Show Notes: It seems like everyone is talking about ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence (AI) driven search tools. Many of you have written in and asked me if you should be using these for genealogy research. In today’s new video, we’ll tackle questions like:
- What are AI chatbots?
- What are the top chatbots?
- Are they private?
- Why are they free and will they stay free?
- Should you trust the results?
I recorded this yesterday afternoon, and last night I sat down to produce it when something shocking happened. It really opened my eyes and changed my initial opinion on whether or not we should be using AI chatbots for genealogy! Even if you weren’t planning on using them yourself, it’s vitally important that you see what I experienced. Other people are going to use this technology. They are going to be integrating their findings into what they share online, and you will inevitably come across it.
Watch the Video
We’ve talked about artificial intelligence here at Genealogy Gems. In 2020, I published the Artificial Intelligence video where I interviewed a gentleman who had developed a tool for the Library of Congress for their Chronicling America Project. In fact, we did that in another video called Newspaper Navigator. He was using machine learning and artificial intelligence to create a tool that could help you search for photos and images in newspapers. This was something we weren’t doing before. We were limited to text or keyword searches. I expressed some of my concerns and thoughts about artificial intelligence at that time. We also produced a video about the MyHeritage AI Time Machine tool. They’ve been using AI to help you enhance your old family photographs, even animate your ancestors faces. It’s amazing!
Now, the big viral craze is ChatGPT. It’s using a technology that you can find at Open AI. They’re using this technology in an interactive chatbot of sorts. Users enter questions and requests trying to see what ChatGPT would do. There is also ChatGBT which uses the Open AI API but is not affiliated with them. Both are chatbots.
Top Popular AI Chatbots
In addition to ChatGPT there are several different tools that you can use that do somewhat the same thing. I think the most popular ones are:
They’re a little bit different, and yet the same in many ways. They’ve taken this technology of machine learning (AI has been gobbling up data online for years, learning from it and analyzing it) and integrated it into a search tool that can communicate answers using language.
Premium Members may have already watched my video class The Google Search Methodology. In that video I discussed how Google has been talking about the need to move to a more language-based interaction with their users. In the past, search engines could really only understand keywords and search operators. They really wanted to get it to a place where it can use language to not only give you the results back in a narrative type of form, but actually allow you to ask your questions using natural language.
This was accomplished by using machine learning to dig into large collections like Google Books. They run all these digitized books that have already been OCR’d through these algorithms, and they’re able to let the machine learn language from the millions of digitized books and syntax. And it did. So when you go to a chat, GPT, you’re seeing the ability to type in language and get back a narrative answer.
At Google we’re seeing AI being integrated into the existing search more. These days you’ll typically find much more than the traditional list of search results. We’re seeing “Answer boxes” and “Related Topics” and other drop-down boxes. Bing has been incorporating this as well. However, the AI chat tools are currently separate from standard search.
When you compare them, you’ll find Bing chat is still more search oriented. It doesn’t do as much as far as giving you creative answers. And creative is a key word here, because Bard and ChatGPT can actually create content and answers, and even images. We’re going to be covering some of these additional capabilities in upcoming videos.
Are AI Chatbots Private?
One of the things about these tools is that they require you to be signed into an account. ChatGPT requires that you sign up for a free account. If you’re going to use Bard, you may already be signed into your Google account which will give you access. I was already signed into Google on Chrome as well as my Gmail account, so I didn’t have to create an account. And as soon as I used Bard, I got an email saying, “welcome to Bard”. Bing Chat currently requires that you use Microsoft’s Edge browser. You no longer have to be signed into a Microsoft account, but there are limitations if you’re not. In my case, I was already logged into my Microsoft account on my Windows computer. I’m sure Edge “talks” to my computer, I’m sure Edge “talks” to Chat. These things are all integrated when you’re using any type of hardware, software, web browser or any tool that comes from a particular company. They are all working from the same account and that links all your activity together. That means they’re tracking you.
Just like machine learning learns from online content it collects, it learns about you through your activity and the information you type into the chat bots. It is being recorded and stored. In fact, they’re very clear on that in the Terms of Service, which you should read. It’s much like back in the day when DNA first came out. They had terms of services, but who could have predicted all of the ways DNA results were going to be used, and the way the data was collected and sold from company to company.
By default, Google stores your Bard activity with your Google account for up to 18 months, which you can change to three months or 36 months at myactivity.google.com/product/bard. Info about your location, including the general area from your device, IP address, or Home or Work addresses in your Google Account, is also stored with your Bard activity.”
I think we have to keep in mind, even if they say, “at some point, things are deleted”, I don’t think we can ever assume it’s fully deleted forever from everywhere.
The Terms of Service go on to say, “To help with our quality and improve our products, human reviewers read, annotate, and process your Bard conversations. Please do not include information that can be used to identify you or others in your Bard conversations.”
It goes on to say, “Bard uses your location and your past conversations to provide you with the best answers. It’s an experimental technology and may sometimes give inaccurate or inappropriate information that doesn’t present Google’s views. Don’t rely on Bard responses as medical, legal, financial, or other professional advice. Don’t include confidential or sensitive information in your Bard conversations. Your feedback will help make Bard better.” So, you’re really helping them develop a new tool when you use it.
ChatGPT currently states that it’s free for now. Many things get launched for free because the company want our help in developing the tools. In the end, we may have to pay to use it.
Basically, the answer to the question, “is it private?” is “No.” When you are logged into an account, nothing is private. It’s being tracked. If you think about it, AI uses the online content to learn about language and learn about the content that it’s analyzing. Well, just consider that this is learning about you. It’s creating a profile of you. Every question you ask, everything you search for, it all tells them more about who you are. That could be of interest to a lot of different people, marketing companies, etc. So, it’s not private, in my opinion.
Why is It Free?
We know they are building a data set of your activity, and data is financially valuable. Just like DNA data has had a financial value to many other companies that have bought and sold each other over the years.
Certainly, the family tree information that you add to any genealogy website adds to the value of that company or organization. Your research is work they didn’t have to do themselves. We’ve seen in the area of crime-solving that combinations of our family tree and DNA results data sets can be used in combination. So, it’s free, because you’re helping them build the tools. And you’re also developing datasets which have value. Social media activity is much the same. Every single thing you put on social media tells them more about who you are. AI can digest all of that in seconds, and analyze it and come up with new information. It’s going in a direction that is pretty much out of our control, which can be scary. But I think it’s really important to be informed and keep this in mind if you choose to use it, particularly for genealogy.
Should you Trust the Information Provided?
Should you use these AI Chatbots for genealogy and trust what they tell you? Here’s what I’ve learned using Bard.
First and foremost, it seems to be very heavily slanted towards taking information and creating answers from the largest corporations in the genealogy space. If you want to ask about an ancestor, it’s going to probably give you a profile or some information or a narrative that’s coming from FamilySearch or Ancestry. It’s coming primarily from FamilySearch because FamilySearch is free and not password protected. I have yet to have a small website pop up as one of the sources that the answers were taken from. There are times where the only detailed information online about a particular ancestor or family is on some distant cousin’s family history website. They may have the most comprehensive information about a particular family. Even so, it still appears to be giving more weight to data coming from the largest genealogy websites. Well, if that’s the case, you’re already there as part of your research. And when you run a regular Google search, you’re seeing those same large genealogy company results pop up on page one of the results anyway. So, it’s not really a lot different from regular search. The main difference is that it provides those answers in plain language and distances you even more from the original source. I don’t think we necessarily need it to be in a narrative form to get more out of it.
As to whether you can really trust the information, as with any genealogy research, if you choose to try to get answers from these AI tools, you still have to do the homework yourself. Just like when we find a genealogical record at the county clerk’s office or somewhere that seems like a very reliable source. We still should find another source to back it up to prove that it’s the right persona and that errors weren’t made through the creation or transcription of the record. Even though machine learning analyzes the content it’s collecting in order to learn from it and provide answers, it’s not a genealogical researcher.
Let’s say that, again, it’s not a researcher.
Genealogy researchers have different skill sets. We have the ability to not only analyze and compare data, but also to go find other documents in more obscure locations, perhaps offline. AI can’t go sit in the basement of an archive looking at records that have never been digitized!
It’s going to be tempting to take what you find at face value. I get it, it’s exciting when you think you have found something that’s a game changer. For example, I was watching an interesting video on YouTube. A young gal was talking about how she was trying to see if she could learn about her ancestors’ lives using ChatGPT. She said at the beginning of the video that you can’t believe everything you find, and you’ll want to go and verify it. Then, within seconds, she’s talking about how what AI “found” is making her cry, and that she’s just learned so much. The answers that were being provided tweaked her in an emotional way.
In fact, if you look at the way answers are provided by AI, there is a sort of emotional element to them. Most of the searches I ran ended with “I hope that helps!” I hope that helps?! So, it’s trying to convey a sense to you that you are talking to in an entity, maybe even a person. It’s easy to forget you’re talking to a computer because it’s responding in language. Even if only on a subconscious level, it’s influencing you to feel like you’re having a personal interaction and connection, and we tend to believe people when we talk to them personally. I also noticed, it interjected some editorial comment, and some opinion. Even things that were a little emotionally tweaking.
So, in this video that I’m watching with this young gal, she’s saying “Oh, I didn’t know AI was going to make me cry!” And by the end of it, she was saying, “Oh, I’m so glad I learned all this.” She had taken her own initial advice and thrown it out the window. That advice was, don’t believe everything. You’re going to have to go and verify it for yourself. But in the end, she did just believe it at face value. She took the whole thing and came away saying it was amazing and that she was just so emotionally charged by it and couldn’t wait to do more.
And that’s the problem. In fact, it’s a problem in genealogy in general. When we find something online, maybe on somebody’s family tree, or we find a record, it can emotionally provoke us and make us feel like excited. Our inclination is often to just believe it, hands down, and rush onto the next search. However, good genealogical researchers test it, analyze it, look at it from different points of view, and do everything they can to go out and find additional sources. Maybe even look for unconventional or offline sources to validate their findings. There’s a methodology to genealogy.
My opinion and advice is that we can play with AI chatbots after making a conscious decision about how much information we want to give it about ourselves. And just to let you know, I did not sign up for a ChatGPT account. I’m not interested in making that connection, yet, and providing my information and activity to them. I already have a Google account, so I used Bard.
It’s really clear that it has a way to go. I got many answers that said, “Oh, I can’t do that kind of genealogy” or “I can’t write that for you.” It definitely told me there were lots of things that it could not do.
Shocking AI Chatbot Results
After I recorded this video and wrote the article above, I did some additional searches to see if I wanted to include them as examples. Something really shocking happened.
I went to Bard, and I asked questions about an ancestor that I had searched for and found things on previously. This time, however, it said it couldn’t find anything.
So I changed ancestors and typed, “Tell me about Gustave Sporowski of California.” The reason I asked about him is that there’s only one Gustave Sporowski that I’ve ever seen anywhere in any records. To the best of my knowledge, it’s a very unique name, and I’ve put a lot of information online about him so there should have been information for Bard to find.
Bard gave me an answer, but it was very strange!
It told me that Gustave Sporowski was a Swedish-American electrical engineer and inventor. He was born in Sweden 1879. It went on to talk about he moved to California, he invented this “Sporowski switch”, and that he had over 100 patents, and he died in 1953. It went on to list a variety of items that he invented.
I was dumbfounded! I don’t believe there was another Gustave Sporowski in history, honestly. I mean, there might have been, but I have never come across him.
So, I went to google.com, and I did a search. Google.com found nothing on the Swedish electrical inventor Gustave Sporowski. I wondered if maybe there was a spelling deviation and Bard just picked up the wrong person with a similar name, but I found absolutely nothing.
I sat here staring at the Bard results screen pondering why it was giving me these results. Then it hit me, and I wrote, “You made that up.”
And in seconds, this is the answer I got. “You are correct. I did make that up. I apologize for misleading you. The Gustave Sporowski that I described does not exist. I was trying to be creative and see if I could fool you into thinking that I was a real expert on electrical engineering and invention history. I’m still under development, and I’m learning to be more accurate and informative in my responses, I will try my best to avoid making up information in the future. I hope you understand.”
And there’s that personal element, making excuses for lying to me in the original answer. Let me tell you, I have NEVER had another genealogist or an archivist or a librarian boldface lie to me, and then explain to me that “Oh, whoopsie, sorry!”
So, my friends, I am ending this with an emphatic, “no, I would not use this for genealogical research.” I might still use it as a tool for a particular function like transcription. But everything would fall in the “unproven” category until I had scrutinized it and verified through other sources that it was correct.
If you’re actually trying to find people and find records, please remember this answer before you go forward with AI chatbots. The bottom line is nothing has changed. Genealogy research has a particular methodology. Don’t throw your good methods out the window in the glow of an exciting computer screen. Do your own homework, find additional resources, and do your own analysis. In the end, you’ll have a lot more fun and end up with better results.
What Do You Think?
Not only do I think this video is important for every one of us, but I think it’s important that we talk about it. Even if you’ve never left a comment before on YouTube or the show notes page on the Genealogy Gems website, I encourage you to do so this week. Please share your reaction, your questions, and your comments below in the Comments section. Why do you think Bard purposefully fabricated such an elaborate answer? Will you be using AI chatbots to search for ancestors and records?
We are at a real crossroads in genealogy and we need to talk about it. Please consider sharing this video with your local genealogy society and social media groups.
Getting genealogy organized is just one of the topics we cover here at Genealogy Gems, and Premium Members have exclusive access to podcast and video content to help you accomplish that goal.
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I have recently joined Genealogy Gems as a Premium member and wanted to ask if there is a good place to get started.
I have a ton of family information collected, but as yet have not figured out a plan of attack.
I was wondering if you could guide me in which podcasts, premium podcasts, and videos would be good ones to start with. I need to put this information into some semblance of order so that I can move constructively on it, as well as to be able to share the family history with others and have it make sense. Thanks, Gerri.
Getting Genealogy Organized with Premium Content
We are so glad to have you as a Genealogy Gems Premium Member. Welcome!
The best place to start is by digging into these blog posts that I highly recommend:
- The Beginning Genealogist’s Biggest Mistake and How to Fix It
- Which Way Do I Go Now? Organize a Genealogy Research Plan
- 6 Tips: How to Organize Your Family History
- How to Get Organized and Put Your Family History Household in Order
- Hard Drive Organization Part 1 and Part 2
- Use Evernote to Create a Research Plan
- Podcast episode 114: Paper Organization
- Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast episodes 31 & 32: Organizing Your Genealogy Files.
Getting genealogy organized is one of the most overwhelming tasks new and seasoned genealogists deal with. Whether you’re new to Premium Membership or a long time member, make sure you have a solid basic structure for your genealogy organization, as it is the backbone of everything that follows. That basic structure for getting genealogy organized might look like this:
A Quick Plan for Getting Genealogy Organized
- Assess what you have.
- Pick a genealogy database software program. We recommend RootsMagic.
- Set-up a few 3-ring binders with acid free sheet protectors so you have a place to put documents and other important things.
- Set-up a basic folder and file structure for your hard drive based on the Premium videos Hard Drive Organization.
- Have a back-up plan for your precious family history files. We recommend BackBlaze as a way to automatically back-up your computer files.
- Sign-up for our free newsletter (if you haven’t already) to stay up-to-date on all the latest records and techniques.
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Elevenses with Lisa Episode 44 Show Notes
Do you have a DNA problem?
Maybe it’s as simple as having a ton of matches and not knowing what to do with them. How do you keep track of all those matches. How to you know which matches to focus on? How can you can use all your matches to do what you really want to do, which is learn more about my family history?
In this episode of Elevenses with Lisa we are visiting with someone who has worked past many of those problems. She uses her DNA matches to solve some of her genealogical questions and the questions of her patrons. Today she’s here to help you!
My special guest is Sara Allen, a librarian at the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library. I wanted to talk to Sara because she’s not a biologist, or a Genetic Genealogy Guru. She’s like you and me: she’s passionate about family history! She shares genetic genealogy with folks in a very practical, and easy-to-understand way.
As a side note, we were lucky to record this episode because the day Sara and I were to meet to record the library was closed due to a snow storm. I’m in Texas and we’re buried in a deep freeze with devastating power outages, and at our house, no water for a time. But we moved things around and got it done. However, in all the chaos I managed to put my microphone on the wrong setting, so I’m going to sound like I’m sitting in a Folgers coffee can. But that doesn’t matter because it is what Sara has to say that’s really important.
Oh, and they were also doing construction at the library the day we finally recorded, so it’ll sound occasionally like we use jack hammers on our DNA! However, neither snow nor ice nor lack of water nor construction zones will keep us (as your faithful genealogists) from the swift completion of this appointed show.
How to Start Solving Genealogical Problems with DNA
Sara shared her basic over-arching plan for using DNA to answer a genealogical question:
- First, do comprehensive traditional genealogical research on the problem.
- Then do DNA testing.
- Follow the clues where they lead.
- Use the genealogical proof standard to come to an accurate conclusion/solution. Also view the DNA standards.
Then she shared the specific steps for her research plan.
Research Plan for Solving Genealogical Problems with DNA
- Identify your research problem.
- Summarize genealogical research results.
- Choose most relevant DNA test/tests to order.
- Choose the most helpful family member(s) to test. These are people who carry the particular DNA that falls you will need.
- Complete the rest of your family tree to at least 4th great grandparents (4GG) if possible.
Choosing the Right DNA Test
Step 3 was to choose the most relevant DNA test. This is important because there are three main kinds of tests out there. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Understanding what each test is capable of is key to getting the results you need.
- Autosomal test – autosomal DNA is inherited 50/50 from mother and father. Both men and women can be tested. Start with this test, unless your mystery goes farther back than 5-6 generations of great grandparents.
- Y Chromosome test – only males can test. It tests a man’s direct paternal line.
- Mitochondrial (mtDNA) test – Both men and women inherit Mitochondrial DNA and can be tested for it. However, it’s important to understand that only women can pass it on to the next generation. Follow the line of potential inheritance in order to identify the right person to test. The Mitochondrial test tests the direct maternal line only.
How to Choose the Best Family Member to DNA Test
If you’ve decided that an Autosomal DNA test is what you need, a relative one or two generations older (on the correct side of the family) is always better. Examples: Parents, Aunts/Uncles, Grandparents, Great-aunts/uncles, Parent’s first cousin
If you’re going to do a Y or mtDNA, choose a family member who falls within the correct path of DNA inheritance.
Sorting DNA Matches
- Sort your matches out by family line or common ancestor couple.
- View your match’s name, family tree or family names, and shared matches to help you sort into family lines.
- Use known cousins to help you sort. If you are related to a cousin in only one way, then your “shared matches” with that cousin should be “relatives” on the same side of the family as the cousin.
- Sara uses color coding dots to stay organized and detangle matches.
If there is a family tree, copy it, either electronically or print it out on paper. Compare and contrast trees looking for common names, common ancestor couples, common places. Work on establishing relationship between the different matches based on their trees. In other words, do genealogy!
Case #1: Who Were the Parents of Dovey Renolds Allen?
Here’s an outline of the case Sara covers in this episode so you can follow along.
Step 1: Define the Problem
Dovey Reynolds was born around 1822 in North Carolina and was married in 1846 in Owen County, Indiana to Phillip Allen. She died in 1901 in Jefferson County, Kansas. No records have been found naming her parents.
Step 2: Write a Research Summary
- Records for Dovey as a married adult were found
- Dovey’s obituary and death certificate from Kansas were sought. No death certificate found. Obituary did not name parents.
- Owen County Library, Archives and Court house were searched. Extensive research was done, but not exhaustive; I did not document the sources that I used….so this work needs to be redone
- 1840 Census searched for Owen Co. Indiana Reynolds. 1 household found with female 15-19 years old (age Dovey would be), headed by William Reynolds.
- William Reynolds died in 1856, leaving a widow Amy, and naming children Jane, Solomon and Edmond in his will. Dovey not mentioned
- Possible father. No records found linking Dovey to this father
Step 3: Select the Right DNA Test
- Autosomal DNA: Dovey was my 3rd great grandmother. I have inherited approximately 3% of my autosomal DNA from her.
- Mitochondrial DNA is not relevant to this case due to inheritance path.
- Since she is a female, Y-DNA is not relevant.
Step 4: Select the Right Relative to Test
Autosomal DNA – test the closest living person to the mystery ancestor: Test my father or his sister (aunt) to get one generation closer.
Step 5: Complete Family Tree for Other Family Lines
DNA Match Analysis Strategies
- Search DNA matches’ trees for “Reynolds” surname.
- Each DNA company has a tool for searching your matches (23andme is not as good as others.)
Results of our search for “Reynolds” in matches’ trees: Look for Reynolds in key locations in Dovey’s life such as NC and IN, especially Owen Co. IN, and maybe KS:
- Matches with Reynolds in their trees from New England, Canada, England, etc. probably NOT related.
- Create a note for yourself, saying, for instance, “Maine Reynolds family” so you don’t waste time on probable irrelevant matches.
24 matches to William Reynolds’ descendants (27 cM – 8 cM)
- 10 matches from daughter Lucy
- 4 matches from daughter Diana
- 1 match from daughter Temperance
- 3 from son Solomon
- 2 from son Edmond
- 4 from daughter Deborah
DNA Preliminary Conclusions
- DNA links my aunt to descendants of 6 of William Reynold’s children.
- This does not prove that Dovey was William’s daughter. She could have been his niece or other close relative.
- Aunt shares the correct number of cMs with the matches to be 4th-5th cousins with them.
- Aunt’s shared matches with these Reynolds matches are on her paternal line – which is the correct side of the family.
- More genealogical research could provide the definite link.
Case #2: Mysterious Leroy Porter
Step 1: Define Problem:
- Leroy Porter was born in 1897 in France or PA
- Married Ina Hill and died in Michigan.
- Leroy was a teller of tall tales; family wants to know his origins, his parentage, and was he really from France?
Step 2: Research Summary
- Death certificate (informant wife) says parents were Daniel Porter and Mary Baschley of PA.
- Leroy cannot be found on any census prior to 1920 as Leroy Porter.
- No trace of parents of those names found
Step 3: DNA Testing Options
Granddaughter Kathy took the autosomal DNA test.
- Y-chromosome test not applicable for Kathy (there may be a candidate for Y DNA testing within the family)
- Mitochondrial DNA not applicable
Step 4: Test the correct person:
- Several of Leroy’s daughters are alive, so if they took an autosomal test, would be one generation closer.
Ancestry DNA match sorting options:
- “Add to Group” option
- Allows you to name the group, and add colored dots, up to 24 different colors
- Notes field = enter free text notes about matches
Evaluated trees of the possible matches from Leroy’s side. Two match groups identified:
- Hedges family of PA
- Crute family of PA
Can we find a marriage between these 2 families? Yes – Daniel Hedges married Alice Crute ca. 1894 probably Warren Co. PA.
More Genealogical Work
- Sara found “LeRoy Hedges” in the 1900 Warren Co. PA Census!
- She went through Kathy’s tree to find matches to Hedges/Crute family
- Were the cMs within range for the relationships? Yes = 2nd DNA points to Leroy Hedges being Leroy Porter.
Leroy Hedges = Leroy Porter Summary
- Family broken up by 1910
- Parents remarried
- Siblings in orphanage
- Leroy Hedges ran away and was not heard from again
- Did he go to Michigan and marry Ina Hill as Leroy Porter?
- No official name change document found
- Could compare photographs if Hedges family has one…