01 October 2012

Downward Spiral

Even the so-called professionals have jumped on the royalty bandwagon. To hell with records and verification, let's take money from those who don't know any better and annoy those who do, all in one fell swoop!
Recently The Daily Mail (for those in the US think 'supermarket tabloid') published My Ancestor - The Queen. The article claims to be "the final part of [their] genealogy series" but I could only find one other genealogy related article, How to Trace Your Family Tree. Two articles is a series? Comments are still open on the tracing your tree article but are closed on "My Ancestor - The Queen" which is more recent. Odd. Could it be because people found flaws in the article's premise? Read the comments, check out Diane Gow's research, and judge for yourself. My guess is that these articles clothed as human interest pieces are actually adverts for Find My Past. This is a social network promotion that came out at about the same time:

Earlier this year Ancestry.com posted a link to this story (link goes to YouTube) on their Facebook page. It's about a man, Mr. Tucker, who "traces" his tree back to Charlemagne. Ancestry.com also added it to their YouTube channel. Mr. Tucker trusted Ancestry.com to be a "reliable source" and then the video shows him connecting to other trees. This could have been a great opportunity for Ancestry to discuss the reliability of other trees or to talk about the chances you have of actually connecting to Charlemagne. Instead they look like the huckster selling a cure-all tonic. "Come one, come all! Trace your family to Charlemagne!"
These companies seem to be going for the short term sell rather than cultivating long term customers. Maybe they know that the long term customers are dedicated researchers, see the value of their product, and aren't going anywhere. We aren't going anywhere until they drive us off which they seem to be attempting. They are actively luring people who will click away during the 14 day free trial in an attempt to get back to royalty or Biblical figures as quickly as possible. Those same people will then abandon their tree, which is just another copy of other polluted trees, all of which should be thrown onto the trash heap.
I am curious to know what percentage of these quick to click newbies stay on to become serious hobbyists and/or researchers. It must be a significant percentage if these companies continue to encourage this behavior.
What do you think? Is this what these companies need to do to survive? Are there options for preventing these trees from becoming a dense forest? Right now it seems like they're bamboo - fast growth spurt early on and impossible to get rid of - and they're taking over our forest.

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  1. I've been an Ancestry.com user for about 6 years now. I haven't really been bothered by their promotions, and I do distinguish between what shows up on Facebook vs what's on their website.
    One of the things I do when a get a "hint" on one of my ancestors that suggests a new tree to connect, is to contact the tree owner. I try to find out if they are really related to my ancestor and why they included this particular person in their tree. If they don't seem authentic, I ignore the hint and exclude their tree from future consideration. I can usually smell a rat just by looking at what information they include and what sources they reference (if any). Many of these "hints" just lead to trees that copied verbatum the data that I've published.

    1. A lot of them you can just tell at first glance that the tree is useless (30 kids under one mom). I decided to just turn off the tree hints altogether. <3 that Ancestry added that feature :-)
      Thanks for reading MEHSAB!