Saturday, September 29, 2007

TMOAGD Revisited

My post critiquing the article about TMOAGD (The Mother Of All Genealogy Databases) triggered comments via comments to the post and email from several readers. The best response was from Dale Grant, who wrote (note that I obtained his permission to post this):


I have several comments about The Mother of All Genealogy Databases.

1. With the current fear of identity theft, the amount of information available to tie people to living relatives is small. With the continuing practice of governments to restrict access to databases such as censuses, unless people want to be tied together, it will be difficult to do so. Living people are usually deliberately left out of on-line databases.

2. Lack of records, as you mentioned, would be a major problem. There are often few records available to tie people together who lived on the forward edge of the expansion of America.

3. A large number of available family trees have errors, due to false assumptions of parentage for example. I believe disagreements over who were the parents of certain ancestors basically caused the Mormon Church to stop using Ancestral Files, which they had hoped to use to tie everyone together. There are so many people just accumulating people from other family trees that any error, bad assumption, etc. is propagated to many others. Even careful researchers can make mistakes. Who will/could arbitrate the truth?

4. Many lineages have errors due to unofficial adoptions, non-paternity events (which are almost always hidden and thus incorrect in the official records), etc.

5. For many reasons, Official Records, may be incorrect. Guesses by whoever answered the Census for example. Deliberate lies about age are also fairly common in the Census records.

6. DNA will not be available from everyone, because many people will refuse on the basis that they don't want to know what diseases they may be susceptible to or they don't want the insurance companies to know.

7. Many people today are still not using computers, don't have usernames, and are not part of Linked-in social networks--and won't be in 10 years.

8. In my opinion, there will be many records that could be used to tie people to their ancestors that will not be available in any electronic database in 10 years. Family Bible records for example.

9. There are many people who have deliberately avoided being in the records: illegal aliens, tax dodgers, some criminal, homeless, etc. Many of these people will not be in records from the past, today, and probably not in the future. Tieing everyone together will never happen, in my opinion.

Specifically to answer your questions:

Is it feasible? Theoretically yes, discounting all of the places where records just don't exist. Practically no, there will always be resistance to the invasion of privacy, many people will not willingly give up their DNA or family information.

Will it ever happen? Perhaps in some limited form.

Dale Grant


My thanks to Dale for his cogent and measured comments adding to the discourse - all of which I agree with.

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