Decoy Death Dates

Have you ever come across decoy death dates in your genealogy research… dates¬†intentionally incorrect (for any event, not just deaths)? It occurred to me there is a parallel between genealogy and one of my other interests, maps. In both cartography and genealogy multiple people or groups are working towards one truth. Sometimes people work together but often it is independent.

Cartographers have a history of deliberately including small mistakes in various versions of their maps. These are called ‘Trap Streets‘.¬†The deliberately misleading data is used to catch people copying work that is otherwise copyrighted.

I wonder… does this ever happen in genealogy? Certainly people copy each other’s mistakes too often, but are any of those mistakes ever deliberate?

There is a risk that so many people will copy the fake data the incorrect data will become “truth”. Even though it wouldn’t pass the Genealogical Proof Standard a quickly replicating error might be difficult to stop.

I’m certainly not advocating people using fake data– I don’t think this is a good idea for a number of reasons. But I do wonder how often it happens.

Tim Flight

Photo of Tim
I'm a web application developer, generally working with PHP and MySQL. I'm also a genealogist with primary research expertise in New England, the Maritimes of Canada, and Sweden. And I'm a former National Champion snowboarder. Formerly I was a full-time professional blogger.

Categories