Sharing your Genealogy Research

Submitted by ian on Wed, 02/08/2012 - 12:46

sharingI have been interested in my families’ genealogy for around 10 years now.  I remember that my first real start was in the summer of 2002, when my uncle Phil gave me some of the research he had done on the family.  I looked at the info that he gave me, and then set it aside.  I did not really get started on doing some real research until about 6 years ago.  I have now compiled a great start on my families’ genealogy and it has been a pretty interesting process.

Several times I have run across an attitude that I do not understand.  I have met individuals that are unwilling to share their work (I have not encountered with my surname, but rather other collateral lines).  I just do not understand this idea at all.  You can find many posts on the internet about people who do not want to have their work “Stolen” etc.  It just does not make any sense to me, and here is why:

  • Perhaps I am naive, but isn’t the whole idea behind genealogy to discover (really its re-discover) the facts and details about our ancestors?  

Why would you want to do all this work and research, only to have it become “lost” again.  If you do not share your research, and you get hit by a bus, then all of the work that you did is gets lost for future generations.  The data that you worked on uncovering will need to be re-discovered again.  

  • It’s my data, and I am going to copyright it.

Well…. Not really.  The data is actually about your ancestor, so it’s their data.  Secondly, you cannot copyright facts.  You just can’t.  Check out what the Copyright Office has to say about it:

Several categories of material are generally not eligible for federal copyright protection. These include among others:….works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship.

Data in a gedcom is not original work and only contains facts that are common property, therefore they cannot be copyrighted.  With that said, if you write a book, that uses the data, and is presented in an original manner, that can be copyrighted.  I would still argue that it’s not your data, but rather your ancestors.

  • I Plan on making money from my research.

Ok, so maybe you have written a book, and you plan on selling it.  That is great, and a book serves as a great format in which to “Save” and share the data with future researchers, but I really hope that you were not planning on retiring off the proceeds from your book.  Every family history book that I know of has not made very much money for the author.  Specific family history / Genealogy books target a small audience, and as such have a small market to sell to.  If you are planning on writing a book, by all means please do so, but don’t plan to get rich off it.

  • Sharing gives you access to other resources, and ideas that you may not have had access to.

If you do your research and do not share, you will not be able to have the benefit of others input.  As the old saying goes, many hands make light work.  It’s much easier to break through a brick wall with lots of people chipping away at it instead of just one.

  • There is so much “Bad Info” out there; it would be nice to get some correct info out there.

You are a good researcher, you data are well sourced, and you do not add individuals to your tree without having solid source information to back it up.  It would be great if more “Good”, well sourced” information was out there.  It would help put an end to the poorly sourced info that manages to get added to so many trees over time.

  • You get to meet cool people.  

All of my research is online, and I share everything with anyone (with the one exception of data on living individuals).  Because I share my data, I have come in contact with some pretty cool people.  If I had not shared my data, I would not have meet these people and my Family tree would be worse off because of it.

In my opinion (and you know what they say about opinions…) genealogy research is something that should be shared and not hoarded.  There are so many good things that can come from sharing you data, that it just makes sense to do it.  The reasons that I have seen for people not sharing data just seem bogus to me, and I think that it is a shame that some people do not share the data that they have collected.  After all, are we not trying to figure out as much as we can about our ancestors?  Why not share that info with others? 


These are just my thoughts; let me know how you feel about the topic.  Do you agree with me?  Think I am completely off base?  Let me know, use the comments section below!