10/02/2014 09:54 GMT | Updated 11/04/2014 06:59 BST

I've Got a Bone to Pick With the Genealogy Community

Let me begin by being clear about my point of view. A person's genealogy, family history, and/or ancestry output is NOT an 'on-demand' resource for every Tom, Dick, and Harriet!

Every one of us is free to undertake our family history work for what ever reason it is that motivates us. If you are a member of the LDS church and are doing it to further your religious beliefs that is just fine. If you are doing it purely for enjoyment, that is fine as well. If you are serious about it and are delving deeply into your past and fanatical about your work, that is fine too.

As my in-law's like to say 'to each his each'.

However, I have recently begun to be beset by a very sad phenomenon in genealogy and this is that I am encountering more individuals who are demanding that I must conduct myself and my genealogy as they want me to. I am terribly sorry folks, but NO ONE has the right to demand that any of us conduct our genealogy, ancestry, or family history for any reason other than the personal reason for which we are doing it. You might well have all the reasons in the world for making your demands of others, but if you are going to be rude and demand that I do it in the manner in which you insist, then I am here to say 'stick in your ear, dude'!

While 'to each his each' is certainly true, so too is the line my grandmother frequently used, which was 'you catch more butterflies with honey than you do with vinegar'.


In other words, if you believe you have some 'right' to my work, then you better at least ask nicely! Do not dare to tell me that I 'have to give it to you', or worse.

I am not certain where this attitude sprung from, but it seems, at least in my experiences, to be one that is becoming more prevalent than it ever was in the early years in my genealogy work. Perhaps it is simply a natural outcome of the increase in the popularity of genealogy. Maybe it is a result of those who think everything on the Internet 'has' to be free and available for them to copy (ignoring copyright law), use, re-label as their own, and distribute as they desire. As I said, I just don't know where it is emanating from, but it's certainly there and unfortunately gaining.

If I didn't want to share anything, then I wouldn't have my website, Onward To Our Past®, where all of the resources are free and open to anyone. However, my personal genealogy is a totally different ball of wax. We maintain our family tree site as a private site. Almost all of the photographs I have there are copyright protected as are a multitude of materials that have been secured with limited-use licenses specifically for our site. Additionally there are hundreds of items of a personal nature that are there for family and not for mainstream consumption, use, distribution, etc. We have over 240 family members who participate on our family site, hosted by and all of us honor the understanding that the materials there are for our private use and enjoyment and not for mass distribution, etc. So it can be done!

So how about we all agree to reintroduce two of the older rules in genealogy? First: If you want something from someone, ask nicely! Second: Accept the response you get. Our world of genealogy will certainly be a more inviting place when everyone does!