St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Madness Monday: Decorating the Tree with Borrowed Ornaments and Nuts

The holidays are here and our memories and houses are aglow with the traditions of our ancestors.  What do you do when an over eager family seeker decides to go nuts and publish undocumented lines as your blood?

Recently, a very nice lady contacted me through a documented cousin of mine and asked for some information on the family.  While she and I share no blood, her grandchild does have several drops of my blood flowing in his little veins.  The lady was excited to try and find information on the family so she could put a book together for the little guy.  Super, I thought.

Until I saw what she decided to publish.  She apparently looked at one census and found the name of a young lady (my great grandma) in question in a family and adopted that family as hers.  Arrrggghhh.  Another fairy tale!

She did not seek to try and verify the family as the right family for the young lady in question.  In fact, she chose the wrong family with the same surname living in the next county as mine.  Nope.  Sorry.  Wrong.

I sent her an email and suggested she look at the documentation for the family she chose as mine to see if she was really right.  When I was a newbie, I had looked at that family and found evidence they were not mine.  I used wills, family photos, family Bibles and land deeds to support what I found.

Unfortunately, that didn't set well with her fairy tale and she decided to ignore me.  Now, there's another line that will go on thinking they have blood they don't.

This is not uncommon as Ancestry allows anyone to post anything without documentation.  As I have said before, Ancestry trees are just fluff unless you can put some meat on those bones.

A professional genealogy buddy of mine recently commented on this very subject as another avid genealogy buff lamented on fact vs. fiction in trees.  With her kind permission, I have included her thoughts on the subject......

Being a professional genealogist,  I have dealt with this type of situation and it can be very touchy. You  do not want to discourage an exchange of genealogical information that  may be beneficial to you but, at the same time, you do not want to have your hard-earned research used in a errant way by
someone else.

Below is a list of suggestions to help weigh the merit of sharing your genealogical research with someone you don't really know.

    1. As  the requester, I feel the asking party must prove how they are     
related to me and I have to be satisfied that they are correct.  If  I have any
doubt of their motives, I discontinue contact.
    2. I do my own basic research on what they provide to see if I feel it is
correct.  Request a few of specific source/citations or a few copies of
original documents and see if you can  find that information yourself.  If     
they refuse or are not willing to provide a little bit of specific
documentation, I  discontinue contact.  If I find definite evidence that the     
requester is barking up the wrong tree, I will gladly send what I find     
source/citation, documents and all, so hopefully, they will take that and     
continue down the correct path.
    3. Put a copyright disclaimer on any information you send to someone
else.  This provides you with some protection if your research is used     
erroneously for profit without going through the proper procedures.  Many times
a copyright disclaimer will make the receiving party think twice about
using your information without your permission.
    4. Sometimes you have to be blunt.  If you feel the person's research
is wrong and they insist they are part of your tree, inform them of the
discrepancies you see in a generalized fashion, i.e. I do not have record
of my ancestor being in Ohio during that time frame or this ancestor  would
only have been 10 years old at that time so she is probably not the     
mother.  Ask them to prove you wrong.  If they are a true genealogist,
they will appreciate the truth.  And if it proves to be your missing link,
you will benefit.  But again,  use caution.   Make sure you see  good,
sound genealogy methods and documentation in their research.  If not, steer
    5. If someone tries to publish a genealogical work without
source/citations and original documents, no  editor worth their salt is
going to touch their project.  If they self-publish for profit and you  have
used the copyright disclaimer on your research, you could have an attorney go
after them.  If they self-publish for their own use, there isn't much
you can do.
    6. My final point is to be careful what genealogical information you
supply to someone else, even if you are related.  DO NOT ever give out or     
post personal information on living individuals.  There are persons out there
that have been victims of identity theft because an unaware relative posted
their personal information on the Internet in a family tree.

Hope this helps,
Pam Nixon

Whispers From The Past
Family History Research Service
Westland, PA  15378-0008

Ahh, genealogy.  Sometimes, you just have some nuts on the tree with your beautiful ornaments.

©2010 AS Eldredge

1 comment:

Mavis said...

What a great post! I like your thoughts on the subject. Thanks for all the tips.