Genealogists benefit tremendously from collaborating with each other — and technology makes it easier than ever to share our findings. But when you post family information online, submit it to a pedigree database or send it to other researchers, it’s important to practice these five rules of file-sharing etiquette.
1. Aim for accuracy. Pay close attention to spelling, dates and relationships. Use your software’s tools to check for likely problems, such as children born just a few months apart or people who lived well past 100 years. Most important of all, document your sources and include your documentation in your GEDCOM file or on your Web site. Knowing whether your information came from primary sources or a vague family tradition will help other researchers evaluate it. If you question something, use the notes option in your genealogy file to mention your doubts.
2. Get permission. When you receive a GEDCOM file, find out if the sender places any restrictions on its use. May you post the data on your Web site, submit it to a pedigree database and share it with other researchers? Be sure you know the compiler’s wishes.
3. Acknowledge others’ work. Facts such as names, dates and places can’t be copyrighted. Nonetheless, how would you like it if you shared your research with a genealogy buddy who in turn presented your research as his own? Besides asking permission, you should give proper credit when you use other researchers’ work. GEDmark <www.progenygenealogy.com/gedmark.html> attaches the creator’s name and contact information to each record in a GEDCOM file — use it on GEDCOM files you send and receive.
4. Protect privacy. Unless you’re sharing data only with close relatives, leave out details on living people. When you create a GEDCOM file, most genealogy software lets you include a specified number of generations or exclude people assumed to be living. (See the October 2006 Family Tree Magazine‘s Cyber Solutions for pointers.) Family Tree Maker users, keep in mind that when you “privatize” your file, notes on living people will still show up.
5. Say thank you. It happens all the time: A genealogist shares years of research with someone who doesn’t even bother to acknowledge receiving the file. At least send a short e-mail message to express your gratitude. You also might offer to pay for expenses, such as postage or blank CDs.
Get more advice at these Web sites:
• Ancestry.com Message Boards: Ethics in Genealogy
• RootsWeb Mailing Lists: Ethics in Genealogy
• Standards for Sharing Information with Others