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The Secret of Y, Somme, Picardie, France

The Secret of Y, Somme, Picardie, France

Posted: 1299432248000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1299438244000
A couple of years ago, I figured out WHY that obscure little commune in France was allegedly the place of death of so many of my really ancient ancestors....ancestors from all over the place, going back to the 4th Century AD...I knew it couldn't be true and suspected a computer-generated mistake.

Haven't you ever found a totally impossible place of birth or death for an ancestor and questioned it? I sure have!

I've found a Druid priest supposedly dying in the South Pacific, or a 18th Century iron-monger from Scotland managing to die in Alaska., or a king from the 13th Century dying in "Europe, Fayette, Georgia, United States". That's the one that cracked it for me- I knew as soon as I saw "Europe, Fayette, Georgia" that someone (without a clue as to the place of death) must have meant to enter "Europe" and didn't notice the sometimes tricky drop-down list, and accidentally accepted the "Georgia, USA" place name.

Well, I finally "cracked the code". on Y, Somme, Picardie, France. ... here's how it happens that masses of people supposedly died in a tiny commune.

1. An amateur genealogist who isn't particular about form is entering information about an ancestor. When he comes to the field that asks for the PLACE of DEATH, he realizes that he doesn't know the year-has absolutely no idea.

2. Somehow unable to just leave the PLACE of DEATH field blank, the genealogist feels compelled to enter SOMETHING in that field, so he enters "Y", as in "yes". (Like "yes, my 28th great grandfather definitely died at some point in the past (duh!), I just don't know when.")

3. When "Y" is entered in the PLACE field, "Y, Somme, Picardie, France" pops up first in that sometimes-helpful drop-down list that appears next to the place field.

4. The person entering the info isn't paying enough attention and unknowingly ACCEPTS "Y, Somme, Picardie, France", and doesn't notice that instead of "YES" for place of death, it's now "Y, Somme" etc.

5. WE see it, accept it without question, and duplicate it, and on and on it goes....

A little knowledge of history and a little more curiosity helps avoid some of this stuff, but mistakes are bound to happen.

Anyway, I've been going through the 14K+ list of names on my tree and deleting "Y, Somme" etc everywhere I find it. If any of my ancestors actually DID die there, too bad.

[I originally posted this as a reply to another thread re: Y, Somme, Picardie, France, but most people are still in the dark about it so I decided to re-post it under it's own title; I apologize for the redundancy but I'm just trying to help. Since then I've created a blog just to deal with this seeming anomaly; access it here ]

Re: The Secret of Y, Somme, Picardie, France

Posted: 1300597267000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1300598727000
Surnames: Mefford, Meffert, Neal(e), Witcher, Rice, Rule, Ruyle, Majors
Dear Cathey:

I was pleased, in your posting, to see such uncommon good-sense applied to a rather irritating problem. You will note from my note appended below that I was complaining a year before you, and never got a reply from Ancestry that even approached any recognition of the problem.

With your recognition of the problem, perhaps awareness will spread. For your convenience my earlier post is appended below.

Capitol regards,

Re: Y, Somme, Picardie, France?
FarrisGP Posted: 0 04 Sep 2009 3:19AM
Classification: Query

The "Y, Somme, Picardie" anomaly is one that I have repeatedly encountered for more than a year. However, I only found this Board today. Since my discovery I've scoured the 30-some postings and have been impressed by the creative thought contained there.

As for the suppositions offered on the "Y, Somme, Picardie" anomaly I will readily concede that there exists a modicum of just plain sloppy work in not checking on auto fill features, and perhaps more likely, downloading entries without paying much attention to them. In that regard, the "error" will be compounded overtime — hampered only by those amongst us who, like myself, delete the offending entry when we find it in the Place of Death field.

Alarmingly, when returning to individual records upon which I was working I have found the "Y, Somme, Picardie" anomaly in Place of Death field where previously the field was blank. Yes, the anomaly could have been entered by another member. However, I don't recall reading of a single instance where someone intentionally recorded "Y, Somme, Picardie, France" in a Place of Death field.

Why don't we also find a certain number of instances of "Y, Somme, Picardie, France" in Place of Birth fields? After all there must have been some support in this obscure village to service to the deluges of tubercular patients streaming like lemmings, or the legion of fallen soldiers? Both possibilities suggested by well-intentioned members groping for an explanation to this troubling anomaly.

We are finding this inexplicable anomaly across the board. From medieval Britons, to colonial Virginians, rural Kentuckians, and merchants in China! What I've learned on this Board only confirms my conclusions. While I am unable to compile empirical data to support these conclusions we are faced with a seemingly random pattern where "Y, Somme, Picardie, France" is entered only in the Place of Death field, not Place of Birth, or Place of Marriage fields.

There would seem to be only two alternatives which would fit the "Y, Somme, Picardie" anomaly. Either there is a bug in Ancestry's software, or someone has hacked their code and planted the anomaly. What was it that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's greatest character told us? "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

It is difficult for us to completely eliminate the impossible. That is the responsibility of Ancestry. If someone has hacked-in and planted this anomaly, however irritating, it points to a weakness in system security that could be exploited by a hacker who is less playful and more destructive. In this scenario subscribers data could be compromised, or deleted.

With Ancestry's system security at stake I find their banal and benign responses reported on this Board to be recklessly cavalier. Come on people, subscribers are going to have to wake-up and smell the coffee! We need to write Ancestry and hold them to a higher standard of care and responsiveness. I'm registering my concern tonight.


Re: The Secret of Y, Somme, Picardie, France

Posted: 1300636334000
Classification: Query
Thank you, George! I was relieved to finally learn that the "Y, Somme" anomaly was NOT, in fact, a glitch in's software. It was really just user error.

I'm not at all certain that our hosts at have ever realized what the source of the "Y, Somme" mystery is. (I wonder, do they read these forums?)

But regardless of the occasional difficulties involved, I still really appreciate those drop-down lists of suggestions for place names, because they do save considerable time in data entry. But of course the downside is that it can get us going too fast for our own good...

Re: The Secret of Y, Somme, Picardie, France

Posted: 1322851085000
Classification: Query

Your message makes a lot of sense. I think everybody should make a point of deleting any references to "Y" or "Y, Somme, Picarde, France" and any other "DUMB" entries. I have run into those "Y" deferences in the Roman period, even BC.

A side note is that during WWI there was a very big battle in Somme with tremendous loss of life. As a result, there is a military cemetery, but is for military after WWI.

Hank Griffin

Re: The Secret of Y, Somme, Picardie, France

Posted: 1331092101000
Classification: Query
It's really a glitch in the's software that they still haven't dealt with.

The "Y" is in response to "dead?" in another software, but when that's imported into it auto completes the location for death as "Y", Somme, Picardie, France.

This has been brought to their attention at least since 2009 when I first wrote to them.

Re: The Secret of Y, Somme, Picardie, France

Posted: 1331120734000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1331120799000
ShariPDX wrote, "It's really a glitch in the's software that they still haven't dealt with."

No, it's really NOT a glitch or a software problem. I promise. So don't feel badly because hasn't "fixed" it. They have other challenges that DO need fixing, but this isn't one of them.

No, it's not's problem or fault at all; it's OURS.

We just have to learn (some of us the hard way) to slow down and pay closer attention. This "Y, Somme, Picardie, France" thing is 100% due to carelessness on the part of those of us who accept drop-down suggestions too quickly without noticing or thinking about it.

Building a family tree isn't supposed to be a data-entry race. And as helpful as it usually is, the ancestry software only offers suggestions; it doesn't, for example, default to the "Y, Somme" answer. WE have to make that mistake by letting a wrong suggestion STAY there without noticing and rejecting it. I did it way too many times myself and am STILL making corrections. My bad...

Those mistakes DO add comic relief though, like the one that has Roman Emperor Constantine (my 44th GGF) supposedly managing to get himself born in "Superior, Dickinson, Iowa", another common mistake found on ancestry trees. All due to accepting unlikely or downright bizarre drop-down suggestions as facts.

Seriously, though, folks, we really gotta take it slower and more carefully or we'll have a whole FOREST of family trees that look like something out of Dr. Seuss....

Re: The Secret of Y, Somme, Picardie, France

Posted: 1332003588000
Classification: Query
Well, thank you for resolving this question. A computer generated mistake, you are for sure a Sherlock Holmes. I will remove mine as they pop up.

Re: The Secret of Y, Somme, Picardie, France

Posted: 1340308369000
Classification: Query
Thank you for explaining this and YES it is our issue to correct. I have seen bad dates (for example parents younger than children) and bad locations (Birth & Death - for example I'm not convinced that people know that there is an Ispwitch England & Ipswitch MA, USA. Ditto for other locations in England, Scotland & Elsewhere). And people continue to copy the information from tree to tree without taking a few minutes to logic check things.

Re: The Secret of Y, Somme, Picardie, France

Posted: 1340310401000
Classification: Query
What I have been doing for the past few months is eliminating references to "Y, Somme, Picardie, France" and writing in its place, ""Y" is always WRONG. Don't use it." This won't the correct the error already entered but it may prevent other people from copying it.

I have also been trying to eliminate obvious errors, i.e., relations listed with impossible dates, more that one person listed as a mother or father, parents with the same name and birth/death dates as the sibling, etc., as "conflicting" or "conflicting dates". This won't correct
the bad entries but may make new people cognizant of the problem.

Hank Griffin

Re: The Secret of Y, Somme, Picardie, France

Posted: 1340845830000
Classification: Query
Hank & Milisa, congratulations - you both sound like you're cleaning up your databases. Almost every software has a "problem list" capability. I use Personal Ancestral File {PAF}; the problem list is within the charts & reports folder, so not the most intuitive location. I've been at this for over 10 years, know I have problems, but I created the majority of them. I do have multiple parents for some persons because I got conflicting info from different sources. I've identified the sources, so when I finally get around to doing deep research on a specific problem, I'll know which to delete. I've also marked both parent sets as "challenged".
Are you, and lots of others, subscribing to the Picardie message board based solely because of the Y thing? If yes, you could unsubscribe. My husband's family was from Picardie so I have a firm interest in the area.
Good luck in your genealogical searches!
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