Ancestry Public Trees and ‘Cousin-baiting’

I have to admit, I am more than a little ambivalent about public trees.

*Puts on Curmudgeon Hat*  They are, I am afraid, possibly the most significant source of the proliferation of lazy research in the genealogy world not to mention all the circular reasoning and just plain wrongness that is spread by the mindless copying that occurs. *Takes off Curmudgeon Hat*

That said, I have found relatives by following those shaky leaves to other people’s public trees. This has made me feel a little guilty about not having a public tree of my own. You see to date, the trees I have kept on Ancestry are ones that I call ‘Kitchen Sinks,’ those working trees where I put all the people that may or may not be related or I’ve ever come across in my research to see what shakes loose. I do this to make use of the automated searching capabilities programmed into the website. It is not what I would consider as good genealogy. It is a research tool only.

My ‘proper’ tree, that is, the one that is carefully researched, reasoned and fully sourced is kept on my computer. I will happily share printouts from this tree with lists of sources and discussion/reasoning but, no I will not give you my GEDCOM unless I know you well enough to know that you share my research ethic. I trained as a historian, I have taught history at a university level. I am not going to be responsible for anyone’s lazy research.

But by not having a public tree I am not properly ‘cousin-baiting.’ It’s a bit of a dilemma. As a compromise, I have for the moment, uploaded a pedigree file. Just my direct ancestors, no extra relatives, no linked sources, just names and dates.

Is this unfair? Am I taking advantage of people who do post their full trees publicly?  Am I being an ungenerous research snob, as someone suggested?

  1. I think you articulated this much better than I did Michelle!

    I am more than happy to share research, but I always want to do it in a way that means people have to 'think', as such I prefer to give copies of family group sheets and my research notes.

    Ok, so 'think' probably isn't the best word but what I mean is that I believe that taking the time to add each piece of information individually into your own research instead of copying it over means that you are forced to assess everything and have time to ask yourself "is this logical? Does this equate with what I know? Why/Why not? Is there a better explanation?" etc

    Lazy probably wasn't the right word either, it is more that as I mentioned above, I want people to analyse each piece of information rather than taking the research of others as gospel.

    On Ancestry, if someone has provided a document/image/story/information/whatever that I find useful or interesting and want to use in my own research I ALWAYS send them a message asking permission and offering to share any information that I may have that is of interest to them.

    Admittedly, and you have made me feel deservedly guilty for this Michelle, I do have a habit of copying people over into my private 'kitchen sink' for later perusal and verification.

    I keep the 'Kitchen Sink' private because it really is just a bunch of names, dates and unverified information, a lot of the people aren't even 'linked' neighbours, friends, random people mentioned by relatives. Cabin Passengers who arrived on a certain ship to see if any info can be turned up relating to someone who was in steerage. For anyone who doesn't know how my brain works or know what research questions I am working on this 'tree' would be ridiculously confusing and unhelpful. Thank you for the reminder to be a little more courteous in regards to this, but I do ALWAYS respond when people message me!

  2. All valid points, as I said, my main problem isn't with private trees as such (there are valid reasons for keeping trees private), it's the people who have them and never respond when you try to contact them (after they've copied masses of your stuff!)

    And I think your response illustrates my point, we all work differently and we have to accept that and just do the best job we can do ourselves!

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