A few weeks ago I went on to one of my favourite genealogy sites and noticed they had started a new global family tree. The plan is that thousands of different trees will be combined to form one global tree. This sounded interesting so I decided to have a look. You start by searching for one of your ancestors and see if the tree goes further than your own research.
I decided to put in my father’s name, not because I expected to find him, but we have an unusual surname and every ancestor in our male line but one had the same first name back to my 3 times great grandfather, so I thought one of them may come up. Well, a couple of ancestors did come up but I was amazed when I found my father was there. I don’t keep my own tree on that site so I thought maybe there was a close relative there that I hadn’t known about. I clicked on my father’s name and, imagine my shock to find he had the wrong mother! As I said, our surname is unusual and I already knew that he was the only person of that name born in Wolverhampton in that year. In fact up to the early 1920s there was only my family with that name in Wolverhampton, so I thought it must be an innocent mistake.
They had my grandfather married in the right year to a lady called Annie. My grandmother was Annie and was even born the same year as this other lady but the last name was wrong. I checked and no one else with my grandfathers name or a similar name was married at that time to a lady with this name, and I could find no record of a lady of her name marrying at that time either, so how had the mistake come about? It wasn’t just a wrong name, this lady had a whole tree attached to her.
They had all of my grandfather’s details right, even that, though his parents married in Wolverhampton in 1874 and were back there in 1881, Granddad and his brother were born in Shrewsbury. They had done their research there. I must admit I was getting rather worried. You often find mistakes in these online trees but usually it is easy to see how, there would be 2 people with the same name, perhaps born the same year, but I couldn’t find any evidence of that here. I started wondering all kinds of things. Was Granddad a bigamist? but there would be 2 marriage records if that were the case. Maybe he was with the other Annie and got her pregnant and then married my grandma and she brought the baby up, or maybe Grandma couldn’t have children and they made an arrangement, actually that thought was quite worrying as I knew Grandma had been unable to have more children after Dad. Oh my goodness that would mean grandma wasn’t my dad’s mum. Eventually I decided to email the site and ask them to put me in touch with whoever’s tree had this marriage in it.
I did get a reply, pretty much a standard one saying this was a new project, they understood it may sometimes not be so accurate as my own research but they did not at present have the ability to correct mistakes. I was livid. This wasn’t my research about a distant ancestor, this was my immediate family and it wasn’t a mistake it was false information, in fact it felt like libel to say my grandfather had my father by another woman, except I know you can’t libel the dead. On top of all of that a quarter of my family tree research could be invalid!
Well yesterday I went on the site and found an announcement about the global family tree. They have been working on improvements and there will be lots of other features including the ability to change mistakes. Maybe I wasn’t the only one who complained. I’m happy about this but I don’t just want to change the error, I really want to know how that crazy information got there in the first place as I can see no way it could just be an innocent mistake, or am I being paranoid?