Sunday, September 15, 2013

Your Family Tree: To Share or Not to Share?

My family tree has been available on Rootsweb since... oh gosh, I'm going to estimate 2002, in that range. That's my best guess, since I had my son in 2002, and that's when I quit working to stay home with him, thus giving me more free time to work on genealogy. 

It's been available for a long time, but I'm not sure it does any good any more, since I've also shared many of my brick walls and questions in forum postings and here on my blog. I've also gone through every single family line and shared it here, so I don't think all my research on my entire family needs to be available online any longer.

Of course, I do hope people look up names and connect with me to ask questions, but sometimes I received some rather silly questions off my Rootsweb tree. Sometimes people asked if I had any sources, when all my sources were available for anyone to read.  Sometimes people tried to append more data to the tree. If I wanted the data there, I would have added it myself - because my ancestors are mostly from New England, most of this is very easy to find. That was mildly frustrating, because I stated very clearly on the family tree that people could contact me directly.

But when I was having lunch with one of my associates in the Next Generation Genealogy Network another matter came up that had me mulling it over - people who take and use data for themselves, without crediting the original source. 

I do believe the genealogy community is extremely helpful, communicative, and generous. However, there are times when people overstep their bounds. Maybe they don't realize they are doing it. It's truly unfortunate when it happens.

Overall, I decided ten years of having the tree available was enough. I do believe it is easy for people to locate me in connection with any of my ancestors and I will, as always, gladly share information. I do think having family trees out there is great, but when it becomes just one of many, maybe it really doesn't help anyone anyway.

What do you think?

Copyright (c) 2013 Wendy L. Callahan


  1. I've come rather late to family research and had the luxury of seeing some of the problems with online trees before I even considered posting one. Thus, I made the decision to refrain. However, I do blog about my research, so if someone is putting in even moderate research effort, they will find me. I don't include detailed sources in my blog because I've also seen the some take the research of others for their own. I state on my blog that if someone needs source info, they can contact me. I'm happy to share if someone is truly interested in understanding the whys and hows of my research conclusions.

  2. Hi Wendy, I'm a long-time believer in RootsWeb, and have had mine on the site for a little longer than you. People can view, and see sources too, but can't download a GEDCOM of my tree. I update it almost weekly, because it has saved me several times. Twice, my computer crashed, and all I had to do was go to my site, change the option to GEDCOM, download it, then change the option back, asap.

    People find me and write quite a bit, and I'd say it's 50% through the blog and 50% the RootsWeb site. I don't know how often you update it, but even if you don't add anything new, you could pretend you do, that way people won't think it's an old site, with an uninterested owner. I know that isn't you. I'm sure your site has helped others, and it's free, so, you have nothing to lose, do you?