Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hmm...I did the right thing

Ancestry's "Member Connect" is a cool tool. It shows recent activity on other member's trees that is perhaps relevant to your own so you can see what other genealogists are researching. I enjoy Member Connect because I have made a couple of connections to other genealogists as I see them make additions to their trees.

However, there is a time when I do NOT like Member Connect. I suppose it is because it highlights those genealogists that don't share and share alike. I keep my member tree public because I like sharing my finds and I hope to help other genealogists. I have spent a lot of time putting together my tree and finding the sources I insist on having behind every link. A while back I noticed that one Ancestry member had been copying a lot of my items to their tree: photos, sources, etc. Great! I thought, a kindred spirit! I quickly hopped on to check out their tree but found that it was private. I fumed a little bit because although I understand that once I post my items they become "public" and available to anyone, I'm frustrated that other researchers take my items without following up. As another blogger mentioned a while back (I'm sorry I can't remember who at the moment), why wouldn't you contact me? You can't imagine all the cool stuff I have not yet posted to Ancestry.

Then I thought about it and decided that perhaps this individual is keeping their tree private in order to keep their personal stuff private. So I decided to write a message to the individual. I mentioned that I saw their copying of items from my tree and thought it would be great if we could collaborate. I waited quite a long time for a response and when it did come today it was simple: I can't help you.

So then I fumed again. But I thought perhaps they don't want to share because they want to keep their information private...I totally understand that. But in Ancestry you can share your tree to a guest and decide whether or not they can see living people. There really is no excuse not to share. But I digress. I ended up doing the right thing. I sent back a brief message telling them that they could continue to save items from my tree and that I hope they are helpful. So there...I can still share.

14 comments:

Mary Ellen said...

I feel your frustration - I will never understand anybody who does genealogy and who posts a tree online who won't share or help people who they are obviously connected to! But in the end, it's their loss. They're the ones who are missing out on the people connections AND the information those people have that they haven't made public, like you mentioned! Good for you for taking the high road - I'm not sure I would have been able to!

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

You are right. It is their loss; I have so much more to share. I am the total opposite. If someone asks me for information I get excited because you never know what you can learn from them. I just had to vent to folks that understand!

ironhide781 said...

Good for you on being the bigger person. My gut reaction would have been to tell them to cease and desist. Can't imagine why any genealogist would hoard their findings. Half the fun is finding someone to compare your research with and work together.

Sierra said...

One of the best things I have ever learned is that I need to pick my battles. You did a great job in this situation. I can give you one positive about the tree. When someone recopies your information from her tree it will be correct. There are so many trees that perpetuate bad research.

Debi Austen said...

I commend you - I don't think I could have been quite so gracious.

I once tried to connect with a relative and he seemed anxious to share information. He was traveling and said he would get back to me soon. I waited about a year and the next communication I had from him was "please send me an invite to your tree". That was it, nothing else. I probably am acting like a baby but I haven't sent him an invite or even responded to his message.

hgroves said...

I thought it would be interesting to give the perspective of someone on the other side of the fence, so to speak.

I have a private tree and a public tree on a popular genealogy website. The public tree has minimal information on my family other than who is descended from whom. The private tree has my more detailed source information. I used to have a single, public tree but I got tired of people incorrectly attributing my research to the wrong person in their tree (to a father rather than the son, for example). I was able to watch the misinformation spread from one tree to the next and I didn’t feel comfortable being an instrument of misinformation. Even if it was the fault of the person who copied the information to the wrong individual in the first place, the information was still coming from my tree and that bothered me.

I am happy to share my private tree with others, all they have to do is ask. I feel like I can connect more easily with potential cousins when they have to contact me to see the more detailed information on my private tree. Also, I find that I get a better collaborative experience sharing a private tree with others who have asked for access then I get from people randomly pulling stuff from my public tree. I think the private tree weeds out those who are not interested in collaborating.

In my opinion the anonymity associated with the popular genealogy websites doesn’t do anyone any favors when it comes to making connections with “cousins”; instead of connecting with others, people spend their time trying to see how many sources they can associate with an ancestor, even if those sources are wrong.

I know private trees seem offputting, but sometimes there is a reason why they are created.

Just my two cents.

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

hgroves-I think that is a really good point. I also see quite a bit of information from my tree not attached to the appropriate person. I can see the value of the private tree for that reason and also for protection of private information. But this individual could have easily said "Nope, I don't want to give you access, but I would be happy to collaborate via email or Ancestry message." Alas, not everyone wants to share and I suppose it is their prerogative.

Wendy said...

I like hgroves' solution. I also join you in a big GRRRRRRR. I think you ran into one of those people who simply WANT information, not the footwork to get it.

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

Wendy, a good point. There are those that are more interested in adding branches than doing the work to find them. I'll admit that I love that Ancestry breaks some of my brick walls down with ease, but I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty. For most of us that is half the fun! Thanks for stopping by!

zelsersk said...

I understand the share thing for sure. I have several trees on Ancestry.com. I have actually broken each of many main family lines into their own trees on Ancestry.com. I have at least one or two of them as private right now. One of my trees in particular is private (and didn't used to be) because people keep jumping into to make one of my great great uncles their ancestor. The problem is that he has a common Irish name and the second problem there is that this particular person never got married or had children. He really can't be someone's grandfather up their line. I have that tree private now. I just got tired of running across people borrowing when they don't know any background. I must admit that my source info is not much online for that tree either. So, those people borrowing are definitely just taking what they see because it's all that they found as a possible match.

I do find Member Contact a bit of a catch 22. I can monitor the use and borrowing of information from my tree. That's kind of fun. I have gotten people to respond to me who turned out to be a distant relative. I even found my first cousin who I know well and we cracked up when she found that she was borrowing from me. I told her she could just be my invitee to my tree.

Being the social networking genealogist that I am, I want people to tell me who they are before just borrowing info but it does not stop me from sharing. If anyone were to ask me about the info on my private tree, I would definitely share it all with them!

The rest of my trees site out there for the sharing and taking. I do always say "Buyer Beware" on Ancestry.com when you borrow. It might not be correct even on my tree!

zelsersk said...

I totally agree!

Melinda Baker said...

I have another theory about those "I can't help you" responses. I've rec'd a few as well. They could be searching for a friend or researching for profit. I would suppose we've all researched for a friend from time to time. Recently I discovered a lady in a county I customarily research who was copying pictures from Ancestry.com and uploading them to her business Facebook page. To those who don't know or can't afford ancestry.com, she appears to be quite the researcher.

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

Melinda, that is a good point. I hadn't thought about that. The more I think about it the more I think (or prefer to think) that she didn't now HOW to help me. Or perhaps I am giving her the benefit of the doubt. Either way, it won't deter me from trying again.

AncientPlanter said...

I, too, have broken my tree down into several main lines on my Ancestry account. I was contacted about my great-grandmother's line by a distant cousin. Exciting! I was so happy to share what I had at the time. She shared nothing in return, but that was okay. Later I discovered that my grandmother's brother's daughter had converted to Mormonism and was baptizing everyone posthumously and the person who had contacted me was her daughter. This angered me and my mom, who had grown up with her grandmother living with them. Her grandmother, my great-grandmother, was a devout Methodist and it was an insult to us and to her memory to baptize her posthumously (I had verified that it had happened). This distant cousin emailed me again a few years later to see if I had anymore info for her. I didn't respond.

I know this can be a touchy topic at the moment, but to those who aren't Mormon such actions can be a slap in the face. So that particular branch of my tree on Ancestry is now private. I was contacted by another distant cousin/descendent of my grandmother's brother, a cousin who had not converted to Mormonism and who was angry at her aunt for doing what she had done (including posthumously baptizing this woman's mother, who had specifically said no, she did not want to be Mormon). I gladly and freely shared my information with her after she informed me that she wasn't sharing with her Mormon cousins for the same reason I wasn't - anger at the posthumous baptisms.

Now this doesn't explain why the person you contacted wasn't willing to share, but it is another reason some of us have gone private.