Monday, August 30, 2010

LostCousins Free until Sunday, September 5th 2010

Thanks to Marjorie Gavin for forwarding an email about this.

I hadn't heard of LostCousins before, which is odd in a way, as I'm in touch with very few of my cousins, so there are a lot of lost cousins out there.

The concept of the site is that you enter details of any ancestors and their siblings on the website, and if any two or more people enter the same person, they can be connected, and you'll find lost cousins. It covers only these censuses: England & Wales 1841, US 1880, Canada 1881, England & Wales 1881,  Scotland 1881, England & Wales 1911, Ireland 1911, but they warn that their greatest coverage is of people in the 1881 census. They've chosen these censuses on the basis that most of them are available for free on the FamilySearch site, or can be accessed free at subscription sites.

Apparently the automated matching process is virtually 100% accurate, you won't waste your time corresponding with people who turn out not to be related - nor will you run the risk of allowing someone who is unrelated to have access to your family tree. What makes all this possible is that every LostCousins member is taking information from the same online censuses.

The accuracy of the matching process depends on the unique information about the census that you need to add for each person, the piece, book, folio, page
numbers from censuses in England & Wales; the volume (or registration number), enumeration district, page for Scottish censuses.

But there's the disadvantage, at least for me. I've found my ancestors and siblings on the censuses, taken a print of the info, but not all the information needed by LostCousins. For example, although I know that Robert Munro was in Belton Rd, Whitchurch on the 1901 census, it never occurred to me that it would be useful to write down the reference numbers; and it would be a pain to go through it all again. The second problem is that they want you to take the references from online censuses, whereas I researched my info from microfilms. Additionally, my ancestral families left Ireland before 1911, or arrived in the USA and Canada after 1900.

LostCousins is a great idea, however, I think that they haven't made it as user-friendly and usable as possible.

In their shoes, I'd have offered less accuracy without the census reference information, and/or after entry of a person's name, offered a list of census entries to select, and I've made these suggestions to them.

Perhaps you're think I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, or perhaps you think it would be worth searching the online censuses to get the required info.
If you do, or you have any other comments, please let me know by clicking the 'comments' link below.


Niall Scott said...

Ah, that wonderful dilemma, how much do I record? . . . . Everything :-)
I haven't been researching my FH for long but I have learnt one lesson, note down everything you can about your sources, you and other people need to find them easily in the future.
I have had the opposite experience to you, I started from the web census information and graduated to microfilms.
My pet annoyance is people who publish ancestral trees without any sources, so when I started building my own site I was determined to prove as much of my research as possible.
That's when I ran into the problem of insufficient data, I felt and still feel that I had to be able to supply the means whereby other people could check my research. Merely stating that Joe Bloggs lived with his family at a particular address in 1881 wasn't enough, so now I'm going back through ALL my data getting reference info, so that a viewer can look up Joe Bloggs in 1881 on microfilm for themselves. In some cases I know I found evidence of particular events but I didn't write down enough details and now I can't find them so how can I prove I'm telling the truth?
I haven't looked at LostCousins but I understand why they want the info they do.
And NO I haven't got the correct info on my site YET, but I'm working on it.

Peter Munro said...

In the end, I forewent some sleep and got the sources, typed them in to Lost Cousins, no matches.

My initial view is that when you see somebody's family tree on the web, then if you're interested you contact them and ask for corroborating sources. I'd be happy just to see a standard text on a website saying "sources available" or "presumed" after each entry or a group of entries.

I didn't always think this - on holiday in America about 10 years ago, I met people in DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), and who claimed to be Descendants of Charlemagne, and Descendants of Julius Caesar.

Many of their claims may well be valid however none that I met had actually done enough research to be fairly certain, some had done no research at all, and none offered to show me corroborating sources.

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