I realize this may put me in the minority, but I don’t participate in any of collaborative “world trees.” Not one. And that is perfectly fine. It does not make me a bad genealogist. It does not make me antisocial and it does not make me a Luddite. It just means that I’m concerned about the accuracy of any research to which my name is attached.
While I believe in collaboration, I simply do not want to “merge” my data into the data of anyone else. And while it’s fun to contact distant relatives who are researching the same relatives as I am (beyond a point it can be overwhelming) and while it’s beneficial for us to discuss what we have found and what our conclusions are, I have no interest in merging my research into the research of thousands of others into one large “tree database.” No interest whatsoever.
This is not an opposition to sharing. This is not an opposition to discussing conclusions. And it does not make me one of the “genealogy elite.” It does not mean that I do not want to collaborate or that I can’t play well with others. This is simply a reluctance on my part to have to discuss my conclusions with every single person who may have a passing interest in one of the ancestral families that I am researching. I do not want to have to constantly change what someone else has “corrected” on my tree. I want to spend my time doing research and analysis, not playing some online game of Wikipedia Genealogy where I’m constantly responding to changes and revisions as quickly as I can.
I’d rather have somewhat serious research discussions with someone actively researching the family instead of someone who has recently discovered that my ancestor’s second wife’s first cousin’s step-mother’s third cousin’s great-granddaughter was their great-grandmother’s housekeeper for two days and is now “actively” researching my ancestor as a result. I’d rather do actual research, analysis and writing. I’ll leave the Wikipedia Genealogy game to someone else.
Just because I’ve researched a family for thirty years does not mean that I am correct about every conclusion regarding that family. I know that. I wasn’t born yesterday. I make mistakes. Genealogists know that there are times when conclusions need to be reevaluated in light of new information or recently discovered sources. And I’m always happy to discuss and share newly discovered information, no matter how remotely connected to me the discoverer is. But I don’t want someone going into a “world tree” where I’ve submitted data and changing something because they’ve researched this family for five minutes and have suddenly become an expert. I’ve researched some families for over two decades and often am reminded that I’m not really an expert on them at all.
That said, I’ve had good email exchanges with researchers who were not directly related to me–including one whose relative married my ancestor’s second wife after my ancestor died. We aren’t “blood” relatives but have a lot of mutual interests and can discuss things and share what we discover. It’s been a good exchange.
I have a great-great-grandfather and his brother who married first cousins, first cousins who shared a first and a last name (intentionally I suppose just to make it extra confusing). I’ve had them sorted out for years. It’s not actually that confusing when one takes the time to research the wives. If there was any real confusion, military pension records and vital records pretty much lay the relationships out–very clearly. And yet, in some trees the wives have been interchanged. I don’t want someone “changing” them in my tree only for me to have to change them back. That’s a waste of my time–I’ve already gotten them figured out. And if a researcher thinks I’m wrong, what’s so bad about communicating with me directly and asking me how I reached my conclusion? Or, heaven forbid, reading sources that I’ve attached?
I’ve been told the cream rises to the top…that’s the metaphor we should use for these “trees.” I’m not convinced.
I’ll continue to research, discuss, and share, but on my own terms.
They aren’t “my” ancestors, I understand that. But it is “my” research.