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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Borrowing, Taking, and Sharing: Trees - Part 1

In my spare time (which is becoming close to nil lately), I write posts to my blog about my genealogy, maintain and gather photos of my family, research my family tree, and read a few other genealogy posts.  I wrote recently about the topic of borrowing from other's trees on  In reviewing a couple of other blogs, I found this topic covered in two other posts.   The two blog posts that I speak of are "I've Been Chain Linked" and "Musings On A Monday Lack of Courtesy or Lack of Common Sense?" .

Online courtesy is not very present in today's internet probably because people can remain somewhat anonymous.  Even if you can identify the sign-on of a person and pinpoint who they are, do you even know them or care who they are?

When it comes to my family tree, I must admit to caring and have a very strong desire to network with others who are in some way connected to my family tree.  You never know what or who you might find behind the person borrowing information from your tree on  I've been a borrower and a lender of information.  I have found volumes of information by contacting those on  Those "volumes" were not posted online.  I have also found relatives and people with whom I share a common ancestry and interest in blazing our family tree.

A couple of points have struck me recently about people's motives for borrowing (or just taking) without a courtesy message to the lender.  Actually, I have put together about ten points to discuss on this very topic.  It includes the ever so underrated virtue of sharing too.

The first point, which is very important and somewhat obvious, is that trees on are public trees (except living people) unless you go to trouble of updating the privacy on your tree so that others cannot see it.  If you do update a tree to "private", no one else can see it and you'll be left pretty much alone to your own research and be missing out on networking.

The second point is about fully making your tree private on  Member Connect is a cool bit of technology on the site that enables you to match up people to other trees and truly connect (network) with those who have more of an exact match to your family tree information.  If you want to be "left alone" then be sure to update your account to not be displayed in Member Connect.  This is in addition to making your tree private.

I do consider the above two points as "flying under the radar".  Secret researchers on can borrow all of the public information on other trees with minimal involvement, networking or contact with others.  In fact, you can be almost hidden from others online.  I do have to ask "What fun is that?".  I suppose it depends on your personality, research goals, and your desire to work on your family tree in a rather solitary manner.   You never know what information you might be missing out on though.

Putting yourself out there:  My third point is about posting a family tree online in the first place.  There is so much to find on the information highway known as the internet, yet tracking it down can be quite challenging. allows you to search and find people on your family tree but part of technology is about putting your tree out there.  It's tough going to hoard information online when you are seeking more for yourself.  Hoarding information is why it gets lost and becomes unavailable for the following generations.

If you are shy, try not to be online when researching your family tree.  My fourth point is just that.  I'm just not sure how far that you will get on your family tree by being shy.  Let's just say, I'm not.  If someone sends you a message over, give it a quick reply even if you don't think you want to open up a full correspondence.

I share to find others.  Networking is key in my family tree research.  Let's call this my number five point - NETWORKING.  Because others have public family trees and have put themselves out on, I have quickly found information about my Maxwell's, McLaughlin's, Gartland's, and a number of others.  Networking leads to collaboration which can lead to a group of people sharing information and pursuing more research on a family line.  Even if you do hit a brick wall, at least you are in good company.

To be continued.......................................


  1. I think you have pointed out the crux of this discussion: sharing. I can't very well expect to take whatever I like and not give a little back to our genealogy community. Share and share alike, I say. Looking forward to Part 2!

  2. Share and share alike is what I say. It seems to be missing from many aspects of our lives today. At least if we call share and "pay it forward" a little on our family trees, we may find the sharing coming in our direction. I find this to be so true!