Genealogy & Greed Don’t Mix
The genesis of this post goes way back to my early days in genealogy. Back in the days of Everton’s Genealogical Helper, a publication full of personal ads for genealogists looking to contact others with the hopes of making a genealogical connection and sharing information. Back then information exchange took time. We mailed off letters with a SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) and waited for a reply. Sometimes handwritten and sometimes typewritten letters or large envelopes arrived weeks or months later. A trip to the mail box was fun—never knowing what the mailman would bring. There was a polite and congenial exchange of information. Often a check was sent to cover the cost of copies and postage.
Back when I was a teenager just starting out, so many people helped me so very much. It’s a debt that I continue to pay forward. Most of those who helped me back in the 1970’s are long gone, but I hope that they would be proud of what their sharing enabled me to do. So many brick walls have been scaled and mysteries have been solved that I am sure, were they still alive, they would be delighted. And at the end of the day isn’t that what genealogy is about? Sharing and caring for our common ancestors in an attempt to share their stories for future generations.
Sadly in the last few years I have noted more and more greed slipping into my beloved hobby. Sometimes it’s masked as “protecting” one’s privacy or my tree is a mess so it can’t be “shared.” But it isn’t just individuals hoarding ancestors, photographs and family trees. It is also seen in organizations which try to maintain some exclusive hold on what they have acquired and keep it from all but their paying members. Personally this is counterproductive and unbecoming. Like the old adage you attract more bees with honey than vinegar.
Collaboration is not a new idea in genealogy—it is the foundation upon which all genealogy is built. We all have pieces to the puzzle. We work in isolation to the detriment of all. We share and more comes our way than we could ever imagine. If individuals and organizations operate under the banner of GREED, opportunities for the joy of giving and receiving vanish. What is better than sharing with another a photograph you own of a second great grand-mother someone else has never seen? Rather then view it as “stealing” when someone adds a photo you posted, to their tree—consider it sharing the joy for future generations. So what if all your hard work is “adopted” by someone just starting out. I did that when others got me started. Without their help where would I be today?
Here is my urgent plea. Please do not be a greedy genealogist. We share ancestors, we are family. Let us embark on our journeys of discovery together in the spirit of fun, camaraderie and collaboration.