Genealogical research always presents dilemmas. These dilemmas almost always have significant impact and represent important family history decisions. I will try to provide some examples.
First every family historian or genealogist needs to decide their role and its potential impact:
- Are you simply trying to gather bunches of names and places -or- are you doing your best to identify the path of your family through history?
- Do you expect that others might wish to leverage off of your work -or- are you planning on keeping everything closely held and secret?
- Is this a serious effort -or- are you involved in a ‘flight of fancy’.
Obviously I can’t answer these questions for you but hopefully you are able to answer them for yourself. It is important to have answers to questions like these because the responses will inform you of the best approach to and handling of your genealogy.
If genealogy is a ‘light weight’ casual activity for you, you should make every effort to keep your information private and away for accidental public use. Remember there are many out in the world who believe accurate and serious information is essential to identifying their roots and history. If you do not the chances are your information is also casually gathered analyzed and managed. What that means is that the data is potentially fraught with errors.
As a user of public systems like OneWorldTree, Rootsweb, Familysearch, Ancestry.com you need to be aware of the huge number of casual genealogists… and corrupt data. I think I may have mentioned examples of these problems in other posts but perhaps they bear restating:
- I have encountered family trees that show Quebec peasants in the mid-1700′s being born in Quebec, dying in Quebec and being married at 18 in China; should you trust or even consider using information like that?
- Yesterday I found a family tree labeled with the names of one of my forebears that indicated he was born in Maine in 1640? If you remember your your American History, there was no Maine in 1640. Massachusetts was established by the pilgrims in 1620 and Maine was part of the original Massachusetts. Again, shoddy work by someone.
So what does this all mean? Well it means I have encountered at least two people who should never have shared their information… plus it means I should never entertain using their information. In all likelihood almost everything with the fingerprints of these folks is corrupted.
So if you are casual and just want to play around… by all means do so. However, please have the courtesy to NOT share your data and efforts.