Barbara Poole, who has contributed several articles to this blog in the past, presents today’s article. She offers her experience in publishing family trees on the internet. Thanks, Barbara!
Should you publish your genealogical information on the internet for others to see? I pondered that question many times before I submitted my GEDCOM to www.familysearch.org about five years ago. Since that time, I have received a number of inquires via snail mail, as I had given my address (I don’t think email addresses were used then). Even now, I receive letters with a question or two, and am amazed that these people took the time to write. One even tracked me down using my address in a Google search and found out my phone number and called. But I didn’t mind, as I know what it is like to really want to contact somebody immediately. These people are kind and I’ve never had a problem.
Because of an article in the NEHGS eNews of January 3, 2007, called Drawing Attention to Your Book or Article by Helen Schatvet Ullmann, CG, FASG, I went a step further by submitting my tree to RootsWeb. I listen to Helen, as I’ve known her about 10 years and know she wouldn’t say something she didn’t mean. In her article, she mentioned that she submitted to RootsWeb a GEDCOM with a lot of members of her Peter Mills line (she had just published a book on this family). Because she submitted this GEDCOM to RootsWeb, her book sold out.
After all the years of doing my genealogy, I wanted to share my information with a wider group of people and with people who could contact me immediately via email. Submitting a tree is rather simple; and, if you prefer to remain anonymous, you can use a pseudonym as a contact name. I used my real name. Why use a pseudonym like Smith, if I want to touch base with a Poole? In my case, I use a separate email account just for the RootsWeb site, so mail about my genealogical information on RootsWeb is sent to a separate email account, not to my primary email account.
With RootsWeb, you can choose whether or not to allow others to directly download your information into a reader’s file, but I decided not. If someone wants my information they’ll need to enter it into their file manually. Also, I didn’t include information on living relatives, and I didn’t include notes. You can remove your tree or update whenever you want, and I do so weekly. Very little effort is involved in updating my information, and I know my tree is pretty much up to date. Not only will the information you upload to RootsWeb be incorporated into Ancestry’s WorldConnect database, but others can find your information on Google.
In the past, I found information published by other people; now it was time to give back and share what I have. Many people are unwilling to share their information. Sometimes, I wonder why they are even doing it if they are unwilling to share.
I’ve recently had several, unresolved problems with Family Tree Maker (FTM), and so I decided I also wanted my information available to me. Now, when I’m at another computer or location, it is easy to access the information I’ve uploaded. Photos included in my file did not upload, but all the data transferred beautifully. Because of my RootsWeb site, I have been contacted by at least 1-2 persons a week. All have either asked for a little information or shared some really valuable information I didn’t have. Most people want to share accurate data about the lines they are researching, and this has all worked in my favor. The positive outweighs the negative. Actually, I can’t think of a negative and that is probably why RootsWeb is so popular. Granted, you have to sift through the databases to find what you are looking for, but heck, the information is free, and is even more valuable if the submitter included sources.
Recently, I discovered another place to keep my information – Personal Family Trees on Ancestry.com. I uploaded the same GEDCOM to Ancestry.com that I had previously uploaded to RootsWeb. The features of Ancestry’s Personal Family Trees are really nice, and you can either keep this tree to yourself or share it with others. For now, I restrict access to my Ancestry Personal Family Tree to myself. The ability to upload a Personal Family Tree on Ancestry is a free feature for subscribers, and I was able to upload all 30,000 names in my database. The Personal Family Tree feature is being updated, as it has only been available since July 2006. According to Ancestry, “1,000,000 members started a tree (March 2007).” I love the automatic timeline feature in Personal Family Trees that automatically calculates the age of a person at the time of each life event entered. Researchers can also upload photos to Ancestry’s Personal Family Trees, but not to RootsWeb. Notes uploaded to Ancestry Personal Family Trees may only be viewed by the submitter. As with RootsWeb, you can view your tree from another location or computer by logging on to your Ancestry.com account and then clicking on the My Ancestry tab. Your information is right there, no need to open up FTM, if you didn’t want to.
If you have ever worried about a hurricane, major storm, flood, or other disaster which could wipe out your genealogy data, storing your data on RootsWeb or Ancestry.com could be a life saver. Granted, many of us backup to CD’s, but often they are near the computer and could be destroyed along with the computer in a natural disaster. At least the information on RootsWeb and Ancestry.com is stored on servers many miles from me.
The other day, I was merging information into my file and I was quite confident in what I was doing. While merging, I noticed that the parents of one of the people in my file were missing. I thought I really messed up the merge process and inadvertently deleted some data. I quickly went to the tree I had uploaded to Ancestry.com, pulled up the records for that individual, and sure enough, I never had his parents in the first place! Fortunately, I only had to worry about 2 minutes before I knew I was OK and the merge was fine. If I hadn’t submitted my tree, I would still be trying to figure out who James Mead’s parents were.