Compliments and Criticisms

The paragraphs below the line of asterisks are as they were when this page was first released (on 01.09.07). I decided not to add compliments received after that date because I do not wish to be accused of soliciting them. Nevertheless, here is one received yesterday (18.01.09, from KA) to represent the others.
“I enjoyed stirnet for years when it was free. Yesterday I decided to pay for a month to enjoy it again. The layout is very convenient and enables a person to see the relationships within the bigger picture.”


The main criticisms we have received since 01.09.07 have been that:
(a) We give only a short time for non-Members to look at a database page before their viewing is interrupted.
That is true but I feel that to view this as a failure by us shows a failure by the non-Member to consider our point of view. If we gave non-Members any longer to view the data pages then there would be little incentive for them to subscribe and, unfortunately, without subscriptions we would not be able to keep working on the site. I think we have got it about right.
(b) The site has some operational problems (flickering of pages, etc.).
This criticism was fair when the Membership Scheme was first launched (on 24.09.07) but we worked hard to sort problems out and had largely done so by the end of 2008. Since then, most of the ‘complaints’ we received from Members turned out to be because they had forgotten their Username or Password.

PCBG, 19 January 2009 (revised slightly on 5 March 2009 and 23 May 2011)




Over the last few years I have received a huge amount of correspondence. Almost all of those who have expressed an opinion about the site have been very complimentary. [Some examples are given below.] Apart from the occasional e-mail chasing me for a response (I do sometimes get swamped by the volume of correspondence and am not as quick as I would like to be. See the E-mail issues section on Contact us for information on my present responsiveness), I can remember receiving only two complaining e-mails: one whose details I’ve forgotten (though it was not something that perturbed me), the other disliking the fact that I was able to produce in a few hours, using sources in the public domain, something that was very similar to what his wife had produced after many months of research. That annoyed him but I’m not sure why he blamed me! I have also heard of or seen correspondence in sites & forums elsewhere on the Internet that criticise this site in one way or another. I deal with those issues below and invite any other criticism as long as it is constructive (but please don’t repeat the points covered below).

PCBG, 01 September 2007

Mea Culpa – the Criticisms of this site that I have seen or heard of Top of page

1. The database contains some errors.
– Of course it does! I have never pretended that the site is anything other than what it says it is, which is a collation of data found in a range of sources most of which are known to contain errors. I started developing the database when I found that there was no site doing what I thought should be done, and what we are doing now, which is to provide a clear framework into which genealogical data could be added, where inconsistencies could be highlighted, and where errors could be corrected. When I was researching my own family’s ancestors I was frustrated at how poor most online genealogical databases were. I found many examples of glaring errors (such as people born before their grandparents), and many absurd & questionable assumptions, and was frustrated to see contradictory claims with little to guide me as to which source was more reliable than another. I decided that my online database would not only identify its sources & highlight discrepancies but also that it would enable others to see what information I had considered & rejected (though see the next criticism for a bit more on this). The database was started in 2002. Since then I have managed to identify, draw attention to, comment on & correct a large number of errors that have been flying around the Internet since it started. There are still many errors, discrepancies & issues to be sorted out but a start had to be made somewhere. Over time, with help from our users, we hope to sort out most of them.
– Please do not expect more from our database (or any other database) than it can deliver. We are open about what we can and cannot do, more so than most of the other genie sites I have seen. I try to ensure that we maintain our integrity (i.e. ‘cover ourselves’) by keeping the database open to suggestions & corrections. I welcome constructive criticism and, to be honest, do not worry too much about carping from people who take it all too seriously yet do not contribute anything that would help us improve what we show. Why should they help us? Why indeed! I do not presume to ‘require’ input from anyone who does not want to contribute to the development of this site. However, I see no need to pay too much attention to people who complain that something is wrong but do nothing about it, particularly when the error is not our fault but is something that has been around for many years. I do welcome input from people who have something relevant to say and are willing to help us make this site as reliable as possible.

2. The database is not fully consistent in the way that it highlights disputed items, etc.
– That is true. Especially in the first few months of uploading data, when I was still not sure how much effort to put into the database, I did not keep to a rigid discipline of highlighting exactly how the sources disagreed with each other or specifying now reliable a connection truly was. Even nowadays, whilst trying to avoid making questionable assumptions, I find it difficult to get the balance right between (on the one hand) being too pedantic on requiring evidence before (say) connecting a spouse with a particular family and (on the other hand) making assumptions that are not quite reasonable. Over the years I have developed a ‘code’ whereby I give clues on how reliable some connections really are (“possibly of this generation”, “apparently of this generation”, etc.). The use of such phrases in the early days of the database was not done as consistently as is now the case. Over the years I hope to iron out such discrepancies.

3. The database contains links to Adam & Eve and the Greek Gods that cannot be taken seriously. This lessens respect for the whole.
– The first bit is certainly true but I would disagree with the view that this weakens the database overall. The Ancient & Mythical Section is clearly labelled with the warning “This section should NOT be taken too seriously. It is included for interest & fun only.” Many people have indicated that they were/are interested in and/or amused by that section, as I am, so I think it reasonable to include it. Anyone who feels distracted by that section should just ignore it. The same applies to certain parts of the Continental Section which, as is also reported on the database’s Lead Index Page, “Arguably … should have been included in the Ancient & Mythical section”. We do try to make these sections as ‘correct’ as possible but believe that everyone should take these early generations with a large pinch of salt. Anyone who does not is surely taking the whole thing far more seriously than he/she should.

Other cricitisms we are vulnerable to Top of page

A. Although it purports to cover ‘Family & Social History’, the site is dominated by the genealogical database.
– [Note amended 19th August 2015] This criticism is no longer relevant because I have stopped plans to develop the Social History side of the site.

B. The database does not help everybody because it stops at the generation born by 1800 and we can’t all get back that far.
– That is true. Unfortunately, I had to limit the coverage as otherwise the project would have become uncontrollable. There are now many sites around which help people research census data & such and which should take people back to the early 1800s, thereby (hopefully) providing links to the latest generation we show.

C. The Continental Section is over-reliant on just a few sources.
– That is true. Unfortunately, we do not have access to enough sources to make it otherwise. Suggestions would be welcome on how to resolve this problem (as long as they do not involve us spending money which we do not have!).

D. The site has gone commercial by charging for uninterrupted viewing of the database.
– That is true. Unfortunately, unless someone is prepared to provide us with a very large donation, there is no alternative other than to have us cut-back almost completely on our work on the site. That would be frustrating for there is still much to be done. We are trying to keep to the best spirit of ‘Internet sharing’ by providing Free Membership to (most of) those who have helped us improve the site but we do need to raise income from the site and so feel it only right to charge a modest fee from those who benefit from the many thousands of hours of work put into the database. As it is, we enable people to get a good look at what they are being asked to pay for before they have to pay for it. That is very different from what most other commercial sites do. I think that what we are doing is ‘fair’ and offers good value for money.

A selection of the Compliments this site has received (all unsolicited: reverse chronological order) Top of page
This page was released on 01.09.07. We are unlikely to add to the comments shown below because we do not wish to be accused of attracting comments. These were all unsolicited.

I stumbled across your website a few days ago while making a Google search for info on a particular family that had eluded me. …This discovery was like Cortez discovering the Pacific. It is quite stunning, and as a fairly prolific compiler myself I cannot begin to comprehend the work that has gone into it. … It is clear that your site is miles ahead of other sites that one has seen on the web, in terms of the intelligence and scholarship behind it all.
MF, 13.05.07

I wanted to thank you for this website. I have uncovered invaluable information on my ancestry here that I might otherwise not have found.
KHG, 06.03.07

I am very impressed with this site.  Looking at my particular area of search for over 3 years, and trips to Ireland, I find that much of my hard-searched-for material is listed on your site …
WS, 01.12.06

I just stumbled upon this page, and I definitely must compliment you on it! In seconds I have found the “family tree” that it has taken me months to research on my own. Excellent work!
SC, 20.03.06

I never cease to be amazed at the amount and quality of the work you have done!  Must have taken you decades of work!!  After doing any area of research, I find myself coming back to your site just to double check the authenticity of what I’ve found!  In this way I find myself checking stirnet almost daily.
RP, 30.09.05

I applaud you on your effort to assemble a large and intractable volume of genealogical data into an accessible, ordered package.
RK, 04.11.04

Congratulations on your excellent genealogy web pages – because of your compact and effective presentation and high degree of accuracy, yours is my preferred genealogical site.
PC, 22.08.04

I just wanted to say THANK YOU for the wonderful webpages you have up.  It’s a fantastic clearinghouse of information.  As a sceptical researcher, I find it refreshing that you not only cite your sources, but you note where there is conflicting information and which of this conflicting information you find to be most reliable.
AR, 10.07.04

Over the last few months I have been accessing your wonderful web site on almost a daily basis, and I have had great fun finding all my medieval and ancient ancestors and discovering how they are all so inter-related.  My only negative comment on your site is that its far too addictive!
YS, 20.01.04

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