Thanks for the thoughtful response, frostfreedet. I understand what you are saying.
What I find frustrating, and startling, is that there are, as far as I can tell, no definitive or authoritative family trees for at least the majority of the population, going back at least as far as when we arrived in this country. It's like every architect who wants to build a building has to start by breaking big rocks into little rocks into gravel to make concrete. It's like every physicist has to sit under a tree waiting for an apple to fall.
Science is based on tested theories from which to conduct further work. Human progress itself is based by building on the work of those who came (and toiled) before us. Genealogy, on the other hand, seems to be unable to establish a firm foundational, if skeletal, body of knowledge from which many can draw and build on.
Have there been a billion people living in what is now the U.S. (for example) since 1700? Keeping track of information on a billion objects is a simple task for even a desktop computer these days. I find it hard to believe there is a technology problem. It's a people problem, and I wish someone would solve it:)
Copying from public trees is clearly not a productive way to build an accurate family history - I understand that now. But having each and every family researcher visiting courthouses and cemeteries all over the country is no kind of answer either.