Why you should never trust a genealogy database
An analysis of the genealogy databases Genealogy.com, Ancestry.com and GenealogyInfo.com revealed some of the issues with the data they collect and the way they present it.
But it also raises some interesting questions.
Genealogy is, by far, the most widely used genealogy data source, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
About half of Americans, or 46 percent, have used one of the three, according the latest American Genealogy Association study.
In a study published in 2015, the Pew Research Center found that only 13 percent of Americans use one of these databases, with the remaining 27 percent saying they didn’t know how to use them.
“While there is a huge amount of data, a lot of it is not readily accessible,” said Mark Biederman, senior research analyst for the Center for Genealogy and Ancestry at Pew.
“People are afraid to share their information because they don’t want to be caught in a legal mess.”
The big picture While genealogy sites often make genealogy a convenient way to find your ancestor, there’s a big disconnect between the data people are looking at and what’s really happening on the ground.
In reality, the data used to find and map your ancestry is mostly outdated and often unreliable, according an analysis by the Pew data analysts.
“The average person’s ancestry is a lot like the average genealogy book,” Biederem said.
“It tells you how old someone was when they were born.
And it tells you their geographic area and their ancestry.”
But that information is often not the same as what is actually being measured, Bieder said.
For example, the Ancestry website includes a section called “Race” that looks at a person’s race, but doesn’t include the gender of their ancestry.
And that information can be completely wrong.
“When you look at ancestry information, you get information about race and gender and skin color, but it doesn’t tell you if they were a slave, were a European, were African-American, were Native American, were mixed race, or whether they were Asian,” Biererem explained.
“A lot of the ancestry information on the Ancestries website is based on a sample of people, not an actual sample.”
The Pew researchers found that while the majority of people report being African American, about one-third of those individuals are actually African American.
That is, a significant portion of the population has African ancestry but they’re not counted in the same census as others who may be counted.
“African-Americans are the most underrepresented people in the data,” Bieber said.
And the racial breakdown of the Ancestors data doesn’t make it clear whether African Americans are a disproportionate share of African Americans in their census-tipped area.
“You can’t get a full picture of how many African Americans actually live in a census tract based on the racial data,” said Biedering.
“If you were to ask a census tester whether a person of African descent is a resident of their census tract, the census testers might tell you ‘yes’ but they might also say ‘no,'” Biedemers said.
But the Pew researchers also found that the racial makeup of people’s ancestors was also much more accurate than the data.
“One of the problems is that the data is based primarily on the names of people who have ancestry that’s not really true,” said Michael G. Taylor, senior researcher for AncestryData.com.
“This is an example of people having an incomplete understanding of the world around them and their family history.”
AncestryDNA.com uses a sampling system that can be confusing.
It takes a sample from people who are asked to fill out an online form, and then they have to sign a document that records their answers to questions about their ancestry and how it relates to other people in their family.
That information is then compared to a broader sample of the people who fill out the Ancestories online form.
But Taylor said that the people in this sampling process often have other information that could be important, including whether they have lived in the area or if they have relatives who live in the region.
That makes it harder to know how accurate the data actually is.
“In the vast majority of the cases, it’s just a guess, and a guess can be inaccurate,” Taylor said.
As for the data scientists who are tasked with making sure the data accurately represents people’s ancestry, Taylor said they can be a little overwhelmed.
“I don’t think they get that the accuracy of the information that’s in there is not guaranteed,” he said.
That’s because the data science community has struggled for years to get a handle on what is really going on in the genetic world.
For instance, a group of researchers led by Andrew A. Hwang, a geneticist at the University of Washington, recently published a paper that compared the data