What's on my mind! I've been accused of being too opinionated...I'll let ya'll decide. In the meantime. Let me know what you're thinking and I'll be happy to post your thoughts here. Do you have a pet peeve...have you found a fantastic web site? Pretty much anything is fair game, so share your thoughts with me and other Waite genealogists.

Genealogist's Nightmare

by Duane Mills

Living in Norway, research is complicated. I have no real library access. I am limited to research on the Internet or have to buy transcriptions etc. Out of necessity, I subscribe to Ancestry.com and have made the most of what I can locate in their databases.

It has long bothered me that there is so much undocumented information posted on their Ancestry World Tree. This is hard to ignore when you search for a name and get one person with several sets of parents and different spouses.

In researching my maternal line, I have often posted queries on different surname sites stating what I knew to be true and asking for documentation about unsourced information that seemed even remotely promising.

I recently logged onto Ancestry.com and preformed a simple search for Penelope Shelton; a great-great-grandmother. I got 24 hits for her on Ancestry World Tree. 12 of these concerned a Penelope Shelton unknown to me and did not seem to contain any pertinent information on my line.

Of the 12 remaining World Tree postings, 3 had Penelope marrying a Jacob Beeler. 4 sites had the correct husband, Robert, but one had Robert's uncle listed as his father. 2 sites stated that Penelope's father, Ralph Shelton was the son of Azeriah. This was not unexpected as it is widely quoted but never documented all over the Internet, but is now known to be incorrect.

Two of the sites had taken a lot of my own posted material where I gave background and asked questions and listed all 15 of Penelope's children, even the 5 who died young and only I seem to know about and can document. Several sites referred to Mark Asbell as a source, but all his information on Robert and Penelope Beeler and all 15 of their children came from me when I was just starting my research. Mark is a Beeler researcher and a good one. In contacting him, he said he clearly tells people he got his information on Penelope, her husband and children from me, but it is nowhere shown on his website or surname index.

Before she died, my mother wrote a personal note to me explaining the family story of our Cherokee roots. As a beginner, I probably did post parts of this note asking questions but got no help. Amazingly, one site regarding Penelope had parts of this note with passages taken out of context and the facts mixed up. The site attributed this note, written in 1985, not to my mother, but to Penelope b. about 1845 and her mother Anna Taylor b. about 1809. They did not, and could not, explain how this could be accurate.

As this was a very personal note to me, it either is or at least should be, copyright protected. I have the original and have never given a copy to anyone, but I freely share my research information and may have posted some parts of it on Shelton mailing lists. However, to see it plagiarized and rearranged is just indefensible.

Everywhere I look on these commercial sites, I see bits and pieces I have posted but often twisted or taken out of context to make a point for the poster. As far as I can see, about half the information on these sites is directly wrong and the other half is suspect. This means that the bad is slowly driving out the good and the sites will be more and more worthless as time goes by. Why should there be 24 sites for Penelope Shelton with different facts that can't possibly all be true? Ancestry.com is not a serious database. It is gossip dressed up as fact.

Serious researchers go elsewhere eventually and the site will be only subscribed to by newbies and wannabes who will think all the trash is true until they mature as researchers. This is commercial suicide for these sites and I do not understand why they do not set some standards to give more credibility to their information so it will be actually worth paying for.

Many people seem to delight in vacuuming up information about which they know nothing and posting it as their own, even aggressively defending their right to post whatever they find regardless of the fact that they have no documentation or knowledge of the family in question. In the future, I intend to be more careful about what information I share. I say this with sadness, but now understand why countless others have told me the same. I still intend to post, but will try to guard the sources more carefully and only share with those I think I can trust.

Sad day. Duane Mills, Stavanger, Norway

To "Gedcom" or Not to "Gedcom"

by Sue Waite-Langley

GEDCOM is an acronym that stands for Genealogical Data Communications - in essence it is a text file that can be read by family history and utility programs. What a glorious concept for genealogists using a variety of programs to track their lineages. Suddenly family genealogists were able to "share" their lines with other family researchers and at the same time to assure that data was entered correctly.

But, enter the Internet...mix in the overwhelming desire to make a fast buck...and add inexperienced genealogists "looking for their links" and suddenly gedcoms are no longer an instrument to share...but to make a profit. Large websites are now using gedcom files as currency. You submit a gedcom file, yours...or anyone else's you happen to have received...and receive in return hours and sometimes months of free access to websites. No effort is made to assure the accuracy of the files posted...or to determine if the submitter has the right to upload the file. Not only is this unethical...but it is tantamount to theft.

I have been horrified to find information clearly from my database popping up all over the Internet. Data shared, not as fact, but in an effort to help a fellow researcher find their family...is suddenly merged into databases and lines are gleefully labeled as found. Instead of helping further the pursuit of accurate family histories...gedcoms have had exactly the opposite effect. To further exacerbate the problem...since MY file was submitted by another person...I cannot ever get the offending material deleted from the website.

One of the chief offenders is MyTrees.com. This Kindred Konnections site is currently offering "free" access in exchange for uploading gedcom files. This access ranges from a month of free service for uploading a 60-individual file to four months for uploading a 30,000-individual file. If your file is larger than 30,000 individuals you are instructed to contact them for a quote. Let's translate that into dollars. Access to their site costs $15.00 per month. At the 30,000 individual level they are in essence buying a gedcom file for $60.00. A powerful incentive to hunt around and find available gedcom files to download from free sites on-line.

My advice, don't send a gedcom to anyone. Share instead narratives or family group sheets in text format. It takes a little longer for the recipient to use the information but legitimate recipients will do this gratefully. Inexperienced users will have to analyze your data and perhaps realize that your line may not really intersect with theirs; unscrupulous recipients will simply discard it. 


"Bravo for putting this down in writing. I cannot believe the new breed of genealogists who think others on the Internet owe them something! ... It is a shame that so many people seem to have forgotten what courtesy is and seem to think that all research should be handed to them.  Thank you for your editorial.  I wish it could be broadcast into the home of every Internet researcher!" Bobby Dobbins Title 

The Power of a Smile

by Sue Waite-Langley

Snapshot - hair streaming in the wind...eyes dancing...grinning from ear to ear...arms waving gaily to anyone who happens to be glancing their way...and shouts of triumph and glee when someone waves back.

At first I smiled indulgently at my daughters' pre-teen antics...likening this activity to my own at that age...embarrassing my mother horribly by shouting "Supermarket Sweep" in the grocery store and then proceeding to push her cart frantically down the meat aisle all the while throwing in turkeys and steaks. I assumed they were looking for attention.

Then I had an epiphany...were they seeking attention...or giving it? People, in the midst of running children from one activity to another...rushing to pick up an onion to finish dinner...racing to get to work on time...were smiling and waving back. I realized that smiles are infectious not because we see them...but because they are directed at us. Try this experiment, the next time you're in a store...catch the eye of the person next to you. Don't just catch it though...hold it...acknowledge their presence with a smile...and see what happens. 

So...what does this all have to do with genealogy? I've noticed that along with all of the advances the Internet has brought to genealogical research it has also made us expect more out of each other. Apparently because it is easier to find information ...we expect to find more and I've had people get very ugly if the information they're looking for is not on-line in this site. I've seen people be downright hateful on mailing lists because a response they get is not the one they wanted. I'd like to see all of us who use the Internet back off just a little and be grateful for the unimaginable man-hours that are spent around the world putting information on-line for us to find. Above all else the Internet allows us to communicate. We need to stop hitting a site...scooping what we need and rushing on to the next one. We need to each of us take a moment before we leave a site...to leave a smile behind. Send a quick note...let us know what you're working on...it's an acknowledgement of our existence and you never know what we have in the room full of "stuff" not transcribed on-line yet. You'll be surprised, I think, about the smiles you get in return.

...I look into this mirror and see a thousand mirrors behind me: My mother's face, between bright curtains, watches the damp garden. My father sits under a lamp with his eyes closed."

Elmaz Abi-Nader | New Year's Morning | The Poetry of Arab Women