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Genealogy, pages, images, books, documents and records -- What???

In my recent post about statistics for FamilySearch, a comment by Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings
got me thinking about the statistics and terminology used online by all
of those huge records collections, everybody from FamilySearch to
Ancestry.com to the Library of Congress. One of the most influential
books I have ever read is a small 144 page treatise written in 1954
entitled "How to lie with Statistics." Here is the complete
bibliographical information:

Huff, Darrell, and Irving Geis. How to Lie with Statistics. New York: Norton, 1954.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying that any of the record
collections are lying. But it is very useful to understand how
statistics, and in the case of genealogical records, the numbers, can be
manipulated to show a specific results. Quoting numbers and statistics
is done every day by millions of news outlets, public relations
organizations and even individuals and skewing the numbers for a
particular purpose is rampant in all of the media and especially on the
Internet. In the genealogy world, online providers use their statistics
to show how large they are in relation to other providers. This tendency
is not limited to subscription or pay-as-you-copy services, but is a
general tendency throughout the entire online world. I guess that the
large numbers are supposed to impress potential users as to the
usefulness of the database or for other motivational or advertising
purposes.

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Comment by William Douglas on November 2, 2010 at 11:06am
"Lies, damned lies, and statistics"? Mark Twain, I think. Or Prime Minister Disraeli.

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