Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I've been struggling with my feelings about a family website I belong to.  I've been using for a few years now and have been building my tree there.  Unfortunately I no longer have a paid subscription, so the sources I have through Ancestry are not available to me.  Anyway, I posted a picture of my great-great grandparents Solomon Turpin Abrams and Louisa Edmonds Gadd which had been sent to me by a cousin of my grandfather.  This cousin got REALLY upset that the picture was posted on Ancestry without her permission.  She wrote a post on the family website letting everyone know how unhappy she was.  Other members of the website chimed in about how people on Ancestry were "pirating" information from others and posting it as their own.  They stated specific names that they had "mentioned" to others that showed up on Ancestry.  They assumed that the people who posted information on Ancestry didn't do any research of their own.  It seemed to me that they thought they were the only ones who'd done any research on this particular branch of my family.

I took the picture off my Ancestry site and posted an apology for posting it without permission.  I owed my cousin that much.  I also had to answer the accusations against people who use Ancestry.  I realize not everyone who uses Ancestry is able to do research outside what they can find on Ancestry, but there are those of us who have done other research.  I live in Fort Worth and there is a wonderful genealogy department at the local library.  I've spent hours there looking at census records and books about the counties where my ancestors lived.  I've tried keeping my tree on my home computer and ended up losing my information more than once because of hard drive crashes.  Even with back-ups, the genealogy program I was using, failed me.  I was using the Millenium Edition of Generations.  If I try to edit a person in that program, it erases the person completely from my file.  I was able to save a GEDCOM file from this program, but I still lost information.  :-( 

Anyway, I explained in my post that the main reason I use Ancestry is to keep from losing my information again.  I also let them know that I don't hold my tree as the final word on ANY of my families.  I have in no way completed my research and I don't represent my tree as being 100 percent accurate.  I have plenty of names on my tree which I've not researched.  The way the others talked, no one should put any names in their tree without doing exhaustive research and making sure the tree is 100 percent accurate.  They also assume anyone who has a name in their tree without any sources is "pirating" information from them.  I've seen the names they were talking about on and other websites.  It really upset me!  Maybe I'm taking it too personally... I don't know.  The only replies to my post talked about using CD's and flash drives to save my data.  No one ever addressed the fact that I apologized or my comments about the "pirating".  Am I wrong for being upset?  I've tried to blow it off, but for some reason it just keeps eating at me.  In fact, I was so upset at one point that I almost took my whole tree off Ancestry.  I'm glad I didn't.  I have had distant cousins contact me to share information because of my tree being posted on Ancestry.  I've gotten close to a couple of them.

I'm not opposed to constructive comments or a personal email telling me I was wrong for posting a picture without permission.  I think I was hurt the most because it felt like a public bashing.  I didn't even get a private acceptance of my apology....

I'm finished ranting now.  If anyone can help me sort out my feelings or has any suggestions about what, if anything, I should do please let me know.


  1. Hi Tina. This kind of thing is bound to happen to all of us at one time or another. We of course don't intentionally 'pirate' anyones information - although there are many out there that do! Posting a photo as a means to share it with other researchers who might be interested in it seems harmless enough. What good it a photograph if others who are related to that person cannot lay eyes on it? Isn't that the whole reason for copying them in the first place. I'm sorry you're feeling bad, but keep working and don't take that tree down! If you're making connections with other cousins then it's worth leaving it out there, regardless of where other's may think you got the information contained. You know your research is your own, and that's all that matters. As for the family website, it's difficult to return as if nothing has happened when no one will acknowledge that you stepped up and apologized. Family can make us happy, hurt us deeply and make us crazy - that you'll have to work through with them, or let it go and move on. Not to worry - this too shall pass. :-) -cindy

  2. Thanks for the words of encouragement, Cindy. I don't know why I let the incident bother me so much. I think getting it off my chest really helped a lot. The picture I'd posted is precious to me and I thought other decendents would enjoy it as well. From now on I'll be extra careful about the photos I post and make sure to get permission from the owner if they're not mine.

    Hope you have a great day! Thanks again for the encouragement. You made me feel a lot better.


  3. I think you've done what you need to do. If they aren't willing to accept or even acknowledge a heartfelt apology it is now their problem and you need to move on.

    You could make your Ancestry tree private. The individuals would show up in a search but people would have to contact you to see what you have for an individual. I have lots of sources on my ancestry tree that came from off of their site.

    As for keeping a tree on your computer I would try again and invest in a cheap flash drive where you could back up your tree weekly. I know several bloggers who use and are happy with Legacy Family Tree and they have a limited free version you could try out.

    Happy hunting,

  4. Thanks, Apple! I appreciate your comment. :-) I think I will make my Ancestry tree private. I think I'm pretty well over the incident now. I mostly needed to get it off my chest. You're right, it is their problem now. I'm not going to worry about them anymore. :-)

    I bought a copy of Family Tree Maker recently, but I really haven't worked with it much yet. I plan to do some genealogy this week while I'm off work. (I'm taking a "stay-cation".) I do have a flash drive that I can use to back up my info and I'll be sure to use it.

    Thanks for stopping by!
    Tina :-)

  5. Saw your blog announced on today, and thought I would cruise by.

    I realize this is an old post, but I felt like I needed to comment.

    IMO, you owed no one any apologies. There are a couple of nuts in my family tree also, who think there is no way anyone could have found any information about "their" family unless "their" work was "stolen."

    They don't publish their research on the internet, so I cannot figure that one out.

    Put your picture back. They are your g-g-grandparents, too, and I'd be willing to be you lunch that your cousin didn't take it, so she can't be screaming about a copyright violation.

    Good luck with your research.

  6. Thanks for the kind words, Dee. I'm feeling much better about that whole situation than I was when I made this post. The picture was taken before that cousin was even born, so I know she didn't take it... It was taken even before my own grandfather was born! She sent me a snapshot of the portrait... I'm not sure who owns the original portrait. Anyway, I'm much better now. :-) I'm glad my dad's side of the family aren't such genealogy snobs!