Back in April I wrote about Ancestry.com and mentioned their Member Trees and the need for caution when viewing information if it is not sourced. I have been using this feature extensively over the past six months and really like it. I have to say that a few years ago I was not a fan of putting information online, but I’ve changed my mind. Why? Too many of us, including me, have been researching for many years and have computer disks and file cabinets full of information. We might have shared the information with some family members, however, if you have a family like mine (no interest in dead people) what happens when you’re gone. Although I don’t think about it, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and my family would be quick to empty the file cabinets and throw out all my work. In an earlier will I stated that I wanted my papers to go to the LDS, but have since realized, they weren’t in any shape to be donated. I suppose if I had enough notice of my demise, I might get them ready, but even though it’s on my to do list, it’s not currently very high. Dick Eastman had an interesting post this week on “What to do with Collected Data.” It’s worth reading the comments.
I still hear comments about other people “stealing my research,” and I can understand this...material I provided to a cousin, in hard copy and completely sourced, was retyped (with a large number of mistakes), posted on the Internet with living people, no sources or attribution, and before I could get the cousin to take it down, someone else copied it and submitted it to Family Pedigree File. It’s now out there, with all of the errors and no sources. I supposed I should be thankful it wasn’t attributed <g>. I can’t change the data that’s out there, but I can provide the correct information with source citations by publishing it myself.
As genealogists, one of the things we love to do is to “troll” the Internet...what’s out there that might help us break through that brick wall. Well it seems to me, that putting out our sourced data, in as many places as possible, invites those cousins, we have yet to meet, to find you. In the last two years, I’ve had two breakthroughs, one connecting to my husband’s Morley family in Ireland, and the second, connecting to my grandmother’s cousin in England, a line I’d been trying to find for many years.
So that brings me back to Ancestry Family Trees. I’ve found that it is a very quick way to pull together basic information on a family. I use it for most of my client work (keeping the files “Private”) and passing the tree on to my client (as an editor) at the completion of the project. I also keep my own file “Private” so people with a connection must contact me...that way I find out who they are.
For those using Family Tree Maker as their genealogy software, the files can be downloaded (Ancestry announced a version of Family Tree Maker for Mac in November). Although this is not a synchronization of the files, Ancestry says they’re working on it. For those using other software, a GEDCOM can be downloaded. I put all of the basic facts online, along with sources, and upload copies of appropriate documents as well. This is an important point. Ancestry sources documents that it finds in its database, and links to them, however if you add information you must complete your own source citation.
In November, Ancestry added some additional features, including new ways to view your data. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have a lot of time to work on my own family, but I have begun adding copies of documents and pictures to my online file. I’m also anxious to see what will happen when new FamilySearch is implemented, as I plan to also upload my data to their site. Then, even if that bus is coming around the corner, my data will be preserved for the future. I can always hope that a grandchild or great grandchild in the future will see me as someone who shared our family history instead of the crazy lady who chases dead people!