When I was a small boy – and that’s quite a while ago! – I remember begin scared by movies about genies . . . – not the funny ones we later had on TV – but nasty dangerous genies that always seemed to be doing bad things! I also remember my parents teaching me the saying “the genie is out of the bottle.”
With the Internet there are many many potentially nasty FH gifts from “genies” running around! These are family trees and individual information that people generously share but give no sources and no evidence where it came from. Let me be kind and say this happens because people start doing research and post their early ideas and findings as if they have evidence to support them.
Generally I would suggest that you don’t share information on the Internet until you have done reasonable research and are fairly confident of the accuracy. Once the genie is out of the bottle . . . you can’t get it back – but Peter I can go to that tree I created on the Internet and change/correct my information! But who knows who has copied and re-posted the original less accurate information? and how many times? Once it is on the internet you don’t know where it has gone!
We should make a reasonable effort to find where and when our ancestors lived, and have seen evidence that they did live – real people!
So . . . . be cautious with information you obtain from online collections of family trees. Some information is excellent – well documented, good sources – some of it …. well we just don’t know where it came from.
Nine years ago when we were training to be volunteers at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City we spent days in a training lab with a sign on the wall at the front – Family History Without Sources is a Myth.
This is not to say that we should not use online trees to gather information and to share our information – far from it – what I find in trees online can be invaluable guideposts in my research, sharing my research has put me in contact with some wonderful researchers who have helped me.
Verify your information – share your sources – make information on online trees better