Ethics in Publishing Family Histories

Facts can’t be copyrighted.

I was surprised when a friend of mine who practices copyright law first passed this information on to me. Reflecting on this statement, it makes sense. How could anyone claim copyright to the name of the ship on which their immigrant ancestor sailed, or the date of death of their great great grandfather, or the amount that an ancestor paid in monthly rent?

Recent legal opinion has even decided that certain compilations of facts, such as telephone directories, are not subject to copyright.

But what about compiled genealogies? What can I include in a published genealogy without infringing on someone else’s rights? And what rights do I have to the compilations I produce?

Genealogists generally like to share their discoveries by compiling a family tree and providing it to family members or other people who are researching the same line. Many genealogists share their discoveries online, posting GEDCOM files to sites such as RootsWeb,, or to one of the new Web 2.0 applications for collaborative efforts in Family History Research.

On more than a few occasions, I’ve read tales of how someone shared their pedigree with someone else, only to find their own work published on the Internet without permission, often without any citation of the source of the pedigree. Those whose hard work has been published without their consent have sometimes been furious about having their work published.

So, what recourse does someone have when they find their work published without their consent and without attribution? Do those who produce compiled genealogies own copyright to their compilations of names, dates, and locations?

The facts themselves are not copyrightable. That much is clear. Certain compilations such as phone books are not copyrightable. But what about compiled genealogies?

Since compiled genealogies involve discovering relationships, finding facts in unusual locations, and carefully assembling the information to reflect the structure and organizations of ancestral families, complied genealogies are probably considered creative works and, therefore, are probably protected by copyright. The owner of the copyright to a compiled genealogy would probably have available whatever recourse is available under the applicable copyright laws.

So, can I incorporate several generations of genealogical information compiled by someone else into my own family history and publish the work without permission of the original compiler? Frequently, compiled genealogies are published without information about the person who conducted the research or compiled the work. But, anonymous works are still protected under the copyright laws.

I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’m not a copyright attorney and my opinions are mine alone. As others including footnoteMaven have recently pointed out, even the opinion of someone licensed to practice law is only an opinion. Decisions on copyright issues are generally made by the courts.

To protect the integrity of my work, I can:

  • Incorporate information from other compiled genealogies into my own only after obtaining copies of source material used to support that information.
  • Where appropriate, cite the original compiled genealogy as a source. This source will be a derivative source, but a source, nonetheless.
  • Where possible, obtain permission from the original compiler before incorporating the work into my own published genealogy.

What about sources? Many of the sources genealogists use in their work are publicly available sources such as vital records, census records, and immigration records. Some sources, though, are oral histories, letters, diaries, phone conversations, and e-mail communications. Each of these sources is protected by copyright in and of themselves. Generally, citing sources without reproducing the original work is considered acceptable.

Still, great aunt Marge may not want her private letters to me cited as a source in a published genealogy.

And what about information on living individuals? Genealogists agree that it is never acceptable to publish information on living individuals in a publicly available medium. How about publishing information on living individuals in a family history available only to those named in the work? What about publishing potentially sensitive information such as illegitimate births, same sex relationships, and causes of death?

To avoid disenfranchisement of my relatives and the sources of personal communications, I can:

  • Request permission to include personal communications as sources in compiled genealogies.
  • Never publish information about living individuals in a publicly published genealogy.
  • Request permission to include information about living individuals in family histories destined for distribution to family members.
  • Request permission to include potentially sensitive information from those who might be impacted by publishing that information.

These suggestions will be difficult to reduce to practice. Even if I get permission from the person most closely affected by potentially sensitive information, some other member of the family may be aghast that the information is included.

While my decisions may not always be perfect, I’ll evaluate the information I intend to publish and decide what to include and what information for which to request permission on a case-by-case basis. And I’ll certainly have to consider whether something I publish has the potential to harm someone else.

Even this approach is not without an ethical dilemma. By choosing not to report certain information I may risk compromising the integrity and accuracy of my work.

What to do? Well, I’ll do the best that I can.

Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko

This entry was posted in Daily Journal. Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Ethics in Publishing Family Histories

  1. Cheryl Palmer says:

    Ethics, a great reminder for us all! The analysis you have given on this subject may be the best I have read concerning copyrights and ethics. Hopefully we will all do “the best we can”!

  2. Carole E. Caruso says:

    Some get all bent out of shape about including the living in a published genealogy. I would like to know if these people would feel the same if the publishers of “Who’s Who in World” wanted to include them in their next volume.

  3. Pat Kyser says:

    May I have permission to print this article, with credit to you, in our local genealogy online newsletter, KeyBoard Tree Trace?

    Pat Kyser
    Huntsville (AL) Genealogical Computing Society

  4. Michele Skehill says:

    I have actually gone one step further. I only put names of those living in my genealogies. There is also the very sad situation when a young person dies in recent times. I would add that person’s name in the main genealogy and nothing else, but a rememberance at the beginning of the book, shows that the person is remembered.

  5. John Wylie says:

    I like what Danko says.

    But, I keep hoping that we’ll eventually outgrow the archaic concept of primary and secondary sources and use the more precise concepts of primary and secondary information as defined and explained in the “Evidence” issue of NGSQ (Sep 99). This distinction isn’t hair-splitting, it’s important for understanding content and copyright is all about content.

  6. Rosanne Vrugtman says:

    As one who has spent 1000’s of hours compiling our family history for the past 5-6 years and as someone who is currently completing a Ph.D. dissertation, I can appreciate both sides of this issue. My own take–with which many others will disagree, I’m sure:

    Genealogical information belongs to the family, not the individual. Secrets are toxic and keeping them can do far more damage (for generations to come) than telling the truth, whatever it is. I’ve uncovered many “secrets” in my own family. This has led to many unsolved mysteries which not only confound the work but, worse, may prevent future generations from ever learning the truth.

    This implications are enormous: Generations who will never be able to uncover their own biological history. Feelings of betrayal which cut deep, undermine relationships, and may last for generations. Not to mention the complications for the genealogical researcher who may never be able to break through the proverbial “brick wall” or connect the proverbial “dots” to complete the family dossier.

    I have made it my own practice, with a few exceptions, to share what I’ve learned with other member of the family. “Exceptions” include a decades-long discrepancy in a marriage date–kept secret for the obvious reason by elderly “cousins” to whom it still matters. Even their children don’t know what I know. After the cousins’ deaths, I’ll include the truth in my documentation. I suspect their generation is the last for whom pregnancy before marriage will be such an issue.

    In the meantime, to ensure that what I learn doesn’t get “lost” to the future, I compile the hundreds of files I’ve collected and burn them to CDs, which I share at cost at our annual family reunion each year. I want as many people as possible to have the information that I have so laboriously uncovered. I always include source references for the information I collect and would expect, as a standard courtesy, to have others cite the original source in any publication of the information I’ve compiled.

    My question: What would it take to ensure that all such information was placed in the public domain–including more recent census data? I realize the unintended consequence of any law to this effect (for instance) might be the greater reluctance of researchers to “publish” their work. On the other hand, it might make more information accessible, enabling families to solve some of the mysteries that have remained out of their reach up to now. I’d like to propose a “dialogue” on the subject, at least.

  7. Bev Kramlich says:

    Recently my brother died as a result of heart disease. I thought it might be helpful to include medical issues in my genealogy (not published). One member of my immediate family was very incensed, saying she didn’t want anyone to know if she had disease issues. I was mostly concerned with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, hemochromatosis, and the possible risk to living family members. What is my responsibility?

  8. Sharon says:

    Thoughtful analysis. An excellent website for discussing copyright issues can be found at Stanford University’s website: criterion for determining if copyright infringement has occurred is in the amount of work “lifted” by the offender. Short quotes require no permission, but ethics call for citation.

  9. Carmen Johnson says:

    “The best we can” is the best we can hope for. I’ve been accused of stealing information from another researcher, when I obtained the same general dates from census research…probably the same way that she did. I didn’t argue with her, but it certainly bothered me at the time. I’ve seen the same text that I personally wrote about my great-grandparents on numerous sites with no attribution to me as the writer. I’ve also seen the mistakes that I made published on someone else’s genealogy which makes it obvious that they didn’t do the reseach themselves. I don’t think that I will stop sharing my research – but I am much more careful with whom I share it with. Good analysis of the subject – in short you say pretty much most of us have realized. There is little you can do when your info gets published…other than being more careful with who you share it with.

  10. Bob Greene says:

    I have compiled my family genealogy for not only me and my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but also for other members of my family. Consequently I see no problem in including living relatives. How else would my children, for example, know their cousins, etc.? I also include all dates that I have, even those marriages that show Speedy Gonzales made his nine-month trip in two months. However, I include the date only in the documentation, which I include in end notes. You can find it, but you have to really be looking for it. As far as other bumps in the record — suicide, murder, cattle rustling, etc. — I have in my database (and all of its copies) so that future family genealogists can access it. These things are upfront in the computer program, but marked so they don’t print anywhere. Other than that, I, too, do the best I can.

  11. I truly appreciate these comments and especially understand where Rosanne is coming from. If I find a secret, I document it, but do not draw a red circle around it to draw attention. I feel obligated to report the truth and try not to judge. Family is family and to me more is to be forgiven there. I share parts of my information anymore, because of it appearing on other webpages. I don’t share notes, and do not post them for the same reason. I have worked on mine for 50 years now, and tried to do a good job for those who follow me to continue the quest. I like “control” so I can correct my mistakes and not see them multiplied on other websites.

  12. Rod Nordberg says:

    If the information compiled in telephone books (that, like genealogy, required “discovering relationships, finding facts in unusual locations, and carefully assembling the information”) cannot be copyrighted, it’s not likely the facts in compiled genealogies have legal standing to be copyrighted.

  13. John,

    Thanks for your comment about sources. Based on your comment, I’ve edited the article to change “secondary source” to “derivative source”.


  14. Michael Pollock says:

    Steve Danko’s article on ethics in genealogy actually speaks to 2 distinctly different aspects, plagiarizing and respect for the right of others. I will share my own thoughts on the latter first.

    While I certainly make every effort to be ethical in my genealogical dealings, accuracy is of greater concern, at least to me, for several reasons.

    First, much of my work is paralegal in nature–I perform due diligence in probate and land title matters and if, on the grounds that someone else might object as an invasion of their privacy or other rights, I fail to report any information that has a bearing on the matter at hand, I become subject to both legal and civil sanctions by the Court of jurisdiction AND those parties who would be adversely affected by my having withheld the information.

    That said, if I do not identify the source of any given piece of information, it is rendered “hearsay”, and my ability to defend myself from charges that persons were adversely effected is severely weakened, and my ability to earn a living suffers as a consequence.

    Stephen Danko specifically mentioned illegitimacy as an area where a genealogist should be “sensitive” to the concerns of others. In the past, illegitimate children could not inherit unless acknowledged by the parent or relative from whom an inheritance comes, but ignoring the moral implications of the change, most states laws now grant rights of inheritance to such children whether acknowledged by the parent or not. Thus, there can be serious legal and financial consequences for family members who refuse to acknowledge an illegitimate relative, for example, in the expectation there will be fewer persons to split an inheritance, since those relatives can seek not only the share they were denied, but civil damages for the act of denial! If another party, such as a professional genealogist, is also involved in the refusal, that person also can be subject to civil penalties.

    Increasingly health considerations factor into what specific information should be included in a genealogy. Some point out that complete medical histories of one’s family can be used as the grounds to deny medical insurance or to price it out of the financial means of a person, but it can also be the means by which the proper course of action is first identified, then taken. Recognizing that it may be difficult, if not impossible, to establish if more people will be adversely harmed than helped, I do believe that more people will ultimately be helped, both by knowing for what illnesses they are at the greatest risk, and the prospects that this knowledge will result in medical advances in the treatment of some of those illnesses.

    As a professional genealogist, I do have to “respond” to the concerns of a client, but my answer to any client who seems to ask me to violate my professional ethics is “find someone else to do the work for you”.

    As for plagiarization, being a professional genealogist, I know a contractual relationship between 2 persons can influence when plagiarization actually occurs, as the law commonly recognizes work product is the property not so much of the person who creates it as the person who funds the creative process when there is no written agreement that the work product belongs to the creator. Thus, when someone pays another to do research that is subsequently included in a genealogy published by the first person, the research is the property of that first person. In such instances, it would also be the “owner” who would be subject to the sanctions mentioned earlier, though I would personally make a point to document what work I had done and the conclusion I had reached to prevent the “owner” from claiming I had delivered a “defective” work product.

    Where I have personally had problems with others plagiarizing my work is when there was no such contractual relationship.

    More than once I have not only had work I have done republished by others without my permission but even by persons with whom I had had no direct contact, thus I learned of the plagiarizing quite by “accident”.

    Two specific instances come to mind. In one when I had a professional interest in the work, I learned of the same when a friend knowing my interest received a publisher’s announcement on the book and told me of the same. The “guilty party” did acknowledge me as a source, but also attributed to me both statements and conclusions that I regarded as false. For that reason I seriously considered taking legal action against him and his publisher, but colleagues suggested, and quite possibly correctly given how several recent cases with some parrallels to mine have been portrayed in the press, that public perception of my successful prosecution of the suit would be of my using my professional stature to “bully” at least the author, this book being his only published work and his being in his 80s at the time of publication.

    In the other, a work on one of my own families, I was motivated to publish by a hope that someone would come forward with information that would either compliment or refute my work and in doing so, allow it to be expanded. Not only did this author publish without my permission or knowledge, his work was so sloppy on the areas that should have “complimented” my research that there was no way for me to confirm the accuracy of any of it beyond what I already knew to be fact, i.e., no quid pro quo that would have argued that I let the matter “slide”.

    I learned of that plagiarization before the actual publication because the manuscript was submitted to a magazine for which I was the publisher at the time. I requested that the editorial board of this magazine reject the manuscript on the grounds it was a clear plagiarization of my work but was overruled by a simple majority, so I resigned as publisher. Whether my resignation ultimately had any influence on the same I am unable to say, but the magazine is no longer being published.

    I would not take serious issue with most of the conclusion reached by Mr. Danko, but I would recommend some additional “safeguards”.

    First, always make a point to distinguish between what you regard as fact and as “educated speculation”.

    Second, always make a point to identify the basis for any conclusions reached, whether stated as fact or “educated speculation”.


    Third, always try to use a minimum of three sources for anything cited as fact, unless the source is from first-hand knowledge or a legal document, but still seek additional sources (for example, an individual is unlikely to be the informant for the information on his/her death certificate, with it being likely that the informant will have first-hand knowledge of any details on the same other than the date and place of death, and someone who might be expected to have first-hand knowledge of other detail is likely to have been traumatized by the death, with “tricks” to the memory as a result of the same).

  15. Carolyn Sidebottom says:

    This is a thoughtful article with some very thoughtful comments. Thanks for tackling a thorny subject, Steve. I would like to see this subject more widely addressed and discussed particularly in beginning workshops and courses now that genealogy is so popular and relatively easier now that we have so many online research tools.

    Perhaps one of our first tests in deciding whether to publish a fact or not should be to ask ourselves the question, “How would I react if I read this information in someone else’s publication?”

  16. Gail Anderson says:

    I also do a newsletter for a Satalite Family History Center, would like to ask permission to reprint your excellent article. Thanks for the information. Very helpful!
    Gail Anderson

  17. Howard Metcalfe says:

    As noted in the original article, facts cannot be copyrighted. The facts (or supposed facts) appearing in a compiled genealogy (published within the time periods to which copyright is applicable) are not themselves under copyright.

    However, the “means of expression” of those facts is under copyright. Thus one can “copy” the bare facts from a copyrighted compiled genealogy but the means by which they are expressed cannot be copied. So if the facts (say name and date and place of birth, etc.) are incorporated in a new work that has its own unique means of expression (format, context, exposition, etc.), no copyright violation occurs.

    Of course, ethics requires the source of each fact to be attributed.

  18. Donn Devine says:

    Steve’s two sets of recommendations–for protectng the integrity of a compiled genealogy, and for avoiding disenfranchisement of family members–are essentially the steps I have used over the past quarter-century, so far with no reprecusions.

    I first became aware of potential problems in my first attempt to prepare a four-generation-and-children compilation for distribution within the family. I received a family group sheet from the second wife of a distant cousin, which showed the first child of their marriage born a month before the divorce decree from the first marriage.

    I contacted my cooperative infomant, and somewhat hesitantly pointed out my concern. I then asked if she wanted me to omit the dates, or use only the years, in the copies going to other family members. She replied immediately, “Why would I? That’s the way it happened.”

    More recently, I’ve used only the year of birth, omitting the date, for all living people because the mother’s maiden name usually occurs close by, but the principle involved hasn’t changed. Asking first, and making sure the individuals concerned are comfortable with a proposed disclosure, is the key to distributing information within the family that could infringe on the privacy of living persons.

  19. Joanne Harvey says:

    We are not responsible for the acts considered wrong by the persons of the past. AND, we can not take credit for the acts considered praise-worthy of the persons of the past. A fact is a fact, and we create our own facts today.

  20. Michelle Proulx says:

    Many thanks to Steve and the others for a discussion very timely for me, and to Dick Eastman for pointing me to it. Almost 30 years into working on my family’s genealogy, I am still very uncomfortable sitting on the fence between extremes of how much to publish and how widely.

    As an amateur in this field, the ease of using one of the newer vanity houses to publish is very tempting. I am frustrated with terrific software, which only offers the choice of totally excluding the living. I would like to include, say, the first living generation of each branch with first names only, or some such compromise, for a first book to be published widely. Then, say, more on the living in subsequent reports for those persons only.

    In any case, I very much appreciate all the thoughtful input offered here.

  21. Ingrid says:

    I have wondered about citing people who are still living. I have information that has been very kindly been given by people who are alive. How do I cite their contribution if I can’t use living people? Do I say “thanks to Susie Smith of Boom, Arkansas for the 12 generation family history”, or ‘thanks to a living cousin for all the hard work”? I really do want to do it right because that kind of help has been so greatly appreciated.

  22. Robert Larson says:

    I agree with Danko also. I’m working on my family history book, which will have about 85 biographies on five generations dating back to 1800, which includes about 25 living relatives. The last two generations are left out to protect their privacy. The book is really for these last two generations and future ones to learn about their ancestors.

    The book inlcudes many stories on the living relaltives and their ancestors, that I consider copyrighted material. There’s also some interesting stories that ancestors may not want revealed, but make great reading. After all, who wants to read a boring book about genealogy facts. Most pros say use these stories, but be discreet on living relatives. I agree!

    All living relatives have agreed to sign an agreement to authorize their biographies and have viewed and approved what I wrote. I’ve listed a bibliography at the end of the book for the sources. The actual sources are included in the genealogy file. I gave permission to use any ancestor’s biography for educational use, ie, school genealogy projects, but requires the author’s and living relative’s permission for any living biography. But as everyone knows, some items are not copyrighted as mentioned in the article.

    All living relatives have agreed with me not to publicly send any copy to any library or other public facility after their death until year 2030. This also protects their privacy until that time. I suspect most of the living relatives will be gone by that time. Additionally, all copies are numerically coded for inventory and tracking purposes. In 2030, I or my executor will send one copy each to the FHL in Salt Lake City, UT and Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, IN.

    Additional Tip: What’s nice is the Family Tree Maker program that I use has one of the best internal publishing programs to do all what I wanted including the file to send to the publisher in PDF format. Most of the other popular genealogy programs can do this also, but it beats using a separate professional publishing program, which I also use for other purposes, but FTM takes less work than a publishing program to produce a quality family history book. FTM and others include a basic picture enhancing software program as well, but not as good as separate photo enhancing software.

    You’re probably wondering how long this book took to produce. Just five years with lots of time visiting and interviewing relatives. The 190 page book with over 400 pictures will be ready for publishing by October. And I’ll be glad when it’s finally done!

  23. Hi,
    I think it important to note that this issue is just one aspect of what promises to be the great ideological debate of this century generated by the information revolution: should people have free access to information.
    Think of: Firewalls in China; pornography on the web; censorship; open source; wikipedia; the requirement that royalties be paid for Happy Birthday or Mickey Mouse; the list goes on. Was Merv Griffin entitled to become rich because he owned the copyright on the Jeopardy theme?
    We need to develop new laws which adequately compensate those who publish yet support the (adult) public’s right to know. The old system of private ownership of information is being abused by the media conglomerates.
    As for the courtesy of acknowledging other’s efforts, I believe this is extremely important, but I’m a senior citizen, and I note regretfully that the younger generation seems to be more concerned with “I” and less with “you.” It’s a faster, less considerate world than the one in which I was born. In other words, this is a matter of social values — how do we successfully pass them on. When — around the world — life is held so cheap, it seems an insurmountable task to raise human’s care and concern for other humans. It’s called civilization, and we need it world-wide.
    So — it’s important to keep these issues (about copyrighting genealogical information) in perspective. I think genealogists as a group have more to gain from fighting against government efforts to close or destroy archives than to worry about personal insults from those who fail to acknowledge our work.

  24. Great article – I’ve always had questions about copyright and family history research.

    Along the line of family secrets, I’ve recently been working on making sure that The Hidden including LGBT family members can come out from the hiding places past researchers created for them. My area of interest, beyond research and factual integrity and dealing with secrets or uncomfortable situations, is how to document and track same-sex relationships, surrogate mothers, gender reassignment etc.

    Thomas MacEntee

  25. Martime says:

    Thank you for this! I have had three confidantes, from a professional historian to a newfound relative blithely take my hard won information and story compilation and passed it off as their own. The got all huffy when I asked them why they did that, knowing how hard I had worked to dig this up and all I wanted was recognition. Three people I am no longer in contact with; the pro has my work attributed to himself, but thanked me for sharing “family lore”.

    As to the person who wonder if I would cavil about being included in Who s Who, I can guarantee I have no aspiration to be in it. My pioneers were simple unpretentious people who behaved honourably and valued hard work, as I try to do. And I will share this yardstick, with full attribution, with people who ask about my progress from now on.


  26. Marlene Rochon says:

    Thank you for this wonderfully well written and informative article.

    I edit a genealogy newsletter, The Pinery Pedigree, for our local club. I, too, am asking permission from Steve to reprint his article with proper credits.

  27. Sherrilyn Phillips says:

    Thanks for this Steve…I must have missed it back in August. Very interesting how different ones have addressed and dealt with this issue……definitely not a black and white one.

  28. Yvonne Romero says:

    Are we doomed to make the same mistakes writing history the way we want it to be known or is our goal to document what factually is or was?

    I guess I don’t understand the “candycoating” and “smoothing over” of such facts as illegitimate children, etc. If we change the dates of marriages and such, we are lying not to mention, changing history. These are what our families endured, and no family, no matter what they say, is without some sort of problems. We are all human.

    Keeping secrets, is exactly why, my husband doesn’t know who his great-grandfather is. Now how does that protect the family?

  29. Beverly Whitaker says:

    Our Northland Genealogy Society (Kansas City, Missouri) focused this past year on the subject of compiled family history. Your article would be of great interest to our members as a reprinted article in our newsletter, The River’s Bend. May we have permission to reprint the article in our March issue?

  30. K. English says:

    Thanks for this article, Steve–comprehensive, sensitive, and well-done. I, too, shared information with a new-found cousin and days later discovered that same info. posted on a genealogy website–which I now have to pay to read. Of course, the research was not attributed to me–and the new-found cousin said, “Well what ELSE would you do with all of that? Don’t you WANT to share it?” Of course I do! But in my own way! I was hoarding the info. for a printed history, which was completed a year ago and since sold/distributed to family members. My dismay was not over the fact the details were posted online, but that there was no attribution whatsoever.

    Regarding family secrets, (Rosanne Vrugtman’s comments) it is absolutely true that secrets that aren’t shared will continue to haunt and stump family members for generations to come. Those who are living, and are affected by the “outing” of such secrets, may certainly feel shame–but please, if there is someone out there who knows the truth and is willing to share it for the sake of correcting misconceptions and not to be gleeful over the misfortune, perceived or otherwise, of others–please tell the rest of us. That way, we won’t continue to search for marriage or divorce records that don’t exist, dead-ends with name changes, and a paper trail that begins and ends with one person and just a small select handful of documents.

    Surely some sensitivity is involved when it comes to sharing family secrets–

    Overall, the problem of proper attribution of sources would be solved if we could all harken (is that even a word??) to our freshman English courses: CITE YOUR SOURCES. How hard can it be?

  31. JOE BOB says:

    Family anger is the worst offense– I cannot for the life of me figure out why others who say they wish to share get so upset when you share what they shared.

  32. Donald McEdward says:

    I agree with Joe Bob. I have gathered material on my ancestors for over 70 years and I will share it with anyone and if they want to share it with anyone it makes me very happy. I’m nearly 90 years old and am so thankful that I lived long enough to get into the computer age that has made it so easy to record and save the information that I have gathered. Some of the comments remind me of one of my favorite sayings,” If you are looking for problems you will certainly find them.” I don’t look for problems I look for opportunities and usually have found them. Have a happy new year.

  33. sue maxwell says:

    I will bring up an entirely different viewpoint. I suspect that many of you have read of near death experiences, which, in a non- spiritually oriented world, might prove that people still exist after death. For me, I don’t need these stories to believe that- I believe it. Therefore, when I discovered a discretion, or skeleton, in the closet of a person that was very important to me, it took me awhile to adjust to the idea. I talked about it at first. But then, I felt that I couldn’t make a judgement about a situation, as I didn’t know all of the situations and all about the lives and feelings of the people involved. If I believe they still exist in spirit form, in a spirit world, and even before their death, my have regretted and repented of what they did, and have been forgiven, then WHY should I make their private lives so very public. If when God forgives, He forgets, He wipes out that act. Should I, then, make it public, as it is no longer on the Agenda. I still puzzle about this, as to whether or not to talk about skeletons. Today, the news media likes to bring out every skeleton in every public person’s closets. I detest this- it started with Watergate. What if that person has become a changed man. Do we need to drag out his dirty laundry? I think this is a tough question, and when I publish a book for the public, which I am doing, I will not make these skeletons a part of the story. I will keep them in my personal family history information, as a moral lesson for those to follow. Skeletons are a great way to discuss moral subject, and the consequences of right and wrong- and there always are consequences. Sue

  34. Ton Vrugtman says:

    My name is Ton Vrugtman, I live in Holland.

    I am completing a family tree which starts in 1694, at this moment already comprises of 150 family members.

    I am looking for ROSANNE VRUGTMAN whose details are not as yet on the tree.

    Please send this message to ROSANNE and I hope that she will contact me.


    Ton Vrugtman

  35. Ton,

    I have forwarded your message.


  36. Julie Coley says:

    I am hoping for feedback on a different circumstance. I am writing a book about murders in North Texas 1892-1925. All of the stories that I am writing about originally came from a local newspaper, with complete details on the murder and subsequent trials. At the end of each story I am including a mini genealogy including the names of parents, spouses, siblings and children. Since the murders occurred in or prior to 1925, the children of the subjects are deceased, as I have proven with Social Security Death Records. I am simply trying to document a little bit of our local history.
    My question is, by mentioning the names of the children of the subjects of my story, am I treading on toes that I shouldn’t be? All of my information is found on through census, birth and death records. Am I going too far with my information? Or am I simply informing future generations of some of the hidden secrets in the family’s genealogy?
    Everything was going well with my book and my research until today, when I e mailed a person and asked their permission to use them as a source for some of the information that I found on their family tree on There was no mention of the murder in their database. This person asked me not to mention names of family members in my story. However, I found the names of the children in the 1930 census and all of the children are now deceased.
    So do I respect this person’s wishes, or publish what is already available in the public domain? I would like feedback about my dilemma.

  37. PJ says:

    Court cases in Australia ca 2003 found that copying the phone books to a computerised data base infringed the copyright and Telstra (the telco) was able to close several such companies who were carrying out that business. To the great irritation of all the customers I might add.

Comments are closed.