Making Connections: Scottish Ancestry and Copyright Laws

By Family Tree Editors Premium

Copyrights and wrongs

I’m sure Roy Collins, as director of Web and creative design at Heritage Quest, was greatly concerned about free lookups (June 2002). It detracts from his profits. I have purchased CDs, after reading what was in them (supposedly), and been stung when there was no information about the lineage I was following. Do you believe they could be returned? Absolutely not!

I am not financially able to rush out and purchase 65 CDs. I use free lookups to help with my searches and sincerely appreciate everyone who has ever assisted me. If the free information I receive is of value, I purchase the CD. Sort of like a free preview.

Perhaps you should do an article in the future about who really owned this information in the first place.

Look forward to every issue of Family Tree Magazine. Great job.


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The letter written by Roy Collins of Heritage Quest in your June 2002 issue is disturbing in that he implies that US copyright law is being broken when genealogists do lookups for others. He also implies that his company has a copyright on data “painstakingly extracted and compiled” on CD-ROMs. In fact, the Supreme Court ruled in Feist Publications vs. Rural Telephone Service that such compilations of facts are “sweat of the brow” products that are not copyrightable, in and of themselves. Further, compilations and databases are protected by copyright only when they are selected and arranged in a creative and original manner. How creative can one be with a census index or page numbering? False claims to copyright such as this are needlessly frightening people out of helping others for free. I hope Mr. Collins will clarify exactly what his company is claiming copyright to.


Lakehills, Texas

Spilled milk

In “History on Tap” (June 2002), the last paragraph states, “Milwaukee is also known as the Cream City, after Wisconsin’s dairy heritage.” This is not the correct association. Why would a city be named after a state characteristic?

Another closer, but also incorrect association is the cream-colored foam on beer, which was a major product in Milwaukee through the 1930s to 1970s.

Earlier in Milwaukee’s history it was known for the manufacture of cream-colored brick used to build many of its downtown buildings — hence the source of its nickname.


Alexandria, Ind.

Frontier fledglings

I never miss buying your magazine at my favorite newsstand and feel it has made enormous contributions to the revitalization of a fabulous and fun hobby that will benefit generations to come. I also realize that you are merely doing a report on “Reality TV, Frontier Style” (June 2002) — about a short series, “Frontier House,” which should be really fun to watch.

But can you tell us why they picked people to whom they had to teach most of the skills required? Correct me if I’m wrong, but many of the everyday activities and duties they are bound to experience for our entertainment would not have been so traumatic for a family of the time because most of it would have already been standard operating procedure for most of them (and many of us — I’m sure I could still milk a cow, even though I haven’t done it for 50 years!).

Why did they pick families who had to learn everything from scratch? Most people of the period would have been doing those necessities from the time they were children. It would have just been another day’s work to them.


Kalama, Wash.

Highland lows

In the otherwise fine article on Scottish ancestors (June 2002), the caption referred to a piper in “costume.” We pipers take a dim view of our uniforms, Highland dress or regalia being called a costume. Further, the piper was not playing the bagpipes. He was playing his bagpipe.


Tulsa, Okla.

On a recent holiday in Canada, I picked up the June 2002 issue of your excellent magazine. I did enjoy the articles and must congratulate you on the “readability” of your magazine.

I am a professional researcher, living and working in Scotland, and I would like to correct the claim made in the article “Great Scot”: “It is often easier to trace your ancestors from outside Scotland than it is from within it. Scottish record repositories are scattered….” What rubbish!

First, can I point out that only a small proportion of Scottish records are available online or on CD-ROM? Secondly, Scotland is a small country, smaller than most states, and Edinburgh, the capital city, is in a central position. It can be reached on a day’s round trip from most parts of the country. New Register House holds all the statutory registers (1855 to 2001). Here, these can be viewed with the help of computerized indexes and notes taken with no obligation to purchase a certificate. Also available here are the Old Parish Records (again with computer index) and all available censuses. The same building houses the Court of the Lord Lyon and numerous miscellaneous records.

Only 30 yards away is the National Archives of Scotland, built to collect records in 1707. Here one can view all the wills, property records, church records and much, much more. The vast collection of gifts and deposits alone is worth a visit. Within a 10-minute walk is the National Library of Scotland, a copyright library, with a vast manuscript collection (only 1 percent is catalogued online). Across the street is the Scottish Library (again a valuable resource) and the Scottish Genealogical Society premises (largest collection of Memorial Inscriptions in Scotland). In the same part of Edinburgh is the University Library, the Map Library and Surgeon’s Hall. East Register House, at the other end of Princes Street, holds business and court records.

Of course, there are other records in their local areas and it always pays to visit the area one’s ancestors originated from. You will not find these records anywhere else, certainly not online, but Edinburgh has to be the mecca for Scottish research.


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Editor’s note: The book from which this article was excerpted, A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your Scottish Ancestors by Linda Jonas and Paul Milner (Betterway Books), also includes in-depth information on resources in Scotland for readers who are able to research their roots there in person.

From the October 2002 issue of Family Tree Magazine