The article I wrote about major problems with new Dutch records on Ancestry.com sparked some great discussions both here and on several Facebook groups. People were especially appalled by the error that caused ‘Burgerlijke Stand’ (Civil Registration) to be included in the place name. But this isn’t the biggest error caused by software.
I found almost 1 million records for people who lived in Reusel-De Mierden, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands in Ancestry Member Trees, many going back to the 16th or 17th century. That is remarkable for a tiny municipality that has only existed since 1997! I estimate that at least 900,000 of these records should say “Holland” instead of Reusel.
Another error causes Dutch place names that had “NL” to be resolved to “Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada” instead of “Netherlands”. These errors are pretty obvious, since the place name will say something like “Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.” I searched for the names of all Dutch provinces with Newfoundland behind it and found over 100,000 incorrect profiles.
The error that has had the least impact so far, is the one where ‘Burgerlijke Stand’ (Civil Registration) is included in the place name in the index and found its way to member trees from there. I found about 2,300 people with birth places with ‘Burgerlijke stand’ in it so far. But this record set has only been online at Ancestry.com since earlier this week so unfortunately this error has some serious potential for growth.
I chose to check Ancestry Member Trees because that is the largest collection of family trees that I know of. This isn’t meant to imply that the errors originated with Ancestry.com. But the friendly way in which Ancestry lets you accept hints from other trees probably caused these errors to spread fast once an error made its way to a Member Tree.
It’s easy to see how people would be tempted to replace a generic place of origin like ‘Holland’ by the specific town in Noord-Brabant where the immigrant ancestor came from. A place name as specific as ‘Reusel-De Mierden, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands’ doesn’t appear like somebody made it up…
Check your trees!
I advise you all to take a moment to check your trees for any of these errors. Please leave a comment below if you find any. You won’t be alone, I promise!
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