I ask this question because I keep seeing comments similar to this “Ancestry is fantastic but contains a lot of errors!” I think what errors? Are you talking about Member Trees? Well of course Member Trees can contain errors; they are only as accurate as the researcher. Are they talking about the “hints”? If so, my next question is, How can “hints” have errors, they are only suggestions and rely on the user to determine if they are for their person or not. Ancestry hints are not saying this is your person and thus you must accept and attach it to your person, no they are suggesting that the hint MIGHT BE for your person, please look over the information and determine if it is for your person.
Did you know that once someone attaches a record to a person that is similar to your person, this then can cause that record to become a hint for your person? Therefore if that person attaches a record that doesn’t really belong to their person, this can cause “hints” to show up that are not really for your person.
Ancestry has two major parts, records and trees. Records are not necessarily original records or even images of original records. Some of the “records” are indexes which can point us to original records. Ancestry allows users to search their records which they call databases. For Ancestry to allow users to search, they have created their own “indexes” for their record collections. I have found these indexes to have errors; however this is because the record associated actually might have the error. If the user can view the actual image, they then can determine where the error lies, in the Ancestry Index or in the original record. When there is no attached image, the user can’t determine where the error is. However, Ancestry has given users the opportunity to “correct” the transcription index with their suggestion variation. This not only helps future researchers, but gives Ancestry another variation for their “hints”.
Member trees are just as suggested, trees that members have created. These trees are created independently and Ancestry will not stop members from creating bogus trees. I once had an associate who was surprise by this statement. I reminded them that a person is not reviewing members’ trees and making corrections. Members can attach any document they find on Ancestry to any person in their tree. Scary right? My rule of thumb, Ancestry Member Trees are my last resort to look for clues, I do not copy other trees into my tree. I review their tree, see if they have sources attached and then review those sources. It is based on sources (records) that determine what I add to my tree.
I feel that Ancestry makes genealogy seem too easy. Their commercials show a person who states they typed in the name of their ancestor, saw a shaky leaf. Next thing you see, they have a complete tree going back several generations. I am glad that Ancestry is drawing new people into Genealogy and that they even hit the 5 million mark for DNA tests, however this as also cause Member Trees with many errors. These people might not realize that “hints” are just hints. They might be added everything Ancestry is suggesting. Many DNA test takers are doing DNA not for genealogy however for ethnicity results and thus might not even have a tree. Many who have trees don’t understand how to attach those trees to their DNA results. Ancestry does have a wonderful knowledge base, however is the average person looking there before creating a tree or are they diving in with both feet.
In conclusion, Ancestry does not contain a lot of errors however Ancestry is promoting, perhaps indirectly, to errors in Members’ Trees. Which then create “hints” that are not really applicable for the person one might be searching.