Wednesday, April 25, 2012 Genealogist's Friend or Foe?

Over the years I've watched grow into the huge company it is today. Other companies have since disappeared or been acquired by In fact today there was announcement of yet another acquisition of

However, what has always been interesting to observe are the attitudes about Some view it as a monster consuming everything in its path. Others thumb their noses at it and are loyal to other sites. Myself? I treat it as a resource like anything else. There is a lot of good things to be found at, and a lot of nonsense too. One just has to know what to give credence to and what to ignore.

For example, a friend read a report of mine and suggested perhaps I shouldn't use for my census citations, that I should mix it up and use Heritage Quest too. I suppose I could, but what difference does it make? I'm not knocking Heritage Quest, it's a great site with lots to offer. However, if the digital image of the original is the same, does it matter which site I use? When viewing digital scans of original documents, is invaluable. is great, but quite frankly, many times the image is not available of the document you want to see. Instead FamilySearch provides snippets of abstracted information. I need to see the original, or at least a good quality image of the original.

Now the area that enters into murky waters are the family trees, where information is provided/created by the general public. Some of these family trees are constructed very well, and others are...(ahem)...not. The trees that are done well are fairly easy to spot. There is detail provided that is more than just "shaking leaf" hints, references to specific dates/places, and a general thoroughness. In defense of the other trees, I think people fall into that trap of "the name is the same so it must be," wishful thinking, or just not really doing the math/geography and thinking things through. This can also feed into the mentality of, "I found everything I needed on!" Really? Everything? This makes a genealogist who gets dusty/dirty in courthouse basements, or sits in repositories and views reels and reels of microfilm shudder.

So maybe is an all consuming monster, but they provide a pretty good service. Their site is easy to use and navigate. And let's face it, their business model is pretty kick butt. To survive this long and grow into the corporation they are today, while others have since been forgotten, and still others are desperately trying to get a foothold in the genealogical community is pretty impressive.

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