Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday Mailbox: Identification of People in Photographs

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

My husband JOHN CRAGUN is a descendant of Elisha Cragun. It was interesting to know we are related to the Osmonds. But as I followed the links you provided, the picture of Elisha included is a different Elisha, son of James Cragun. I  know it is in Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah.

Elisha died in 1847. When was photography available?

Someone started identifying an incorrect Elisha (same name) to that photo.

Carolyn Cragun

Dear Carolyn,

Error correction in an “open edit” public community is a tricky thing. You can contact FamilySearch for instructions, but they don't have the resources necessary to investigate what is correct and then impose their decisions on the community. Nor in my opinion, should they. Remember Ancestral File? Corrections took months, years, or were never made. In my opinion, FamilySearch is doing the right thing by throwing the responsibility back to the community. It's the only way to make the system scalable worldwide, across all history. You'll have to follow whatever guidelines they provide for resolving the problem within the context of the community. I can't remember off the top of my head what those are when the disagreement concerns identification of persons in photographs.

Should FamilySearch allow anyone to change that? What if the person who originally provided the identification was a reliable eyewitness?

Unfortunately, FamilySearch allows informants to remain anonymous and to provide information without proof. In my opinion, this robs both current and future generations of any means of judging the reliability of information in Family Tree. I understand why they do this. They wish to lower the hurdles dissuading people from participation. It is a difficult balance to strike: the more people FamilySearch involves, the lower the quality of the Tree.

I think a generation from now, when government records are unavailable in many areas of the world, FamilySearch will wish it had immutably captured information provided by eyewitnesses and captured the identity of the informant. That’s necessary for future generations to judge the reliability of the information and prevent eyewitness information from being replaced with erroneous, second-hand information.

---The Ancestry Insider

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