Oh boy, this is a doozy of a topic for me at the moment.
The manners to which I am referring relate specifically to Family History research, but could just as easily apply to many other hobbies involving lots of personal time and research.
I have recently become a victim of an ill-mannered, and thoughtless individual.
At least, I hope that is the type of individual he is. Otherwise I might have to use words like mercenary, selfish, self-centred and any other word applicable to a male that would involve me using @#!*% symbols in order to keep my blog entries family friendly.
Here’s the story of this Bleat!
I belong to a pay-to-join genealogy website.
The premise of the website is that you enter your data, as does everyone else, and then they have a search function that looks for individuals with the same names and dates in other people’s trees. Very efficient it is too.
On top of that, your communication with other members is through the website so your email and information is secure. This is also nice.
Once you establish with another person that you do have a common ancestor, through the site’s mailing system, it is up to you to allow your correspondant to see your tree or not. So here is where the real Bleat! begins.
I’ve been accumulating research on my family for 20+ years now. And I am most happy to share that with family members, both close and distant.
I’m such a trusting soul. I’m also somewhat of a fool. After hearing other people’s tales, it still didn’t really strike me as likely to happen to me.
But now it has. **
I’ve had my 20+ years of research “harvested” from my online tree by someone who told me that he was “related by marriage” to a shared distant ancestor. Thinking no ill of the man, even though the correspondance was extremely basic, followed by a brief “can I see your tree?”, I consented believing him to be a distant cousin. I asked for the same privilege in return, which was granted. I had a brief look and wasn’t clear on how we actually related, but life got busy just about then and I didn’t have the time to sit peering through this man’s tree. I also didn’t think that it was a big issue to leave my tree open to him.
So now, some months later, I have time to pursue things again and find that he pops up on my Matches list with an individual who might be useful in identifying a missing relative. I do a quick check, and his tree is closed to me unlike mine which is still open. So I close my tree, on the back of a bad gut feeling.
Then I send off an email to this man with a simple question – “I have someone with the same name, born in the same year, can you please tell me who your individual’s parents are?” (So I can eliminate him quickly, before asking about finer detail and wasting anyone’s time.)
The response received? “Can you please open your tree?”
I’m now highly suspicious, but decide to give our man a few days to send the really short email that this sort of question normally elicits from members of this site…” X Smith and Y Jones”.
About a week has passed, and I’m thinking nothing of it. So he’s not the usual friendly type that you meet when doing genealogy, I can live with that. Each to their own.
Then a couple of days ago the site’s regular “Matches” email arrives and who should pop up with another 5 matches with my tree? You guessed it. Mr Unfriendly.
What has disturbed me, and continues to do so as I work my way through this, is that the 5 names on the list are: Me, my mother, my father and two of my grandparents.
Once I pulled my jaw back up off the floor I took a look at our full matches list and find that we now have 71 matches in common, where a few months ago we had maybe 2.
Hmmm. Manners? What manners?
Permission? What permission?
Privacy? What privacy?
A specific clause on this site indicates that all living relatives must have given you permission to list them (which I have received for my use). This guy wouldn’t know me or my family to fall over on the street. He has even listed John, and half of my paternal family tree which has no bearing on the supposed shared ancestor, who is on my maternal side!
[Parental advisory notice: expletives unsuitable, though probably used regularly by your children, follow.]
Can you say “outraged”? Can you say “seriously pissed off”?
Can you say “needs a bloody good slap up side of the head”?
Can you say “bloody bastard stole my information and has reproduced it in a manner which would lead others to believe that it is his hard work and time that generated it”?
Can you say “no reply to my ‘why am I listed on your tree along with other close members of my family? email’ “?
Can you say “tosser” ?
Can you say….”ouch, Lynn is seriously angry, back slowly away towards the door without losing eye contact and no one will get hurt”?
Yup. Not a happy camper sitting writing this. Not at all.
He’s getting one more day to give me some sort of answer and then I’m calling in the abuse cops (site admin).
Just for the record, I’ve met a number of distant relatives here and a couple of closer ones. Not one of them, although they have had completely open access to my tree for months, has reproduced my information on their online trees.
The manners involved here are not just copyright ones, ie giving credit where credit is due, and not giving the impression that information displayed is your own, but also of common courtesy like politely asking if it is okay to reproduce the information before doing so. And verifying what the supplier of information is happy for you to use it for, and where it will be used.
All information that I have collected from cousins over the years are clearly documented in my notes, and sources are listed in all the reports my software generates. If I find new family members, I introduce them to my other distant cousins too. See my sidebar for two such groups.
But apparently for some individuals in our societies, the “common courtesies” are not “common” to them.
But you know what? I’m a great believer in karma, and it’s slightly less “multi-lifed” version of “what goes around, comes around.”
Mr Unfriendly will no doubt get his comeuppance in due course.
Here ends the Bleat!
**(See my previous work-based Bleat! about the “It won’t happen to me” attitude. They do say pride comes before a fall, after all.)