How Long Will that New Sharing Site Be Around?

It seems like every day there’s a new website where one can share memories and history online with other relatives. There’s no doubt that interacting online can be a fun experience and a way to potentially involve additional relatives in your family history discovery. I am aware of trying to involve others in family history.But it can be difficult. Many people don’t really get interested in their family’s history until some “life event” motivates them. I can’t generate those “life events” for others.

I can encourage those who express an interest. I can try and organize what I find in  way that is engaging and relatable instead of being just a list of couplings and reproductions.

Sharing in the present is fine. But at a certain point in time the researcher may give cause to think about preserving the information past their own lifetime. The free sites where you can “share” eventually need to earn  money in order to keep hosting your information. They can’t maintain their web presence without generating some revenue. Will their business model sustain them for more than five years? For more than ten years? Will their dotcom even be a dotcom in twenty years? What happened to the family group sheets I submitted to Everton Publishers decades ago?

For a genealogist twenty years a mere drop in the bucket. Drip. Drop.

I’ve been around the genealogical block a time or two since I began my family history research. I’ve seen more than my share of genealogical database programs and have re-entered information on some relatives more times than I care to admit. In fact, that’s the real reason why I have some of my ancestral information memorized.

When upgrading to a new program or installing a software upgrade, data conversions do not always go as planned and data may need to be manually reviewed for accuracy. Since I began my genealogical research in the early 1980s, there’s always been some “new” program, gadget, or website, that one simply cannot function without. And often there is someone selling it. Software manufacturers have to make money to survive. Websites need to generate revenue to continue remaining an online presence. I understand and am well aware of how the economy works.

But I am also aware that my investment in these software packages and websites is not just financial. There’s also an even more precious resource involved: my time.

And my time is finite.

I have to invest time in that software package or data sharing website to get use from it. And it’s frustrating when a website goes belly up and the “corporate assets” (of which my information is a part) end up in some dustbin somewhere. It is frustrating when a software program is no longer maintained or sold by the publisher.

I’ve started to take a lower-tech approach. I believe in blogging and sharing some of my research in that fashion. I can easily create blog posts in a word processor and easily copy them into a blog post. The blog posts often contain my research conclusions (sometimes in process) and photographs. As we’ve discussed earlier, personal preservation efforts should concentrate on items that are unique-and conclusions and personal family ephemera such as photographs are high on that list.

I need to decide what to do with the material I have compiled in my word processor. I don’t believe that blogging is permanent storage format. It’s a great way to share information and reach out to potential relatives. But I need to do something else those word processing documents. I need to find a way to maintain those in a relatively permanent format.

The “sharing sites” (other than the Family History Library’s) eventually have a bottom line financially that they have to meet. There’s always the chance that the publisher or website won’t be around in ten years. I’m not saying not to use these sites (although I long ago got off the bandwagon of joining them), but do realize that they are not as permanent as you think

I realize that my information is “hostage” to the word processor. And where to go from there we will take up in future posts.







6 thoughts on “How Long Will that New Sharing Site Be Around?

  1. Dolly Ziegler says:

    Michael, your post “How long will that new sharing site be around?” is so true and I’ve not seen it said before. I hope other researchers will heed your wise words. I think everyone who owns a computer should keep their own genealogy information in a software program on their own computer (excellent software is available for about $40, or a limited program for free.) I am not LDS, but I believe the LDS Church will keep FamilySearch available long into the future. If I were a betting woman, I’d also count on Ancestry and good ol’ Dee in Maryland. Michael, if you feel any part of this comment is inappropriate, you have my permission to edit it.

    • Dolly–I left it just as it was. Thanks for posting.
      It just seems like there’s always a new site for this purpose. I’m not opposed to change, but many of these sites really don’t add all that much to the research process.

  2. Hi, I just wanted to add that this subject has been of great concern for me… especially thinking of my own demise and wanting to preserve as much of my family history as possible. I’ve started contacting various repositories, like historical societies, libraries and such and asking if and how they will accept personal family histories. Most of more than willing and will accept anything from a paper doc to a CD. I’ve created both and have donated them to their archives… and, I agree with Dolly, I’m not LDS but if I were a betting person I’d put my money on them being around and continuing to make their information available till the end of time. The only down side is anyone can change/work on your tree on the familysearch site… great article and much needed info!! Hope I didn’t steal any future thunder?

    • Good ideas. One can always print out what you’ve compiled have it bound and submit it to LDS or any other library.

  3. And one never knows what terms the new owner will have. Today’s terms will most certainly not be tomorrow’s terms. I have decided to leave my tree on every site I can put it on BUT I am printing out my family stories and the information I have compiled. No one is going to stop and check a cd or thumb drive before they throw it in the dumpster. They might look at a piece of paper. They might even set that box of paper aside for the time being and even possibly look through it later. No one will need a newer updated system to be able to read a typed page. Handwriting? That’s a different story. I suppose I should be transcribing everything that’s handwritten.

    • Good thoughts, Toni. I’m a little hesitant to “re-enter” information into new sites, but people may be more inclined to look at a piece of paper than they are a flash drive.

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