I have not posted a family tree online. I’m not hoarding ancestors. It would be great to share them with other descendants or collateral relations. Their positions on my family tree represent years of careful research and analysis, and in some cases, gobs of cash. There are blanks to fill in, and collaboration is important in family research. Why hesitate to share a few screens of ancestors with the world? Why have I not felt comfortable with the idea?
Smash and grab genealogists. You know the sort.
A smash and grab, in my old line of work, was when an offender smashed a vehicle’s window, grabbed visible items, and ran off with them. Never mind if those items were valuable, or worthless trinkets. They took what they saw, because that is less risky than standing at the scene of a crime mulling over which items are worth taking. Those smashers and grabbers discarded less valuable property once they had time to evaluate it. Discards ended up in nearby trash cans, or were tossed from car windows as the offenders fled the scene. Evaluation time? Perhaps the amount of time it took to roll down a car window and give a good heave-ho.
But there lies the difference between those smash and grab offenders, and the ones who do really weird things with online family trees. Smash and grab genealogists. Those who prefer to skip the research process and the evaluation process. They keep everything they grab, no matter the value. When information does not quite fit, they shove it into their trees with virtual shoehorns, and call it a productive day.
What’s the problem with that, you ask? After all, it makes them happy. No crime was committed. They simply lack the skills needed to properly evaluate evidence. We were all beginners once.
The trouble is, more smash and grab genealogists will come along and add the erroneous data to their own trees. No evaluation. Those who cite sources will cite Grabber Tree 1, and call it a good research day. Documents are not reviewed. Conflicting evidence is not explained, if even noticed. Just like that, new families are created. Impossible, messy, disastrous trees.
I’ll not leave valuables showing in my vehicle, believing that it will deter those looking for the easiest haul in the parking lot. The part of me that keeps the valuables out of sight in the parking lot has also kept the family tree out of virtual sight. Deterring the smash and grab set by giving them less to see, grab, and not evaluate.
All of our work deserves evaluation.
Lately I’m feeling the urge to emerge from my self-imposed exile and post an online tree.
There are very good trees online. Not everyone with an online tree composes it by grabbing flotsam and jetsam. There is so much good, with which so much bad can be done. What is the solution? Is it simply to stop worrying about what will become of my work?
My Ancestry DNA results have been in for weeks. Someone asked who I have in my circles.
Circles are created when a DNA test subject’s online tree is checked for matches in the online trees of his or her DNA matches. Circles suggest potential places where your DNA might match, although it is entirely possible that your DNA matches in a completely different location, one where you do not yet have a paper trail. Circles require having a public online tree. That is a circle of another sort, a vicious circle. Where I am today.
To post, or not to post?
Let me back up a hair. Because I did have an online tree associated with my Family Tree DNA account. Only my FTDNA matches could view it. When the company changed the way trees displayed online, entire family groups appeared, including people who I had never intended to show in an online pedigree. I set my tree to private. There were bits in that tree that were for my eyes only, because they are works in progress. If a match wants to see the tree, I can allow access. I hoped the company would change things. Make me more comfortable. I’m still waiting.
My guess is I’ll need to create a GEDCOM simply for DNA trees. Leave out the collaterals. People who never asked to have their nuclear families hashed out online. Never enter the names of living people, so I do not rely on a computer program to filter them out for me. Living family members wound up in an online tree once after I shared information with another genealogist. Oops just doesn’t cut it. The information was removed. But it should have never gone up.
I looked at a handful of online trees last night. They list the wrong parents for my great-grandmother. But they also have the right parents for her, or they would have had their authors evaluated what they grabbed, as far as census data is concerned. The combination of a third of her actual siblings and a large number of the children (presumably) belonging to the couple who were not her parents makes for a family of rather epic proportions. A good number of them should have been tossed from the window of the fleeing vehicle. Instead, the shoehorn system was used.
Part of my recent self-evaluation on the topic is due to finding it slightly frustrating when my DNA matches do not have online trees. How rude of me. I’m one of those annoying folks without a tree.
In my defense, I immediately recognized common lines in three posted trees. I have sent messages to the three matches, laying out how we are related. I’ve heard nothing back yet. For goodness’ sake, people, I have the family Bible!
I’m starting to wonder if an online tree is an indication of anything promising in the world of DNA for this genealogist. If folks with online trees and a match laid out for them don’t respond, will having an online tree make a difference in my own DNA experiment?
I tend to over-analyze. Genealogists should analyze. The problem comes in the paralysis induced by over-analysis.
Do you have an online tree? How do you deal with smashers and grabbers? Does the prospect not bother you? Is your tree set to public or private?
Do you wonder if your tree is your work product, handed willingly to a corporation to repackage and sell?
Has an online tree helped you to solve a family mystery? To add one more name to your pedigree?
Chime in. I’m all ears.