Friday, August 09, 2019

How’s Find A Grave Encourages Bad Actors and Bad Data

A rather nasty article about Find-a-Grave, though some of its cautions do need to be taken seriously. How’s Find A Grave Encourages Bad Actors and Bad Data:
Find A Grave, as I would soon learn, is a website that documents the final resting place of millions of people all over the world. With 180 million entries, it is the largest gravesite collection on the internet. Owned by genealogy giant, Find A Grave differs in one major way from the company’s other sites: it seems to be composed entirely of user-generated material. Though the site has become a popular resource among genealogists and family historians, Ancestry claims no legal responsibility for the accuracy of Find A Grave’s information. Instead, much of the content creation and moderation work is left to a sprawling community of volunteers. It’s a Wikipedia of the dead, albeit with far fewer rules.
Find-a-Grave has been around for a long time. It originally seemed to be mainly for celeb graves until genealogists found out about it and started using it, so much so that took it over, and changed the user interface without improving it, and just making it more difficult to use.

It does need some caution. If there is a photo of a gravestone, then the inscription says what it says, which may or may not be accurate. There is additional information, not on the stone, added by other people, which tries to link people with those buried in nearby graves. This too may or may not be accurate. And the person who is commemorated on the stone may not have been buried there at all, but ibn another cemetery, another town, another continent.

In spite of some problems, however, Find-a-Grave remains useful to genealogists and performs a public service by preserving the memory of people who might otherwise have been forgotten.

But the writer of the article seems determined to make it somehow sound sinister, and so adds gratuitous comments like that of parents complaining about people taking photos of their daughter's gravestone in a way that implies that it is as bad to do that as it would have been to take porn pictures of her while she was still alive. Why erect a public tombstone in memory of someone if you don't want other people to see or remember it? That attitude is far, far weirder than the people who record cemetery inscriptions, which the author of the article is trying to portray as somehow strange and sinister.

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