Most parents teach their children from a very young age to share. Share their toys… share their snacks… share… share… share. Even though little children have a hard time grasping why they should share they are still capable of doing it. Sometimes they even do it kicking and screaming with crocodile tears streaming down their faces. When it comes to genealogy, sharing is not only necessary but a vital part of the whole process.
Sadly there are those that feel that their ancestors and their research are their own. They have forgotten their first lesson in life regarding the importance of sharing.
Whenever I see a family tree on Ancestry.com that might have information I need and next to it is the word “private” I can’t help wonder what’s behind the privacy. Do the deceased need privacy? I think not. Prepare yourself to be shocked by the following statement… we don’t own our ancestors. We don’t own their information… we don’t own their stories… and we certainly don’t own their pictures just because they are in our possession. Sharing information and giving others the joy and excitement to see what we have discovered is really the whole point. Not everyone can be the keeper of the records, photos, or heirlooms. Not everyone likes the thrill of searching and then finding out information. And not everyone cares about their ancestors. But for those of us that do, we can get just as much satisfaction from sharing what we’ve found as we do from the hunt.
Here are my Who… What… and Why for sharing your information.
Who to share with…
Sharing your research information with family members should go without saying. But what about those distant family members you haven’t met? This goes along with what I was saying about you not owning your ancestors. If you have an online family tree then by all means share it with others. Don’t make it private so others can’t benefit from what you’ve found. Remember that everyone has to start somewhere and not everyone has been doing research for years.
What to share…
In my opinion, you should share everything you have. When we were learning to share as children, our parents didn’t teach us to share certain toys but not others. They didn’t teach us that it was okay to be stingy with the most valuable ones either. Probably the hardest things for people to share are pictures. Many people worry about copyrights for photos. I strongly disagree with people that copyright their family photos. I understand that no one wants to someday see a photo of their ancestor being used for commercial use, and there are probably ways to protect against that. But for the purpose of genealogy we shouldn’t be copyrighting photos just because they are in our possession.
Why to share…
I look at it like this… genealogy is a group effort and you will get what you give. If you are making every effort to share with others what you find then you will benefit by what others share with you. Nothing makes me happier than seeing that other people have saved my information on Ancestry.com. To me it means that what I’m doing is helping someone else.
So remember this… genealogy is a “pay it forward” program, and no one can do it alone. So lets be nice kids and share… share… share. Even if you feel like kicking and screaming at first, you’ll be glad you did.