The Family No One Else Seems to Be Working On

I made a joke on one of my Facebook pages and on my Twitter feed:

Ever feel like you are the only person on the planet researching a family from somewhere in 1750?

Sometimes it feels that way. Other times it feels like hundreds of people are researching the same family and a proportion of them repeat errors in old genealogies that have been corrected decades ago. That’s another issue for different reasons. This post is about feeling lonely.

One respondent (Allison B) mentioned that she felt she was giving those ancestors “new life.”

That seems to be an excellent way to look at it. While it can be frustrating to research a family that no one else is seemingly interested in, it is an opportunity to make discoveries and, in some way, bring those families back to life. At the very least it is a chance to make those stories known and to connect those individuals with other family members.

Many times these “unresearched” ancestors are more difficult to research–that’s often why they are unresearched.  It may be that no one has even remotely connected the family to any with living descendants. It may be that other descendants simply are not interested in them for one reason or another.

If you are fortunate to make discoveries on these individuals and post the information in any public forum, there’s always the chance that someone else incorporates the information into their tree without any communication with you. That’s the reality. That’s the chance (or opportunity–depending upon your perspective) that you take when you post any information publicly. There’s no control over information once it has been posted and, as we’ve stated before, statements of fact cannot be copyrighted. Copying paragraphs of your analysis and putting it on as their own is a separate issue and is a violation of copyright. Whether it’s courteous to communicate beforehand when reusing facts is a separate issue, but I can guarantee that it more the exception than the rule.

When a person has researched a family for some time and has worked through research challenges with them sometimes they feel something of a connection to those ancestors. That’s understandable. It’s understandable too why it’s frustrating when someone “copies” that information and puts it forth as their own. The other option is not to post the information publicly.

My philosophy is that by spending that time researching that specific family helps me to know them better than someone who simply copies my facts and puts them out there as ones they discovered. I’ve gained something that they haven’t. Wading through the research gives me more of a connection with individuals than simply copying and pasting facts.

That’s something the copy and paster won’t get.

And time spent waging battles with the copiers and pasters takes away time from my research on those families that haven’t been worked up. Or working on those families where there are lots of mistakes and gaps.

I’d rather spend my time doing that.



2 thoughts on “The Family No One Else Seems to Be Working On

  1. I have the opposite – sort of. Someone in my family has been looking for our ancestor’s family for over 100 years. I was sure DNA would solve it. So far all it’s done is find more DNA matches who don’t know who their ancestor is either. 1795-1800 seems to be a black hole for us.

    • I have a couple of those as well. New York State about the same time period is a problem for me. And then there are a few Virginians, but they are earlier enough that autosomal DNA might not be all that helpful.

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