The Nature of Computer Collections
The computer has made the sharing of previous
research much easier, faster, and more popular than ever. As researchers
gather information about their families and ancestors, they can easily
upload that information to an Internet web site, or submit it to an
organization that will include it on a CD-ROM. An increasing number
of researchers even create and maintain their own web site showing the
information they have found.
However, this easier access to others'
research comes at a price. That price is accuracy and completeness.
The computer, and the increased access it provides, has drawn
a new crowd of people to genealogy, and often they have not learned
how to carefully evaluate the evidence they find.
Further, most electronic collections do
not cite the sources of the information. In part, this is because novice
researchers, faced with a new genealogy program they just bought from
a software store, simply type in the names and dates of their relatives.
When they don't know (or remember) when cousin Clara was born, they
phone (or e-mail) Aunt Jennie, hoping she knows that information. Aunt
Jennie may know that information, or she may suggest contacting someone
else. Or, she may estimate or guess dates and places. The new researcher
simply adds this data to the database, often not even knowing if it
is accurate. In today's fast-paced society, many people often do not
take the time to even make a note as to the source of the information.
When the genealogy "bug" bites them (as
it has you and me), they begin searching for more information from non-family
sources. They may find part of their family on someone else's electronic
family tree, so they "cut and paste" it into their database, again not
noting where they obtained the information.