Casefile Clues

03 February 2010

It is not that specific

This irritates me, but like many things that irritate me I doubt there will be much in the way of any response.

This is a screen shot of part of a timeline from one of the Ancestry Family Trees on a relative of mine. I did not compile the data. I have seen this type of problem numerous times and this is not an isolated case.

The county of birth is correct for this person (at least it agrees with every record I have uncovered), but the county seat (of the same name) is not. There's actually no primary record of this person's birth (too early) and the family likely lived in one of the outlying townships based upon tax and land records. The person was not born in the county seat.

But me disagreeing with the place of birth is not the point. Researchers can reach different conclusions. There is a larger problem with this sourcing.

The way this information is "sourced" seems to indicate that the 1850, 1860, 1870 and censuses provide the county of birth for this individual. They do not. All they give is the state of Ohio (I've seen them all). While I am glad that the Ancestry Trees allow for the inclusion of sources, the way it ends up being done is in a way that is very misleading as it implies the census provides an amount of accuracy that it does not.

For this individual, the 1850, 1860, and 1870 census should be tied as the source of a birthplace of "Ohio," not a place of birth of "Coshocton County, Ohio." That's why we should have multiple places of birth for most ancestors when doing sources accurately. We should not indicate that a source provides more accuracy than it actually does.

Sourcing like this only adds to the confusion and makes it imperative that actual records be used whenever possible.

Sometimes people wonder if there won't be a need for professional genealogists in the future. When I see the ease with which data like this can be compiled I think I know the answer to that question.