16 July 2013

How do we get our fellow genealogists to SHARE images, documents, stories and more?

Creative Commons, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0), http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

We have been reading a lot about copyright infringement recently in our genealogy community and such infringement just needs to STOP!

As “theft” of genealogy content continues to make headlines (rightfully so, unfortunately), such news often deters “new” and “old” genealogists from sharing their research either via a web-based ancestry tree, via e-mail or even in person.

I was reminded of this when I re-read a saved blog post from last year, Kris Williams: The Genealogy Grinch (via Ancestry.com blog). 

Have you run into one of these in your family? 

I’ve been fortunate, that when I have reached out to complete strangers (albeit distant cousins) and vice versa, we’ve always been willing to share what we know – in fact, my family reports are available on my personal website.  I loved doing the research, I loved interacting with so many that helped me along the way, I loved sharing what I learned with my family and I now love sharing that same information with the world.  In my mind, I don’t have an “exclusive” right to any of this information.  The majority of what my report includes is public knowledge.  I didn’t create these reports for the world, I did create them for myself and my family and if someone else can make use of the information, my response is “go for it!”  

Though, please do make sure to retain my copyright notice and give attribution.  After all, that is both the polite and legal thing to do.

Historically, it was much more challenging to make copies of items held by others.  Everything cost "real money" (in addition to time), whether it was making color photocopies of images, putting documents in the mail at the post office, getting duplicates of photos, making copies of documents, etc.  So, in the past, it was more understandable that what may seem a simple request to the requester would require a lot of effort (and money) on the part of the requestee.

Nowadays, with smart phones, scanners, the internet and all our technological toys, cost and effort have been reduced dramatically.  Do you have a distant cousin, with all the technological toys at their fingertips, who literally in 5 minutes could get you some key image or document?  Yes, doesn’t?

Have you run into one of these in your family?

Nowadays, besides the aforementioned record, image, etc, grinch, I often hear tales of DNA grinches. Granted, when you are asking for something as personal as some DNA, one can understand a certain reticence. Additionally, when we are inundated with information about DNA use (and misuse) by the authorities, issues about medical privacy, and so much more, we do have to work harder to ensure those participating that their DNA information will only be used for genealogical purposes and that it is inviolate otherwise.  And, when you see a headline like this one from last week, Spread of DNA databases sparks ethical concerns, well, our job is cut out for us.

And, when I talk about a DNA grinch, it’s not the person who has some real concerns with how such will be used, it is with the person who has agreed to undergo such testing (often at the requestor’s cost) and then dilly dallies and often never does the DNA testing.  If you have concerns, don’t agree to do the DNA testing.  If you didn’t know you had concerns and then they arose, communicate with the requestor – maybe you can find an alternately appropriate subject or maybe you can offer to cover the cost?  Please don’t just drag your feet – please be upfront.

Have you run into one of these in your family?

Whether you have or have not personally “run into one of these in your family,”  what suggestions might you offer for someone who is dealing with a genealogy grinch?

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  1. Great question! My biggest challenge is in obtaining documentation from researchers. Two people come to mind who are very willing to share their tidbits of information, but steadfastly ignore repeated requests for a full citation to that information. I can only think that either 1) they don't have the source information; or 2) they want to hold back the source but still get "credit" for sharing.

  2. From an Upfront with NGS reader ...

    I have no one interested in our family's history to leave it to, not even if I divided it up into his/hers. So--I'm putting my documents online slowly but surely. I add research notes in the comments section of my Ancestry.com tree [Douglass-1 genealogy] or if it's more complicated, I write up a summary for the stories link. I add my name and copyright to those stories which are copied, but at least my name is still attached as author.

    I've had cousins post my work under their name, without any credit given to the original author. Those cousins no longer receives updates.

    Mary Clement Douglass
    Transcribing & publishing Kansas genealogical records

  3. As for those who refuse to share, we all need to remember when we ask someone to share that there are two legitimate and what should be perfectly acceptable responses: yes and no. Neither requires an explanation even though one might be given and/or appreciated.

  4. A regular Upfront with NGS readers shares ...

    I have been tracing my ancestors since my oldest son had an assignment to " do a family tree and write a family history if it was interesting" in the fall of 1961 (told you I've been around longer than you have). Back then you went to city halls, courthouses, cemeteries, etc., took courses in how to, wrote letters with return postage, paid for copies (and, boy, are some of them faded). I've also flown to Salt Lake City to join sponsored groups at least five times, and going on a sixth in September - cost with air and meals over a thousand dollars each time, and driven to Massachusetts, Connecticut, Philadelphia (nearby), Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee, tracing ancestors, again at considerable cost. To say nothing of dues to half a dozen genealogical societies.

    All that has been "a labor of love," but a considerable investment of time, energy and money. I share with my family, but I am not handing it over to Ancestry and that ilk to sell!

    Re copyright, one person copied info I had given a genealogical society, and posted it on the Internet - no attribution, but admitted that was where she had gotten it when my son questioned her. Another I shared a family letter from the 1800s with, posted it, no attribution, but his site says "be honest." Both of these were strangers to me.

    So I'm a grinch about my genealogy, with reason, as far as I'm concerned.

  5. Another Upfront with NGS reader ...

    When to share and when not to share, that is truly the question.

    Sharing online data:
    1. Make all online data private.
    2. When granting access to online information, monitor the access to ensure only that which was agreed to be furnished is being taken.
    3. Immediately terminate anyone who abuses the access granted.
    4. As a condition of the sharing, ask to see the product using your data.

    Sharing "off line" data:
    1. Establish clearly the reason for the request.
    2. Establish exactly what is being requested.
    3. Make it clearly understood that the sources cited to include you shall be retained and cited.
    4. As a condition of the sharing, ask to see the product using your data.

    Bob Hardiman
    Twice burned!

  6. I have no problem sharing my research with family members. I not longer share anything that is copyright protected since too few understand copyright law.

    Our family tree and site are private for family only. The family wants it this way and I am more than happy to keep it this way.

    There is NO demand to give your work, your photos, your documents, away ..... do what YOU want to do .... not what others in this community seem to tell you is 'right'.

    You do the work, you pay the money, you can do what YOU want to do with the results.