Origines - Review
International Museum of the Reformation in Geneva - A Guest Post

The Failings of Généalogie.com



We wrote recently about the positive, if maladroit, developments on the website Généalogie.com. It is generally to the researcher's benefit that they are adding the extracts (or relevés) made by the various genealogy associations around the country of hundreds of thousands of parish and civil registrations and other documents. Eventually, the result will be very close to a national index of those registrations, something that will help in the incessant digging for the truth that genealogists do.

However, as we have stated before, genealogy is history and as such must be written with reference to verifiable sources. If not, all of our efforts to write family histories are open to ridicule as fabrication. Useful as it may be, an extract is not a source; it is a tool to lead us to the source. Increasingly, on Généalogie.com, the extracts give no source and so, cannot be verified, which makes them tantalizing but useless.

Two cases in point:

  • A number of extracts of births, marriages and deaths relating to Paris have been added by an association that cannot be traced and that does not name its sources. Some of the information can be verified in the Departmental Archives of Paris, but not all. We tried to find out the full name of the association as only the  acronym is given, in order to be able to contact them and ask for a source. In spite of going to the Fédération française de Généalogie and to a number of groups and fora, as well as contacting Généalogie.com's staff, we could find no one able to identify the association or explain the acronym. In one group, there was an argument as to who it was not but no one could say who it was. 
  • An identified association was responsible for data on a seventeenth century birth in Paris. Again, no source. We went back to the Departmental Archives of Paris but could not really understand the claim about this birth, for it matched none of the sources there. The archivists were consulted and they, too, were stumped. We wrote to and even visited the offices of the association, asking for the source of the information. In the end, the president became incensed at out request and told us this: "This document is not in our possession and we have no way of obtaining it. It belonged to a person who died a long time ago and we don't know what happened to his papers. Don't ask again!"

Where did that information come from? Who are the mystery associations? How much more of what is being added to the Généalogie.com website is unverifiable and, therefore, useless?

We should be able to see or be told where to find the source for every bit of information given on a genealogy website. We must be able to confirm the data and to quote the source. There is a real risk that Généalogie.com will become too sloppy in terms of what it allows to be added and what it requires for verification. The result could be a degradation so severe that the reasonable reputation of the service will be destroyed. 

©2014 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy