources has plusses and minuses and I, personally, don't believe that it is possible to avoid paid sources entirely. I'll use the FamilySearch sources when I can find them but Ancestry, AmericanAncestors and FindmyPast will be used when those are the best sources. While there are some source snobs who will only use free sources, many of us will go where the data is.

"You actually sound like a sources snob. Paid sources are better than the non paid sources. What a load of crap!!" 

Thanks, Robyn.

Didn't say it was better, said it was more accurate. And sometimes more than that; having the actual words in an entry rather than bare data can give you the flavor of the time the persons were alive.

The example I gave was exactly that: one was accurate, one was not. And the inaccurate one has a practice that makes that same error thousands of times across the board. I look for accuracy wherever I find it, paid or unpaid. If that is snobbery, then I'm a snob.

I may as well admit it: I'm a beer snob, too!

The difference is that American Ancestors is run by genealogists, whereas certain other large operators think that if they employ a genealogist he'll only make himself a nuisance.

4 Answers

+12 votes
Some sites are better than others. Ancestry used to be better but more recent transcriptions seem to have a lot more errors. That happened after they started off-shoring the transcription work and non-native speakers have been doing them. I never trust the transcriptions and try to find the original records if they are available. Your example is a good reason why you do need to see the original record. Lots of interpretation can go on.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (462k points)
In Ancestry's favor, they make it very easy to post corrections to the transcription.  Of course, Ancestry being Ancestry, some users take the opportunity to add info not present on the record (e.g., middle names).

I don't know how to make corrections to FamilySearch transcripts.  Is it even possible?
On FamilySearch, the Feedback button at the bottom of the page allows you to make problem reports. I've had a few transcriptions fixed by reporting them this way.
Thanks, Doug!
In all honesty I have more problems with Family Search. They refused to take my living aunt off the dead list. I've been visiting her 2years since I found the error and contacted them. Someone decided she was dead and put it there and they said so be it. She is still alive..!
+5 votes
I've found quite the  opposite to be true. My paid site and other commercial sites I've visited have deteriorated to the point that serious genealogists avoid them. On this site the users are more apt to engage and provide useful information. The paid sites are more for those who want answers but are unwilling to do the work. I cant count how many DNA matches I've had from people with a family tree of ONE - that's not a tree, it's just a restatement of the obvious.
by Living McCormick G2G6 Mach 5 (56.3k points)
I haven't seen that occurring. Serious genealogists are still using paid sites but they certainly wouldn't use something like an Ancestry tree as a source. A hint, perhaps, but wouldn't use them as sources. The online records at good paid sites are not deteriorating. Some transcriptions have problems but a serious genealogist wouldn't trust a transcription, either.

"The paid sites are more for those who want answers but are unwilling to do the work."

What? You don't know me, or why I feel a paid subscription is worth the money I'm willing to spend for it. You don't know how much time I work on genealogy, or the number of places I search to try to find accurate data. I won't say any more. I don't want an argument breaking out.

A well documented tree is a valuable resource. Serious genealogists have an appreciation of the fact that the free flow of information is the way forward and have a disdain for those who maintain a priesthood mentality. The commercial sites offer very little for anyone other than the frivolous tree builder who is willing to allow them to sell his/her data to other recreationists. Here we see a concerted effort to build something substantial and have it freely available to all.
I stand by what I've said, but you needn't worry about an argument breaking out. We each have our own opinions and are free to express them in a civilised manner. Cheers.
You apparently don't know much about the pay sites. Without them, much of WiktTree's content wouldn't be possible.
Actually, my dear fellow, I know a great deal about the pay sites. They were once reasonably useful, but as the market has become more competitive the business model has changed dramatically. Today we see them as very restrictive and an 'ownership' attitude has become the norm with regards data so that they are nearing the point where they cause more harm than good.
Bill  I don't know who your 'we' is supposed to encompass. I believe I am serious about the research I undertake and the records I use. It is precisely for that reason I  need to use paid sites. Nowhere else can I see, without travelling,  images of census documents for my country, parish records for many counties or the  myriad of other records , I have made use of; from wills to tithe maps, from quarter sessions and criminal records to records of admission to the city guilds. I have  been able to acess and hence transcribe and place on wikitree over 60 wills from the 15th -17th centuries. The only way that would have been possible 'freely' would have cost hundreds in travelling costs and hours of travelling time.

Without the monetised incentive for local archives to digitise and licence access, almost  all of these records would require expensive trips around the country to view ( as was the case when I started researching my family in the 1970s)

I rarely use family search simply because it has relatively  few records of use to me .It  has limited transcriptions of the census, and for most parishes only indexes to (some) baptisms and marriages (far fewer burials, an important omission  ) for the places I research.  There are no wills nor any of the other types of record. Other free sites such as the County OPC sites can be better but as they are volunteer run are patchy. Freereg is better than family search for parish registers, (fuller transcripts)  but again coverage is patchy.

I'm doing a very serious MA in Local History.  The University thinks it worthwhile to pay for institutional access , enabling students to use one of the paid sites at home.I pay for another myself.
Helen, Being something of a local history buff I must say kudos on the educational pursuit. Let me be clear about what I mean by paid sites. My disdain is for those that are geared toward the recreational genealogist such as Ancestry. There are, of course, worthwhile research sites that also require payment. I use Scotland's People and GRONI/PRONI extensively and hope to find similar for Hungary as my research progresses. Having access to the original records is invaluable.
But Bill it is Ancestry and Find my Past where these images are to be found.

The National library of Scotland  holds the census, parish records and wills for Scotland. They have chosen to run their own website  Scotland's People and charge people to use it. Each county, in England and Wales has its own record office , the National Archives holds material from all the countries of the UK. One authority, Essex has followed Scotland's model  so if you want to see Essex records online you pay to view on their site. However, many of the other counties have licensed the images of their records  to one or more commercial provider. These include parish records, locally proved wills, poor law records and many others. The National archives has done the same with other record sets,  including the census , PCC wills,  military records and non conformist records.

A  researcher is working blind if they ignore the records available on these sites.There is a cost. I worked out that is less than the cost of the bus fare for one trip a week to visit my local archives which has 'free' access to both sites. (and you never have to look at a tree or hint)
Quite so, the Northern Ireland and Scotland sites are models that others should strive to equal or exceed. They provide the actual records with unlimited searching. You only pay for that which you download or have sent to your address. Both have some failings. The Ireland site restricts searches to a 5 year span which can prove time consuming. The Scotland site does not include the mother's maiden name in birth searches. I must admit that I avoid any connection that might require looking at American records and I suspect that might be your main focus.

The commercial family tree sites need to adapt some sort of professional standards or code of ethical conduct. Their customers are being caught in the cross-fire as they battle each other and the entire field becomes more fragmented.
+7 votes
The best source is one where you can see an image of the original document. Sometimes this is on Familysearch but I often find I need to go to Findmypast or Ancestry for images of original documents. All three of these sites offer tree builders that I have never taken full advantage of because I prefer the Wikitree model.

On transcription errors, no site is immune. I have submitted error reports for all of the above and also the UK Government GRO site.

I work hard on my tree and other profiles that aren't even in my own tree, relying on good primary sources. My opinion is, a transcription is not the best "primary" source, the image of the original is better and that is why I seek it out.
by Gillian Causier G2G6 Pilot (263k points)
The only truly helpful part of FamilySearch I have found so far are the reels and reels of microfilm showing the original document.  Most of the ones I am using haven't been indexed so the record only has the transcription.  I have spent many hours searching through the film if it is available online, armed only with the date of the event.  I spent several hours searching for one marriage record and woke up the entire house when I found it at 10:30 pm.  Since a lot of my ancestors went to the same church in Santa Fe, I'm actually starting to recognize the writing of the priest that uses some secret code for the date.

ETA They seem to own or lease the rights to an awful lot of  pre1846 New Mexico records.  So I get to spend a lot of time squinting at quill and ink writing in antique, New Mexico Spanish.  Lots of fun!
+4 votes
Don't understand why people get so upset about this. Never understood either why anyone thinks their hobby should be free. If some people choose to pay to acquire information then pass it on for nothing what is wrong with that?
by C. Mackinnon G2G6 Pilot (294k points)

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