I began adding my family tree history to Ancestry.com around 10 years ago and up until a year or so ago I had it set to “public.” What that means is that anyone could look at my family tree, and anyone searching someone in my tree could look at all the many links and branches.
It wasn’t until I discovered that several members had usurped my research, notes and stories and appropriated it as if it was their own that I decided to switch my data to private. I do not mind sharing my research with other like-minded individuals, but it appeared that those who had “stolen” my data – especially stories I had written about my grandfather – were only interested in collecting names so that they could brag about having the largest family tree on the site, which is not in the true spirit of genealogy research in my opinion.
Besides, anyone could do that. There is a wealth of data stored on Ancestry.com and anyone can go in and add names to their tree. The thing is, these dumbasses (for that is what they are) have “collected” and added other people’s research willy-nilly, and now much of the public member trees (called One World Trees on the site) are corrupted beyond belief. The dumbasses don’t seem to care that they’ve added the wrong spouse, or added the same spouse several times, or that the time span of ages between a parent and child is simply impossible A woman born in 1817 giving birth to a child whose birth date is 1890?! I don’t think so. I swear it drives me crazy and makes me incredibly angry that people could be so stupid and careless with the research.
Thing is, now that I’ve taken my research out of the public domain and switched it to private, I receive search/help requests nearly every single day via email. The way Ancestry has it set up is that if you are researching a certain person, say John Doe, when you type the name into their search engine it pulls up everyone who has John Doe in their file. Some are open to view (the One World Tree files) but many are set to private, as mine is. So what the researcher can do is send an email via Ancestry, asking for more information on the person in question. I get dozens of these every week. I do not mind assisting someone in their quest, but I resent those who ask me for stuff that is readily available on Ancestry.com (and free rootsweb sites) for anyone who cares to do some digging.
Personally I have always enjoyed rooting around the dusty archives in old courthouses, and I love traipsing around in ancient cemeteries scouring the stones for names and dates, but I realize that not everyone shares that enthusiasm (my husband, for instance). Ancestry.com has made it easier to research census records without having to visit the courthouses or spend afternoons in a library going through reels of microfilm, and the site’s ease of use has certainly helped me locate a few elusive relatives, even if that ease of use comes with a shocking annual fee. I imagine that many of the people contacting me via Ancestry’s email service are resistant to coughing up the annual fee for all the census data and are only using the free areas – and I don’t blame them, as I felt the same way for a long time. But since becoming a paid member and having access to a world of information in the comfort of my own home, I can’t imagine living without it.
What bothers me most with the requests I receive is that after several emails back and forth to pinpoint exactly what information they need on one of our common ancestors, and providing them with said information (or pointing them in the direction they need to look), I very rarely receive a “thank you.”
It seems to me that many requesters want the information handed to them on a platter without exerting any effort or time of their own, and they lack the common decency to shoot a quick “thank you” email to me after I’ve aided them in some way. I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but I’m through empathizing. This lack of common etiquette has happened so many times now that I have begun to simply ignore or delete the many emails that fill my inbox without even reading them.