Rotten Apples on a Tree Make Disgruntled Pie

5x5Evergreen BranchFor years genealogists have struggled with the pros and cons of posting their family trees on the Internet. There are many things that can wrong when information is shared with the world. But there are many great things that can happen when it is. Personally, I’m straddling the fence, but I lean more toward sharing than hording.

On one hand, I understand why people don’t want their research which took decades to complete available to everyone, including near and distant family, neighbours, friends and strangers. Many confess it’s not the relationship to the individual researcher that is worrisome but the types of individuals who may lurk within these groups. Unfortunately, there’s often one in every crowd that will misuse or manipulate information as they see fit, ignoring any suggestions or warnings from others. These types of individuals make everyone slam shut their books and throw them in drawers to hide from the world.

The worst scenario is Person A—who might be related—will take the information from Person B’s website and claim it as theirs. They’ll make incorrect changes and add an individual to Person B’s family though it’s impossible to think anyone would miss recording a sibling living within their household. Person A then creates his own website to post the information with all its errors.  Regardless of what anyone says, including Person B, they won’t correct their mistakes.

This modified version of a tree gets published on the Internet where others gain access and add it to their research. Then they tell two friends who tell two more friends and . . . you get the picture. Incorrect information circulates like a virus, infecting the databases of researchers with good intentions. This is why it’s vital to double-check everything you find on the Internet.

The best scenario when publishing a family tree on-line is people visit the website, find a connection and make contact with the owner of the site. The researchers begin sharing information on their family lines and become great friends. They fill in missing information for each other and knock down a few brick walls. Everyone benefits.

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There are huge advantages from sharing research on-line. A few bad apples shouldn’t discourage genealogists. Keeping research private limits the ability to connect with relatives around the world.

Everything in a database should not be posted online. In general, most genealogists do not publish information on living individuals. Not only could you cause trouble for them, they may cause trouble for you if they learn their name, date of birth and other personal data has been posted to the web. Genealogy programs are designed to conceal the information on living people and state Living in on-line files. If you’re manually entering data to a website, you can do the same thing.


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