Monday, May 16, 2011

I've been chain linked

This morning as I was catching up on my blog reading I came across a post by Jenna at Desperately Seeking Surnames entitled "Musings On A Monday: Lack of Courtesy or Lack of Common Sense?" Her post discusses the use of posted information on publicly accessible family trees on Ancestry.com and the etiquette of "lifting/borrowing/coping documents and photos" from said trees. I was enraptured by her post as I also feel this topic needs a little airing out...at least among those of us that care, hence my post topic.

I concur with Jenna that those that borrow documents, photos and sources should try to contact the owner of tree. After all, it is another cousin. Plus, as she mentioned, she has quite a bit more information that is not posted on her Ancestry tree, information that would be valuable to other researchers. It is just good researching to track down a source to find more sources. Each tree owner is another bibliography. What's so hard about an email?

But, as usual, I took it further. I got on my proverbial soapbox here regarding accepting trees found online as fact. As a journalist it has been hammered into my head that nothing in a news story is mine. Every sentence and thought must be attributed to someone...if not it's just an editorial. So perhaps that is why I am passionate about knowing the origination of sources for family trees. I'll be the first to admit that my trees are not 100% sourced. Even saying 70% sourced would be a bit generous, but I still work very hard to provide a link, however tenuous, between generations. Providing that link has cost me many, many hours and not some little money.

Imagine my dismay then when I continually found that my public family trees had been "chain linked" by numerous other users. Why did they accept my tree and its sources as fact? Don't they follow The Code of attributing information? That would mean they would have to write me and ask where I found the information...and I'm still waiting for an email. I was dismayed and not a little disheartened. So I changed my trees to private.

But after a while I determined to return my trees to the public world. After contemplating it long and hard, I realized that it comes down to why I do this hobby. It isn't for the recognition of a great find or to horde my information. I do it because it is something I enjoy. I am passionate about it and I am passionate about making sure it is accurate. So if someone wants to chain link my tree than so be it...I will have become a source for them and hopefully at least a 70% accurate one at that.

5 comments:

FrustratedSue said...

I agree with the idea of contact. Some of my requests have gone unanswered. I too, try to source all my posts (although sometimes I post a query, which is so labeled). Some of my sources are as weak as hearsay and census records (another type of hearsay?), but at least I give other searchers something.
But not everyone cares this much. I think we must just live with the name collectors (who don't seem to care) and to try to help the learners. I think good blogs are one way of providing that help.

Greta Koehl said...

Agree 100%. I have contacted many people with online trees (and have not even downloaded anything from these trees). A few replied, but most of them did not know much more about the family in question, either because it was a little-researched collateral line or because they had just copied it from someone else. And most of the people I tried to contact did not reply. On Ancestry, I use a slightly different way of writing the locations so that I can identify my information when it is copied onto other trees. The copying started soon after I started the trees and is still going strong. Four of my five trees are public, but the fifth one - where I have invested a lot of original research - is private. They could get a lot of this information from my blog, but that may involve more research than they are interested in doing....

zelsersk said...

I send messages to people I spot on Member Connect on Ancestry.com all of the time with mixed results. I have found everything from those who don't know how to use the software technology to those who have no idea what the grabbed and have "messed up their tree". I privatized one of my trees on both Ancestry's search engine and on Member Connect because I could see people grabbing information because they found a Flanagan in Ireland. Turns out that each time I message these people, they reply saying that they have no idea where their line originates in Ireland and we just accepting all of the "hints" on Ancestry.com. Those are the people who just want a quick fix of family tree overnight. LOL

Jenna said...

Heather, it is upsetting when I hear someone accepting an online tree as fact. Periodically I have a co-worker say to me "guess what, I traced my family back to the 1700's last night on Ancestry.com". I have learned to just smile and congratulate them. Serious researchers wouldn't do that (I hope) and those that do are just name collectors. I've stopped trying to convert everyone I talk to about family research into a genealogist. I place documents and photos on my online tree to tempt other researchers (if she has this, surely she has more). So far though, my "plan" hasn't worked out but one of these days a cousin who is serious will take the time to email and then they will get ALL the goodies! :)

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

Jenna, I think you make an excellent differentiation between someone doing family research and a genealogist. I like to think of myself as a genealogist, I try my best to have concrete links. Perhaps your carrot dangling in front of the donkey will bring some of your more "serious" cousins around!