Friday, June 24, 2016

Almost Drank the Kool-Aid

Despite the snarky outlook I may have portrayed as I reviewed those articles by a proponent yesterday, all was not negative reaction. As I said yesterday, reading the Schoenberg blog posts regarding the World Family Tree was a journey likened more to a "both/and" experience than to an "either/or" dichotomy.

There were points that were quite alluring. Persuasive. Convincing. I almost...

Wait! What was I thinking! I took a serious look around the siteadmittedly, a limited tour, as one needs to both sign up for the service and, if really serious, commit to a monthly payment for the "Pro" version of the site. The more I looked, the less impressed I was.

On the other hand, I like the theoretical foundation the tree is built on: collaboration. From the many books and articles I've read on crowdsourcing in general, deliberate or even innocently-originated errors are quickly policed by a crowdsourced site's advocates. That's why Wikipedia provides so much reliable material. When the ratio of correct input to sabotaged errors heavily favors the former, you have a viable operating model. It doesn't have to be perfect to work.

The reasons I felt enticed to consider had mainly to do with my problem-ridden side of my own family tree: my paternal side. That's the realm of paternal grandfather John T. McCann, alsoI'm sure of itknown as Theodore J. Puchalski. Yeah, the guy who insisted to my cousin that he was really adopted. Who raised his kids and grandkids to parrot that unbelievable line that they were really Irish. Anything but the Polish immigrants they really were.

Another aspect of Geni is that it represents itself as widely international in membership. This is supposedly not just an American phenomenon we're observing here, but one with a worldwide draw.

Put that all together and perhapsjust maybeI could find some collaboration among those in that international community who have more insight into my Polish-American problem than I have.

So I went hunting through what I could find at Geni, as an unpaying visitor. I searched every off-the-wall Polish surname I could recall from my crazy paternal ancestry, with very little luck. For Aktabowski, only one family came up in the results. For Gramlewicz, none. Laskowska and Laskowskithe respective female and male derivatives of that Americanized surname Laskowskibrought, predictably, many more results. But I shudder to recall how many of those entries portrayed the uninformed work of unidentified participants who apparently weren't even aware of such general genealogical conventions as listing a woman by her maiden name, even if she was later married.

Details like that tend to scare me away from such public participation. I'd sure appreciate some help...but maybe not that kind of help. That would turn into an exercise of sheer frustration.

Then, too, I have to pull back and realize something: the limitations I face. They're the same as the ones you face. They generally have to do with a finite amount of time in any given day, overlaid upon a burgeoning splay of activities to be pursued. How carefully we must choose our battles. And, with the recent addition of that DNA project management role on my crowded plate, plus this year's current research goals, it's all I can do to keep up with a day's demands. With a to-do list like that, who needs another straw to lay upon that camel's back?

So, as convincing as that series of blog posts might have been, urging people to consider participation in the World Family Tree at, it looks like the best choice for me, right now, is to turn and walk away.  


  1. Oh, you surprised me. I really thought you were headed for a different conclusion. The idea of many people contributing to a tree sounds good on the surface, but what stands out are all the complaints about the poor research being contributed and good people having to redo other people's mistakes. The Shiflet Family website ( comes close to an ideal crowd-sourced effort. Various branches have been identified; numerous people have submitted their trees. Other significant family lines of those who married into the Shifletts are included. The woman who started the site so long ago performed the due-diligence and updates are submitted frequently. It's a fantastic resource for anyone with roots in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

  2. Run! But... take something with you - the thought of finding a Polish-American source of information!!

    And perhaps some corporate forensics (into John McCain's typesetting past...) There might be a very dry 2000 page tome in the business section of a library near Wall Street... that might shed some light on things...


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