Public or private?


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Public or private?

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tammikuu 9, 2014, 9:26am

Seems like there's two philosophies about whether to share or not to share ancestry information publically.

The "do not share" side cites issues of privacy, and the work that was required to collect the information.

The "share" side promotes circulating the memory of ancestors as broadly as possible, and being openly cooperative with fellow share-and-share-alike researchers.

Am I missing any major arguments for either position? I'm on the "share" side myself. I've been disappointed a few times when encountering the other side of the fence, but for the most part I've understood.

tammikuu 9, 2014, 10:07am

For the "share" side, I think there's also the simple fact that this sort of thing is interesting, all sorts of different histories making unique stories, and people are curious about it, peeking into the open window and all that.

As for "do not share, well, I think there are two different aspects to "privacy"; one being the security issue, that having all that info readily available to anyone is a potential risk for identity thefts and whatnot. The other being that it's simply personal private information; does one want the entire world to know their family history? It's our story, it's personal, why should strangers be able to come "in to" our lives that way? And the like.

I think it's kind of a toss-up, there's no real winner either way—both have solid reasons.

tammikuu 9, 2014, 2:27pm

My active involvement in genealogy hasn't been very much in the last few years but I found I gradually migrated from the "share" side (by setting up a website which is now more or less defunct) to the "don't shares. Basically because I was caught out so many times by people who were very happy to grab my data but very unwilling to give anything in return. And I'm not talking about very recent information which could be used for identity theft scams and the like. Of course many people have been very generous so perhaps it's a case of a few parasites making things bad for everybody else.

tammikuu 9, 2014, 5:33pm

I'm reluctant to share because of my experience with a relative who asked for a GEDCOM. I thought the idea was that we could collaborate without repeating each other's research. A month later all my work was on said relative's new website. Didn't ask if I planned to publish my own work, didn't ask if I minded if he did. (He also has a copyright notice on his site so does my work now belong to him?) All my notes and personal memories were on the web for everyone to see. Anyone could access names, addresses, Social Security numbers, maiden names and medical history of everyone in the family, even children under ten. Supposedly he had been doing genealogy for years but he apparently had no idea that you don't publish information about living individuals – especially without their knowledge. I believe he has also put everything on so any private notes I had may be available for the whole world. (Does Ancestry now have a copyright on my work too?)

I do understand that names and dates cannot be copyrighted and I don't mind sharing that kind of information. I just think that no one else should have a right to my stories about my own parents and children.

tammikuu 9, 2014, 9:50pm

I share because I have found that I am able to fill in the gaps in my tree and going online with my own research has generated a huge amount of information from distant cousins whose existence I would never have discovered.

An example is a third cousin who was fostered out and took the name of his foster parents, both given and surname. He googled his father and found my tree and I was able to put him in touch with his immediate family. I never would have even knows of his existence if his father's name was not online in my family tree.

#4 Taphophile13 - never gives out information on people who are still alive but I agree that contemporary family history should be kept strictly private and that information should never be posted online. I am writing (trying to write) a warts-and-all family history which I am doing using HTML to utilise links, and that will be copied onto CDs to give to family members. Most of the information is in the public domain anyway. All the archived Australian newspapers are being scanned and are coming online now and wills were always available for a fee, as are BMD certificates although, unless you can prove a family relationship, they need to be at least 50 years old. Anyone can access the Australian Armed Forces archives and for a fee can get a very comprehensive copy of the records.

tammikuu 10, 2014, 1:53pm

I started my family trees with my grandparents to share online. Not one of them is living and this protects any information being given out. I need to update my paper copy of living relatives information. I will never post it on the web.

I've enjoyed looking up information on say ancestry going back into the 1800s if I'm stuck. The problem I have is that no one verifies they take the information and post it. I've got documents tracing one ancestor back and when I looked him up on ancestry, he has three different fathers. Some have documents. I find the interesting ones that have a copy of the will but the son is never mentioned that the father is attached too. He was living when his "father" died so don't people think that this is odd?

tammikuu 10, 2014, 3:26pm

I too have put my genealogy research online, but only my (deceased) grandparents and further back. I too have found many family connections by having this information on a public blog. There's a downside, there always is, but I'm of the opinion the pros outweight the cons.

Having said that, I make sure my recent family history isn't 'up for grabs' to just anyabody through various means. I write under my initials - even my last name is just an initial - so anybody entering my name in a search engine will not find my blog. My parents are referred to as 'my father' and 'my mother'. Names of living persons are not used at all, simpy designated as 'my uncle R.' or 'my aunt S.' Only if you search for ancestors further back will you find my blog and if you do that, you're usually at the very least interested in genealogy, and not looking for some scam.

The other thing I am really careful about is pictures. I do not post pictures online (anywhere) of living people. You never know where they end up.

tammikuu 13, 2014, 7:54am

>4 Taphophile13:, that's a bit of a horror story! I've not considered making SINs, personal stories or much information at all about living relatives part of my research, so I think I run reduced risk. There are personal stories, but they were written by my deceased grandfather about generations prior to his, so we're talking fourth generation and back. I also know he wrote for posterity's sake, since he shared them almost indiscriminately with many people before his death.

>6 homeschoolmom:, when I started using I was "young and naive" in the hobby; I presumed majority consensus on a fact reflected something well-established. All it means is that one person thought it, and a dozen people copied without considering or looking into it, lol. Many places in my tree feature information unique compared to others with that same person (sometimes an entirely different name, leading to an entirely different branch), since I seem to be the only one who sought out the actual facts.

>7 Samantha_kathy:, I agree about pictures of the living. I've a wonderful third-generation group photo of twelve siblings, but only the six who have passed away have had their images extracted and made available publically.

tammikuu 13, 2014, 11:00am

I have been leery of family trees on Ancestry ever since I found Desi Arnaz listed as Lucille Ball's grandson!

tammikuu 13, 2014, 4:36pm

As a Dutch genealogist, I don't really use Ancestry, but faulty family tree information being perpetuated through the internet happens everywhere and with every medium. Best thing to do is document your sources and attach source citations to your facts. I personally use facts that aren't sourced only as a clue to start looking for sources, instead of as a fact. That's the only way to check the information is truly right.

tammikuu 13, 2014, 4:48pm

#10 by Samantha_kathy>

Distribution of faulty genealogies has been going on for a couple centuries at least. Many people have wanted to associate themselves with famous people or royalty and there have been unscrupulous people willing to provide the pedigrees for a fee.

For example in the late 19th and early 20th centuries there were people who paid significant sums to establish their connection to the Anneke Jans Bogardus lines in an effort to lay futile claims to land and financial legacies that were supposed to skip six generations and follow the almost untraceable (or at least very hard to document) female lines.

If you do a Google Book search on Anneke Jans you will find county and state histories with people who make their association known. In most cases this connection is a nearly complete fabrication.

A relative of mine was taken in by one of these frauds in the 1920s. She and her husband paid several thousand dollars to "prove" a genealogy to make them eligible for such a claim. They went to Europe and a "cannibal island" near Borneo they were supposed to inherit. When they came back, they settled in another state, perhaps to minimize those who knew them before they were subjects of national news.

Books with fraudulent genealogies have been published in small and large editions. If these lines are taken at face value, without actual corroboration, they become part of the computer trees we find online and in genealogical libraries (print and even microfilm).


tammikuu 13, 2014, 7:31pm

I always check the source and, at least after 1840 it becomes easier to do for the English records anyway.

The most respected "bible" of early settlers to South Australia has some aspects of my family wrong but as the BMD records and archived newspapers are made available then it is becoming easier to check the actual source material: BMD records, census records and electoral rolls.

Unfortunately, the Australian Government, in its wisdom, destroyed all census records until very recently.

tammikuu 15, 2014, 1:18pm

#10-Agreed. I sometimes look at other's trees if I've hit a dead end. Most are not sourced, which is fine with me because I always verify information before I add it to my tree. I do this because they may have access to the bible from a hundred years ago that has all the info written in it that I do not. It just points me in the right direction.

joulukuu 30, 2016, 12:22am

I'm relatively new at genealogy and I've come across relatives that were infuriated about me publicly making our tree available. I've never done something quite as extensive as what your relative did, but I was taken aback by the negativity. I have also had relatives take my info, but we did swap info.

I privatized many aspects of my tree because of certain relatives. I have no problem with this, especially considering I have nothing to gain if I don't respect their privacy. You should pester this relative to censor some aspects. If you don't think he will or feel he's trying to be a jerk, just muddy the waters by making up stories... or is that too bitter?

joulukuu 31, 2016, 7:12am

Interesting discussion (albeit old now). I've been on Ancestry and my tree is public, although Ancestry doesn't show the information of anyone living even with a public tree. Certainly I understand some of the reasons people have kept their trees private, but I believe in sharing and helping others, and I occasionally use hints from others' work but like to pick up the sources to verify. There are clearly a lot of people who want a tree but don't want to do the work, but there are also others who are not very good at the kind of logic puzzle genealogy is, and still others who just don't have the time or money to build a tree online. I also feel strongly about getting those old photos up, named, and available to others before they become lost, as so many old photos become.

I collaborate with others when we are working on the same trouble spot. One gets to know who sources well...etc. I also mark the ancestors I'm working on or am uncertain about with a profile image (usually a caution "sign" or a work-in-progress "note") hoping that others won't copy what could be wrong information. I assist others, mostly DNA matches, in getting their tree back to where we have the connection.

>13 homeschoolmom: That's what I'm hoping for with one spot in my tree, that someone will come along that has that family bible...

>14 DMAndersen: I'm not sure I understand why some would be angry about it, if the information on living people isn't public.

tammikuu 10, 2018, 1:38pm

I've found that many of the people who like to be fairly anonymous are often related to very well known people often in the news ...
relatives of Hollywood "Stars", for instance. It's those people who aren't famous who puzzle me, when they choose to be anonymous. When family members live in countries all over the world ... it would at least be interesting to know if they live in my own state or country ... or on some distant planet.

You begin to wonder if being anonymous merely means some people "think" they are important, or perhaps they are just trying to hide something.

tammikuu 13, 2018, 8:27pm

You might enjoy listening to Crista Cowan's Barefoot Genealogist video post on ethics of trees: