Tuesday, June 26, 2012

It's mine; all mine!

Sharing is nice.
Recently, I've been thinking about why we do genealogy. Through a lot of conversations lately with other genealogists, I've begun to realise that we don't all do it for the same reasons. Specifically, I'm interested in how altruistic our motivations are, or aren't!

I think most people want their genealogical research passed down to their descendants. No one wants all their hard work to die with them, right? But what about people other than your direct descendants?

I tend to think of my genealogy as something I want to add to a greater whole. Yes, I want my descendants and other future and current relatives to have it, but I also want it to be out there for the world to see. Imagine if everyone's genealogy was easily accessible; think how much work could be saved!

Of course, it's only really helpful if it's correct and properly sourced. That actually makes me want to share my genealogy even more! All the error-filled trees out there in books and on the net just keep multiplying, because people find them and use them as sources. So my thinking is, every correct, sourced tree that's out there is countering that. If someone finds my correct tree, maybe they'll use that instead of the spurious ones.

One topic that I think really brings out people's levels of altruism in genealogy is one place studies. When I get on this topic I tend to complain about how no one does one place studies in Canada and the US (they're really big in the UK). Recently, someone suggested to me that it's because people are less tied to places here, unlike in the UK where some families have been in the same parish for generations. Therefore, a one place study won't be as useful in one person's genealogy.

The thing is, in my opinion, one place studies aren't about helping myself with my own genealogy. They're about making a contribution to the body of genealogical resources, that will be useful to everyone who's family ever lived in that place.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you put your genealogy out there for the world to see, or do you hide it away on your hard drive or in a private online tree? Do you stick to your own family, or do research that can benefit even people you're not related to? And I want reasons! Let's get a discussion going!


  1. I like the place study idea. While we may not be attached to a place today some of our ancestors didn't move around. I have to stop myself from going off on tangents on my tree in Tazewell, TN. So many branches are connected and they stayed there for decades. I wish I had the time to map out the connections. I found out recently that the other side of a cousin's family is from the same area (his father's family is still there).

    I'll have to look into WikiTree. When I first heard of it brought to mind the disaster that is One World Tree so I stayed away :-P

    Barking Up The Wrong Tree

    1. I feel the same way about St. Francois Xavier, Manitoba. :)

      Just let me know if you want an invite to WikiTree, if you haven't got one already!

  2. An interesting post Lianne. I think it's definitely good to share, and I love the idea of my hard work going to help someone else with theirs. But there is an element of not wanting to spoil it for people either. To me, doing the research is all part of the fun!

    Also interesting point about making your data available. Obviously, as you say, it helps if you can be sure its all correct, but everyone makes mistakes, and I'm nervous about putting my research out there because to me its always a work in progress, and there's always a possiblity that it might be wrong. I have mine publicly available on ancestry, and I know people have taken information from it, but then I feel dreadful if I realise that I've made an error somewhere and can't always trace back to find out who took my info. Which is why its equally important that people do their own research and verify things for themselves. i personally try to avoid relying on other people's information, and always check it if I do find that it's the ony way i can solve a problem. or ask people how they know, rather than just taking their info and assuming its correct.

    I am in the UK, and I think you might be right about one-place studies here. On at least one rbanch my ancestors go back to around 1800 in the same village I grew up in. I'm not aware that anyone has done a one-place study on it, and its probably a bit big for someone like me with no experience to pick up, but I've definitely thought about doing one of the smaller outlying areas - somewhere I still feel some connection to, but that's a bit moe manageable as a starter!



    1. I agree that research is part of the fun, but it's not like people are running out of research to do! :) Having some of the work already done for you just means more free time to work on other branches of your tree, the way I see it.

      It's true that everyone makes mistakes sometimes, but honestly, I think if someone just copies a tree without verifying anything, they kind of deserve it if they don't catch mistakes. :P Others' genealogies can be helpful guides, but should be treated as just that: guides to the primary sources one should still look at.

      In case you're unsure if there's a one place study of your village or one near it, there's a good lists here: http://www.one-place-studies.org/list-contents.html

  3. I benefit so much from the freely available resources available on the net that I feel it just makes sense to share when I produce something worth sharing. I'm not just talking about genealogy, but all the stuff I use daily, such as open source software, general information sources such as wikipedia and of course wikitree.
    I'm still new to genealogy, so leveraging the work of others makes sense to me, and being able to make my own contributions to improve a shared tree makes even more sense. How many times have I seen the same error propagated to dozens of copies of the same tree suggested to me on Ancestry? Enough to realize that a forest of flawed cloned trees is no match for a single strong collectively maintained tree.
    Well, that covers why I like to share my research, but why do I actually do it? I think the combination of making cool discoveries and the puzzle solving aspects make genealogy very appealing to me. Discovering that one of my Acadian ancestors disguised himself as a woman to escape from prison and avoid getting deported is pretty darn cool! Also, being able to place my own ancestors within the historical events that shaped Canada and the United States makes me want to rediscover our history.
    I like to play computer games once in a while, so to me, collecting the information and putting it together to build my tree is very much like a game. The important difference with genealogical research is that at the end I have a something to show for it and that I can share with others instead of just a game over screen!

    1. I totally agree!

      As for what you said about a single strong tree being more powerful than a forest of flawed trees, I hope that's true! Every time I correct an Acadian myth on WikiTree (and explain the myth in an effort to make people stop changing it back), I like to think it's working towards putting an end to all those horrible Jean Claude Landry trees out there. :)

    2. I'm a month late to the discussion; great post, Lianne!

      I love Roland's comment that "a forest of flawed cloned trees is no match for a single strong collectively maintained tree."

      That could be WikiTree's mission statement.

  4. One place studies are wonderful things. Yes they are more common in the UK but really they shouldn't be as it is also important for us to chronicle our local areas. So many businesses close down and buildings change. Even in our lifetimes there have been many changes where we live that we should be collecting.

    I personally don't have any descendents so want to share my research with anyone who will listen.

    1. I completely agree. One place studies are always relevant, because every place has a story! And every one place study will be helpful to someone.

  5. I see according to Geneabloggers, today is your one year anniversary you've been blogging. Happy Blogiversary.

    Regards, Jim
    Genealogy Blog at Hidden Genealogy Nuggets

  6. I enjoyed your post. I do so wish I knew what a place study is, exactly.
    Anna Richter

    1. Hi Anna. Thanks! A one place study is a genealogical study of all the people who have lived in a particular place, whether they're related or not. They're often done on villages in England. I'm doing a one place study of St. Francois Xavier, a small parish in Manitoba.

      You can learn more about one place studies, and find the websites of a lot of them, on http://www.one-place-studies.org/