PeopleLegacy, A New Genealogy Website, Causes Controversy

PeopleLegacy, A New Genealogy Website, Causes Controversy

Genealogists claim records database PeopleLegacy copied vast amounts of data from Find A Grave. Here's what we know so far.

A new website is raising eyebrows around the genealogy community. Some have accused PeopleLegacy of appropriating wholesale data from Find A Grave, another free genealogy website. The new site hosts 130 million digitized genealogy records, which it claims come from public sources.

Genealogists and bloggers such as Dick Eastman, Randy Seaver and Thomas MacEntee all reported seeing images and vital information originally uploaded to Find A Grave on PeopleLegacy profiles. PeopleLegacy even added its own branded watermark to the images.

We at Family Tree Magazine found similar cases, such as this image of John Nathan Garrett and his wife, Martha. All three images that appeared on Garrett’s Find A Grave memorial were also featured on his PeopleLegacy profile.

PeopleLegacy appears to have copied images directly from Find A Grave. This comparison shows how similarly the two profiles look.
User Daryl Harvey Johnson uploaded the left image of Martha and John Nathan Garrett to Find A Grave in 2009. The right image (with a watermark and but no attribution) appeared on PeopleLegacy’s profile for John Nathan Garrett.

Many users on Twitter and in blog comment sections consider this a copyright violation. Judy Russell, a non-practicing attorney and the webmaster behind The Legal Genealogist, said in a blog’s post script that PeopleLegacy appears to have violated the copyright of Find A Grave as well as its users. Others feel PeopleLegacy has violated their privacy, pointing to the site’s watermarks on photos of their loved ones.

Indeed, Find A Grave’s Terms of Service explicitly prohibit “the download of the whole or material parts of any work or database from the Websites,” as well as any attempt to make derivative works related to the database. Like many other websites made up of user-submitted content, Find A Grave doesn’t outright claim to own users’ photos and data. Rather, the site has a “perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, sublicensable, royalty-free, world-wide license to host, store, copy, publish, distribute, provide access to and otherwise use” user-contributed material. According to the Terms of Service page, users can contact info@findagrave.com with complaints about copyright infringement.

Find A Grave’s parent company, Ancestry.com, has not yet released an official statement. But the company did say in a Twitter reply that it takes the matter seriously and will seek the “necessary action regarding the website.”

According to a September 7 press release, PeopleLegacy has “one of the largest collections with free and open-access on the Web…[including] every available public and national cemetery record, plus dozens of non-traditional historical sources.” The release also indicates the site wants to expand its features to include online family trees and an internal communications platform.

Update, Oct. 3, 2018: PeopleLegacy appears to have removed the offending images from its site. The John Nathan Garrett photo investigated above no longer appears on the site. (In fact, navigating to Garrett’s profile results in a 410 site error.) And as Judy Russell reported, PeopleLegacy profiles now feature a request form for removing memorial data from the site. Users will need to provide a name and e-mail address to submit a request.

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  1. fibrofog22@dslextreme.com

    They took photos of my family that I had posted on Find A Grave. I ‘watermark’ photos that I have taken with my name in the right hand corner as a way to keep track of my personal photos. They took a picture of my dad (as well as others) with my ‘watermark’ clearly showing in the corner and they smacked THEIR watermark all over it. While we expect that people might want to copy photos to add to their tree, this blatant act of ‘borrowing’ photos and claiming it as their material is a bit much.

  2. I will not upload or make corrections to Find A Grave until legal action is taken to prevent this theft of material without attribution. I found all the photos of the Manewal family of Mahoning County, Ohio that I uploaded to Find A Grave on their site – with no attribution whatsoever. Their watermark does not shield them from the theft.
    Further, it appears they have copied entire cemeteries – along with the family links found on Find A Grave . Had I known that a company would do this I would never have posted anything – sharing is one thing but theft is quite another.

  3. I just read your article about the new website, “PeopleLegacy.” After “spot-checking” several of my memorials, I totally agree with you that they have stolen my “Find-a-Grave” DATA AND PHOTOS and are using it on their website. They need to be shut down immediately!!!! Please let me know if I can do anything to help.

  4. At least 2 of the family headstone pictures I photographed myself and uploaded to FindAGrave.com along with familial connections I created are appearing on the PeopleLegacy website with their watermark and without my permission. I downloaded the watermarked photo to compare whether the original one in my file is the same and it is. That leads me to believe that I will find others I uploaded on their website as well. I am choosing not to identify myself fully nor publish the specific family name in this public format but wanted to document my knowledge of the situation on this date. I will notify others in the genealogy community and be willing to participate in responding to this unlawful piracy as needed. I am planning to visit this cemetery in the next few weeks and will inform them also. Since FindAGrave is owned by Ancestry, I am encouraging Ancestry to review possible options and take the necessary legal steps to address this copyright infringement.