14 March 2015

Ancestry.com's Whispering Hints That Make My Ears Hurt

Let me preface this by saying that Ancestry.com's digital images of actual records are helpful to my search. But...

Their "hint"s are another matter entirely and make it clear why some of the user-submitted trees on Ancestry.com are full of errors. 

The "hints" on Ancestry.com for my ancestor Habbe Habben who died in 1665 in Holtrop, Germany, include:
  • World War I Casualty Lists
  • An 1864 military crew list
  • An 1881 passenger list

I'm a little rusty on my world history, but I thought that World War I was a twentieth century experience.

I realize Ancestry.com wants to give me a "good user experience" and help me find things. I also realize they are concerned that my death year for Habben could be off.  However, a death date of 1665 would have to be pretty off for that same person to be serving in World War I.

I also realize sometimes these hints are taken from records that have been linked to trees by other users. I know Habbe Habben is not the most common name in the world and that some people can't be bothered worrying about accuracy imposed by things as ephemeral as dates.

But can't Ancestry.com set some parameters to not even show me these inane hints even if someone has linked them to the same person? If my Habbe Habben who I thought died in 1665 really lived until World War I, he could have been considerate enough to have lived through the 1980s when I could have asked him all sorts of personal questions.

Can't the search parameters on the "hints" be a little tighter?  It seems to me that record event dates two centuries after the person died is a little loose. Just a little.

Let's not blame the computer for these wacked out hints. It's not the fault of the computer that these hints are returned. Programmers control computers. Ancestry.com is not the new kid on the block just setting up shop. They've been at this a while. If they can index the entire 1940 census in a matter of months, create all those cell phone apps, and manage all that DNA data, they certainly can figure out how to tighten up a few search parameters.

It is "hints" like this that hint to me Ancestry.com just does not really understand the genealogy research process.

Or maybe they don't understand programming.