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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.

The Disadvantages

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Further, most electronic collections do not cite the sources of the information.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.

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