Evaluating Online Sources
9/27/2009
Can you trust your favorite genealogy Web site? Put it to our test.

Can you trust your favorite genealogy Web site? Put it to our test:

  • Does the site reference original documents? What are its sources? A database compiled from original documents may be more reliable than one compiled from another database or a book. But even those compiled from original records can have transcription problems. It's best to check the original document yourself.
  • Does the site link to digital images of original documents, so you can view them?
  • When you look at the original document, do you agree with the transcriber's version? Or do you find a lot of transcription errors?
  • Who created the database or site? Was it a professional genealogist or another conscientious family historian? If so, the database may be quite reliable. Was it a library or archive that had some quality control over the data being entered? Or is it a commercial site that may have hired inexperienced personnel for data entry, or a volunteer site that may not have much quality control? (This isn't to say that all commercial and volunteer sites are unreliable—but it's a factor to consider.)
  • Have genealogy publications reviewed the site? What did the reviewers note were the strengths and weaknesses of the information?
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