You knew this when you were five

Remember when you were a kid and your mom would nudge you, or your dad would thump you, whenever you forgot to mind your manners? Well, consider this a slap because some of us have forgotten what our parents taught us.

A lot of hard work, long hours and money goes into the compilation of a family history, and yet there are literally thousands of genealogists who gladly share everything they know with you, with me, with everyone. Think about it. A huge undertaking, an even bigger investment, and they give it away for free.

These people are the backbone of places like WorldConnect, FamilyLink, WeRelate, Ancestry Trees, and I think too many of us prefer to emphasize the inaccuracies we've uncovered there rather than the generous spirit. So, next time you come across information in a family tree database that helps in your quest to find your ancestors, say thank you to the person who was kind enough and brave enough to submit it there. He, or she, didn't have to do it.

Instead, he could have squirreled it away like a lot of other genealogists do, which leads me to my next point. Return the favor by sharing with others. Few will thank you (see above) but think of it like this, it took more than one pair of hands to get you this far, and you probably owe more than you're owed.

I've talked before about the challenges I face with my grandfather's branch of the family, but I've had an opposite experience with my grandmother's, and all because the cousins on that side are more willing to share with each other. If one of us discovers something new, emails are sent to the group, and inevitably someone will get bitten by the "can't stop" bug and run with it. Next thing you know, all of our databases are another generation richer. In fact, we've got a recently bitten cousin running around now--he jumped tracks a week ago, and now he's gathering information on lines that he's not even related to!

OK, he's not the first genealogist I've seen climbing out on an unrelated limb, but people like him aren't a dime a dozen either, and you'll see less like him if so many of us keep forgetting that it's our turn to repay the favor.


    I have and will continue to share my file and resources. I have removed my trees from ancestry and rootsweb because too many were taking my work and claiming it as their own, or worse, taking the work of those that shared with me but not bothering to keep the source / credit information that I had listed. Then there is the whole issue of ancestry making rootsweb trees part of their world tree so that I cannot make corrections. I still make connections through these old trees and I give those that contact me the corrections.

    I am very interested in WeRelate but it is so new that I am hesitant. Will they be swallowed up by a big commercial site at some point in the future?

    I always try to let others know when they have helped me. The thank-yous that I have received are the reason I still share freely.

    You make a very good point that I owe more than I'm owed. How I get my information out there is something that I'll have to work out.

    Howdy Apple!

    Thank you for adding so much to the conversation!

    Let me say first, I am not advocating any one way of sharing our genealogies. A family tree database is just one of many. There's also publishing a book, or a blog, a personal website, message boards, email, snail mail, face to face talks...the list goes on....The important thing is to be *willing* to share which I find a lot of genealogists are not, and perhaps that's for the same reason you cited, "because too many were taking my work and claiming it as their own, or worse, taking the work of those that shared with me but not bothering to keep the source / credit information that I had listed." But I'll have to save that rant for another day. ;-)

    Great post Lee! I am always amazed when I hear people say their relatives hoard inforamtion, photos, etc. In this day of technology, if one has the ability to digitalize their information there is no reason to hoard it, I say. I have yet to run into this problem.

    I made a post today (that I'm saving for a possible COG topic)about the cousins that have found me through my research and added to my information and enriched my collections. Total strangers until they found my blog, they made the effort to contact me, giving whatever they can to my quest. I guess I'm lucky.

    And thank you for reminding me to thank those people, known and unknown, who help me in my endeavor.

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    This was a wonderful post and reflected many of my own sentiments. I think it is so important to share our family history with others. I recently found two new cousins several generations back; one lives in England and the other one lives in my home town. What is the coincidence of that happening? One in several million? We were both surprised and plan to share information with each other.

    The internet and computers have made the world a much smaller backyard to play in.

    I agree 100%. The main reason I'm blogging is to connect with my research cousins and share what I know. I love Creative Commons because it allows me to do that while still providing some protection from the "grab and run" crowd. As we all get more comfortable with the collaborative concepts of projects like WeRelate, we'll begin to see the development of some very useful knowledgebases - all of this grassroots efforts. Life is good!