I’ve come to the conclusion that allowing people to copy other ancestry tree’s to theirs, actually does more harm than good. In fact it allows for quick spread of bad trees, much like a disease. Just yesterday, I found that someone had attached an extra child to my GGG grandfather. What makes it worse, everyone ignores that fact that now they have his wife having a child a month after giving birth to one. But now there are at least 10 trees, with this extra child.
I’m tempted to try an experiment. I look and find a brick wall that a lot of people seem to be facing. Then I create a tree on ancestry with that brick wall ancestor and then simply make up parents, grandparents and siblings. I could even purposely include some obvious errors, like having children born within 5 months of each other or wild jumps in birthplaces of children. I of course would include no sources what so ever. Or I could make things interesting and include a made up source. Such as a reference to a book that does not exist.
I would then wait and much like a scientist, simply watch and see if anyone takes the bait and adds it to their tree. I think it would be interesting to monitor just how quickly and wide this made up tree would spread. Of course, I would monitor how many people would question the authenticity of the tree.
It’s not ethical of course, but I think it would make for an interesting experiment.
Of course the last part of the experiment would be to email all people with this bad tree, inform them that the information is completely made up and see just how many people delete it.
I’m just playing devil’s advocate here, but you have to admit a person could actually write a paper on it.
I’m saying this because, recently a fellow genealogist broke a brick wall that I was facing. They really did their homework and with all the evidence, including DNA they have, it convinced me it is right. Of course, I discover much to my dismay, that everyone else with this brick wall ancestor has either no parents or the wrong parents. Just an example of a bad tree, being copied over and over again. I’ve even emailed a few of them, telling them about this exciting new discovery. Not a single person has responded.
So I’m feeling rather cynical and somewhat depressed about it, hence this theoretical experiment. What’s the use of doing your homework, using sources and being careful, when 30 other people, mindlessly copy whatever they find. I really want to know just how fast a bad family tree could spread.