Thursday, November 10, 2016

Medieval and Royal Lines in FamilySearch Family Tree

Richard I - The Lionheart on FamilySearch.orgBack in August Sharon Cross told me she had looked into her tree on FamilySearch. One branch extended to Richard I, the Lionheart (L6YS-KBW) through Roger Plowden (LCZ4-JT1). This threw a red flag, as Richard is known to have had no children—well, no legitimate children. Sharon double checked and found only one illegitimate child is attributed to Richard: Philip of Cognac, not Roger Plowden.

She went on to say:

On FamilySearch I counted over 85 couples listed as some form of his parents’ names (Henry II Plantagenet King of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine Queen of England).  There are at least 3 forms of Richard’s name, and one of them has his wife (Princess Berengaria de Nararre) written as Mrs. Richard 1.  When you click on her name, her occupation is listed as “concubine”; no sources listed.  HA!

All of this has me just speechless.

Let me say it for you. Medieval and royal lines are known to be among the worst in Family Tree. I counted 475 copies of Richard. I would expect a similar number for his parents. There are probably a quarter million persons in this category. If there are 475 copies of each, there are 119 million persons in Family Tree that need to be cleaned up. FamilySearch can’t expect users to do that much. Now that “Individuals of Unusual Size” no longer preclude merges, FamilySearch can write a program to merge high confidence European matches among pre-1500 persons. If they could get the number down to a million, users could take it from there.

Back in the old days, FamilySearch knew there would be havoc if they allowed just anyone to submit these family lines into Ancestral File. They ignored any submissions of persons previous to 1500. They had a medieval research unit at the Family History Library that took the few accepted sources, carefully curated the lines, and added them to Ancestral File. With Family Tree, the philosophy is that anyone can add anything to the tree. And they have.

FamilySearch Community TreesFortunately, FamilySearch has published the medieval unit’s research in the FamilySearch Genealogies > Community Trees collection.

Another well-sourced, pertinent community tree is

If you need to find information about European, medieval genealogies, I would go to these two sources.

While I’m talking about them, FamilySearch used to have a list of the community trees and a link for searching each. I wish they still provided that. Unless you know the identity of a person in one of the trees, it is impossible to find the tree. Here are a few I’ve stumbled across:

Actually, they still have a list in an article in the wiki. They just need to use it. Are there any volunteers who would like to fix the links for the trees above? That would be a start.

12 comments:

  1. I found one of my family lines traced back to Odin on the FamilySearch Tree. Sweet! I'm not just descended from royalty, I'm descended from gods!

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    1. I believe there was a Temple in Rome for the unknown god. 😀

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  2. Thanks, TAI, for pointing all of this out. Some people do genealogy "just" to find royal ancestors, and they "find" them whether there is evidence or not. This is OK on Ancestry, where their trees are their own, but when the tree is for the whole human family as in the FamilySearch Family Tree, it's not legitimate to put up unsourced and inaccurate information. I second your appeal to FamilySearch to merge all the obvious pre-1500s individuals.

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  3. I wish FamilySearch or the Family History Department would regenerate Debbie Latimer's Medieval Unit somewhere in the JSMB. There was great work being done there, and more work is still needed. Careful merging of these royals, with numerous names, wives, concubines, etc., needs to be done by those dedicated to using great sources and taking the time to do it right. Bring back the Medieval Unit please!

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    1. I agree, Cathy. What is the best way to encourage this to come about?

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  4. I am among theones with a badly researched peerage and royal line. So, how about some practical advice? Many so called "de" XXX just mean the person is from a specific place. Fitz Alan (son of Alan) becomes FitzAlan, then through the magic of family power the ane isnot used by the next generation, becoming instead Arundel or worse, de Arundel. Which fields are useful in placing the personal name, the title, the numerical designation? Is it Henry in the given name field, Plantagenet in the surname field, Roman numeral III in the suffix field? How do we handle terms of address like "Queen" or "Sir?" Ignore them because we don't have software fields for titles? Put then in the given name field? What field do we use for insults later used as part of the name like "The Short" or "Small Hands" or terms of historical approval like "The Great?"

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  5. Reference: Community Trees - United States. Idaho. Gooding. Hagerman Valley. Reading in the FamilySearch Blog it states "These trees have extensive sources." I found no sourcing, no contact information to correct errors. Basically FamilySearch is saying we did it, they are right, we don't care if there are errors or not. Is there anyone or any POC for corrections? Bad information is bad information whether in a regular tree, royal tree, or Community Tree.

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  6. The site linked to above for the Community Trees project starts out with the statement that the project "is no longer in existence". This is pretty clear from the lack of attention that the remaining databases are getting from the technical staff at Family Search. One of the database is the Welsh Medieval Genealogy database, a very useful resource for the difficult area of Welsh research. In the summer it suffered from serious data corruption - all source info and pedigree linkages missing. It took a month to get the problem fixed, but now the problem is coming back. All source information is again missing, and there are some other more esoteric issues of missing data specific to the Welsh database. The "help desk" at Family Search can't understand these very technical issues. Is there anybody in Family Search who can be made aware of these issues - or are we just going to watch Community Trees gradually (or not so gradually) go away?

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    1. I know somebody who knows somebody. I'll ask them for the skinny.

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    2. Thanks for your assistance and interest in this issue with the Community Trees project. If your contact (if you make one) needs further information, I'll be happy to assist. A genealogist who until recently worked at the FHL and Family Search has also suggested a contact for me (perhaps the same as yours). Hopefully we can get the proper attention paid to this problem and get it resolved.

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    3. John,

      FamilySearch has done some work on Community Trees. I notice that https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/2:2:3ZDH-CSM has sources so perhaps the source issue has been fixed. If you find additional problems, send me a URL of a problem record.

      Thanks,
      ---tai

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  7. I never trust what I find. Never. I use things as hints and then do my own research. Sometimes hints can be helpful, but a long time ago I did come across an ancestry tree on my husband's side that went back to Adam and Eve. No lie. Things like that just discredit the entire tree.

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