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Is John Grenham Wrong?

   I have to admit that I’m playing off John’s Blog Post this week, titled Dick Eastman is wrong.  You might want to read his blog before you read on.  I guess they are both right and wrong.

   Dick’s premise, according to John, is that the future of genealogy is collaboration.  Hard to argue with that.  I’m sure we’ve all experienced connecting with a new “cousin” who had new information to share.   And, we’ve probably all experienced the frustration of the online family tree with information that makes no sense…child born before the mother or years after the father’s death and the total lack of source citations.  That brings up another interesting blog I read this morning by Alicia Crane Williams at Vita Brevis titled Phantoms and red herrings.  Alicia discusses issues of printed books and genealogies that contain mistranscribed or poorly researched information that live on by constant repetition (so it’s not just online trees).  

   Evidently at the lecture Dick did for the Clare Roots Society in Ireland, he spoke about these collaboration sites as Ancestry, FindMyPast and MyHeritage and here is where John takes issue.  These are all subscription sites which according to John is “one heck of a business model: the customer pays to supply the raw material that the company sells back to the customer.”

  It is true, that these sites are for-profit commercial sites.  I have a world subscription to both Ancestry and FindMyPast for which I pay dearly.  Full disclosure, I also have a subscription to JohnGrenham.com (and many others).  They are sites I use almost on a daily basis and are part of my business, however, I do understand that not everyone can afford these.  Last year, I cancelled my subscription and removed my tree from MyHeritage as I did not find it cost effective for my research. 

   You don’t have to have a subscription to upload and share your family information on Ancestry (to John’s point). You do have to have a user name and password, what they consider a “guest” account.  Ancestry does not make it easy to find the guest registration, so if you’re interested click here. According to the site, Guest member can:

    Access free databases

    Create, edit, and delete family trees

    Share trees with friends and family

    View family trees to which they're invited

    Respond to messages from other members

    Post messages in the Support Center and on Ancestry
    Message Boards

    Read tips from our experts on the Ancestry Blog

    Discover more family history with AncestryDNA1

I have a guest account, as well as my subscription account.  I use it to find out what non-subscribers see, especially when doing lectures on Ancestry.  

   When I log in using my guest account, I’m immediately invited to subscribe.  If you scroll down,  you can search.  Click on “show more options” and unclick everything but Family Trees.  What you can see is the name of the Tree and the data on the particular individual.  Unfortunately, you cannot see the submitter’s information, nor can you message them.  So John is correct.  However, if you know someone has a family tree on Ancestry, you can ask them to invite you to the tree, in which case you can view the tree.  The other side of this is that even if you don’t have a subscription, you can set up a family tree and someone with an account is likely to find you, sort of the passive (but less expensive) way to share your information.

   At the present time you cannot share your FindMyPast tree, so it’s a moot point.  I can’t comment on MyHeritage, since I don’t have a subscription.  

   I also want to mention another issue I heard recently from a friend.  He commented that after the National Library digitized the Roman Catholic Parish registers, “Ancestry and FindMyPast downloaded all of them and indexed them and now charges money to see the indexed versions.”  Not completely true.  The indexing was a joint project with Ancestry and FindMyPast (each doing half the registers) and the complete indexes are at both sites…for free.  Again, they don’t always make it easy to find.  I have the sites bookmarked (because rather than searching from the home page, I always go to the specific database to search).  

Ireland Roman Catholic Parish Records (Ancestry)  Here is the result of a search on “Moughty” using my guest account.  As you can see, some of the information from the transcription is not available, however the view images link works and takes you to the digitized page of the register at the National Library of Ireland.

Ancestry Guest RC Records

At FindMyPast the information is split between four databases which can be found here.  

FMP RC Records

No need for any log in.  Select the database you want to search…your results will be shown and you can see both the transcription and then click on the image.

FMP Results baptism

   So, there is some access to the Family Trees even if you don’t have a subscription to Ancestry, and the indexes for the Roman Catholic records are available for free.   You also have other choices.  You can upload your tree to your own site, or to the site supported by your genealogy software or to FamilySearch.  

   So the question of Family Trees is up to you.  Do you benefit from sharing your information, even if Ancestry shares it on their for-profit website?

   Happy Hunting!

1 Ancestry.com


Need a coach to help you get back on track with your research?  Check out genealogy DOT coach to find someone with the expertise to help.  I’m now booking appointments for those in need of Irish research assistance.

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2017