Friday, August 03, 2012

Sharing information

I'm all for sharing information.  BUT - I do like to be credited for my work.  My data is entered into Legacy Family Tree, and I use that program to create Descendant Reports for each main line, starting with the earliest ancestor.  I then upload those reports to my family history wiki "Branches and Twigs".  I have also, in the past, sent copies of the reports to fellow researchers.  I also have a tree on, but until about 12 months ago I only used Ancestry to search for relevant records.  However, I discovered that to use Ancestry's 'hints' you have to have a tree.  So I now have a tree, but it doesn't have anywhere near the same number of people as my legacy tree has, because I only add people to it when I find hints about them.  However, what I am finding is that images I have added to my legacy reports, and notes directly from my Legacy reports are finding their way onto other Ancestry Trees, and are therefore credited to the person who first adds them - not me.  I know the work is mine, because the wording is identical, or the picture is one I cropped.  Then, because it is a quick way to add people to my Ancestry Tree I add them from the other trees, and find that the pictures are attributed to someone else.  The other thing that bothers me, is that often those images (particularly) were given to me by someone else who is acknowledged in my Legacy Tree, but not when other people add it to their Ancestry trees.  The other day, I even found a whole email that I had sent to descendants of a particluar ancestor, alerting them to some startling new information about said ancestor.  Now, at least this was acknowledged as being from me, and in the email I had acknowledged the person who provided the new information - but I would have liked to have been asked if it was OK to publish what was essentially a personal email.
I've also seen scans of pages from commercially published books about some ancestors.  I question the ethics of that practice too.
I know I am guilty of not always acknowledging the source of some photos or certificate scans - mainly because when I first began researching, almost 30 years ago, I had no intention of publishing anything for a wider audience, I didn't know the significance of sources, and I didn't always note who sent me particular things.  But now I always make a note of where I obtained a picture or scan.
It is also difficult to know whether to cite ALL trees on Ancestry, for instance, from which I have obtained information.  For example, if I already had name and date of birth, but get date of death from an Ancestry tree and there are several trees with the same information - which one should I cite?  One, two, all??  I usually cite one or two trees that seem to crop up all the time for a particular family.  At least anyone reading my tree will know that the info came from the work of others.  Unfortunatley you can't tell who was the first to upload to Ancestry.
Then there is the question of whether I should keep my Ancestry tree private, so it is not available to all and sundry.  To date it has been public, but I am considering making it private - as one fellow researcher said, then if anyone is interested in exchanging info they have to make the effort to get in touch.  At least Ancestry still shows up links to Private trees when someone does a search.  But, if I had made my wiki site private I would never have been contacted by several fellow researchers who stumbled across its contents.  With wikispaces wikis you can make them private for a small yearly fee but that has the effect of hiding the contents from search engines also - so the only people who would see my reports is someone who already knows of their existence.  A real quandry.  To date I have solved the problem by offering to privatise anyone on a case by case basis.  Most people aren't concerned - I have a few fellow researchers who want their children privatised for example.
What do you think?  Is it OK to add things to Ancestry without seeking permission first?  The very nature of Ancestry invites people to add things from other trees to yourown, and I guess anything on a public tree is fair game.  I am really talking about adding info that has been taken from other shared resources, not Ancestry itself.