Genealogy Wise

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I have noticed that there are charges to access family information on the sites. Why? When the LDS has gotten this information for free from our Government. I personally think that it's wrong. And any information that anyone puts out there to correct any discrepencies is Im sure noted and sold to some other folks. I sure would be interested in hearing any thoughts on this.

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Most of the pay-for-genealogy sites are offered at obscene prices, some well beyond the sums that many folks can afford. I especially resent the fact that most of those sites, including "", pay comparatively very little for what they supply. Then too, what they dispense in many, many cases is but incomplete and rudimentary materials, many to be found elsewhere on the net free of charge.

I have no objection whatever to profits and certainly would (and should) expect that those organizations be compensated for their basic costs of doing business, plus a reasonable profit. Still though, they owe all of us more than a few "goodies".

What I insist is unfair and unresonable is the touting and little billboards that pop-up on my screen (most of which are read and taken as gospel by the inexperienced) stating that their files contain 80 zillion or whatever other number of people, yet reveal nothing about what categories of records they do not include in their offerings, I have been in the genealogy business for a very long time (60 years) during all of which activities I have felt a duty to reveal to all who pay me those other groups of records that I have not included in my reports to them, All good professional genealogists follow and do fin by adding such little bits of additional information for their paying customers, thereby providing those customers an opportunity to search further in those absent records.

Tell me, if you sold me a refrigerator or any other number of appliances, would it be in any sense decent if, before I pay you, you did NOT tell me that the refrigeratoryou had no thermostat, or that a car I sold you had no headlights? Silly? Of course, but not far from what is happening to us. An old expression might apply here; would you buy a pig over the phone though you had not been told it had only 3 legs. These high priced offerings have a similar ring, huh?

In every sale of their wares, the companies have an obligation to their customers to also reveal what categories of records are NOT included in what they peddle, As but a couple of the hundreds of examples, I have yet to find on the pay-for sites more than miinimal (if any) of names dates and details that are present in the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of deeds, wills and mortgage records, courts' orders/reports, the holdings of lower or higher court, schools, the millions of church and parish records, even more millions of veterans' details, or the "miscellaneous" or the records of sheriffs, magistrates, registrars/clerks, all of which records are out there and readily accessible with but a little research.

It is well known by all long-time students of genealogy that if you were to search all - ALL - of the "for money" sites on the net you would have examined less than 5% of what is out there and available for your use. I do not expect something for nothing, but I do, as a long-time teacher, writer, and researcher demand that those sites spend a little bit to help their customers, especially the newcomers, and to also provide some direction of where their subscribers might go next.

Who needs "a pig in a poke." ?????
There is no such thing as a free site. It may be free for you to use, but someone has paid for the website, the digital image creation, the indexing, etc. The LDS information has been gathered/indexed by volunteers or the Church has paid for the rights to use the data, to create the original microfilms, and now, on their new site, to create the digital images. The pay-for-view sites--whether corporate or government driven--do not have the same volunteer or mission base so must pay employees and often pay the original govermment entity for the data you use on the pay-for-view site or provide some trade-off that still costs the site owner money. For instance, it is my understanding that the Canadian government gave a 3-year right to include the Canadian census in the subscription portion, as opposed to the free portion, of their site in return for creating the digital images and the index, all of which will revert to the Canadian federal government in three years.

I agree with Paul that many of the sites could do a better job of describing what is actually available so you don't have to waste valuable dollars searching records to find the right person. The government sites are no better than many of the commercial sites in this regard. Too many sites allow only a surname search.

I disagree with Paul, however, that most of the information available on the pay-for-view sites can be obtained for free with just a little more research because the costs of gathering the data go far beyond the cost of the photocopy you eventually hold in your hand. Travel fees to Britain, for example, are far higher than a membership in, and while I may still need to go there for some data, I can do the basic census research and go through the BMD indexes in my own home, so that my time at the archives in Kew actually produces meaningful records.
Hi, Catherine. :-) I seem not to have stated what I wanted to say; so:

I have no doubt that, as with every business of which I have knowledge, the costs of doing business when added to all other costs are not free for the pay-far site. What I meant was that there is a ton of information out there for which there is no charge, and I teach all my students and at seminars that only as a last resort should people pay for information. It is my view that genealogy research is about "where" and little else. Unless you are one of the few who has found new new approach unknown to the rest of us.

As with your ancestors, the very largest percentage of records you will leave will be or have been filed at some local couthouse. Some of those records - not many - find a route to the State archives and even fewer with the Federal Govt. When you come across an ancestral record, it likelt6 first went of record locally. So when we first hunt a new line, why in the world not start at those "wheres", learn of the little society and it publications or open records, develop a relationship with a research er at that place and with the publ;ic library there, glean all you can, and THEN search the myriad records on line that MIGHT be of interest to you.

Lastly, after you learn all you can from those free (or nearly so) local, State, Federal and veterans records, unless you have more money than do most folks, only then pay for whatever those sites do offer. It might interest all to know that at a sizeable seminar I conducted a couple years ago I requested that the sponsors of that event and the local society develop a list of every single source that was available through local sources. They found 48 of such banks of records and writings. I then sought to search the net at some great depth form those same sources. I found only 22, of which only 16-18 or so were free.


Paul Drake JD .

a to not
i have noticed that some sites charge as much as $1200 for "creating" a family tree based on data supplied as a base line for research.I know one American family who paid up front and were supplied with a family tree going back to the battle of hastings in 1066.It is so obviously fiction that it is an embarassment,yet the family concerned seem to accept it and have published it as fact.Some of the ancient names used appear on other public family trees so either half of the states are related to English and Irish nobility or its all nonsense woven into what data was originally provided to provide a continuous line. Surely so many folk cant be so easilly conned.
anyone wanting to check on Irish marriages should check emerald ancestry.they are not free but you are not ripped of and if you have basic input you can be practically sure before u have to pay anything at all.I found it great.For scottish ancestry i use Scotlands people which is a goverment site very cheap even a marriage or birth or death cert only costs £12 and includes lots od info about home address parents name and maiden names
Unless you need certified copies, you can obtain scanned birth, marriage, and death records from for about $2 a copy. For 6 pounds, you can buy 30 credits. It will cost you 1 credit to do a search, 5 credits to look at the scanned image of a record which you can download. All the same info you mentioned. Or, if you are doing research on several people in the same parish, consider renting the microfilm from an LDS Family History Center; it can be less costly in the long run.

I think you may have misunderstood me. I wasn't advocating the exclusive use of the internet, only trying to answer the original question posed which was why do pay-for-view sites charge for data which is supposedly free. I certainly believe in using the free stuff first, and understand where and how records are kept, and that local may be best. However, local can not always be my first choice, because my ancestors did not come from anywhere that is currently local to me, nor is it always free. Not only does it cost money to travel to another location or to hire a local researcher, but, possibly because of strained budgets in these tough economic times, or because they have realized the huge market niche genealogy researchers provide (yes, I am cynical!), more and more libraries and historical societies and, yes, even city halls, now charge not only for whatever research they offer but also for the privilege of doing my own research in their facility.

I would add an additional item to the points you made about research, and it applies to free sites, pay-for-view sites, libraries, local history books, etc.--Each step further from an original record is a potential source of error so beware of transcripts or anecdotal material. Use them for leads but search for an actual record or its image whenever possible. Also recognize that there may be errors in the original either because the recording clerk transcribed his notes incorrectly or, even, because the ancestor gave the wrong information, so it may take several searches to get a clear picture of an ancestor. For instance I have a set of 4 maiden great-great aunts who never had the same age in any of the records--they all lopped off years as they got older. Unfortunately, I have not yet figured out where in Ireland they were born, so cannot look for birth records to get the true dob, but I haven't given up hope that someday, I'll find that illusive home.
hhanks for reply catherine,does a $2 printout from scotlans people contain enough data to take me back another generation.I know the scottish birth marriage and death certs are VERY detailed containing maiden names employment details and in some cases the date and place of parents wedding. james
James, the image shows whatever information the local parish sent to Edinburgh. It does include the names, ages, addresses, occupations, parents & occupations, place of marriage. I've tried uploading a copy of the marriage record of my great-grandparents so you can see what the record looks like. This one came from Fraserburgh, but I also have a record of my grandmother and grandfather's marriage in Aberdeen and the form is the same. I don't know what you get if you're looking for an OPR record, because I used microfilm at the Family History Center instead, but I would guess it would be a picture of the actual church record (in Rathen parish where many of my Fraserburgh family originated, that didn't include much!).
thanks for going to so much trouble have just discovered that we have a vert good LDS center here in londonderry where i live ill make an appointment tomorrow and keep u posted thanks again
I am new to this so patience is all I ask. My thoughts on the subject of all the fee's we pay (thru Ancestry,etc.) is conditional and totally out of line in my book! There is so much information that you can find for 'free' yet some charge such enourmous fee's for the same info! Just recently, I figured out that Ancestry is taking all the 'free' info that the good people have contributed over the years and then when they believe they have enough 'correct' information, they produce a 'Surname' book and sell it!! I know because I have seen one of my own lines of ancestors at 'amazon' yet produced by 'Ancestry' and then it is copywrited by them!! People just don't realize that all the info, family pictures and stories, etc, can all be used by Ancestry and then it becomes their copywrite!! This is totally unfair to all of us who are manually doing all the work!! I say anyone who puts anything online at all should put a watermark on all of thier own work so that it cannot be taken without permission!!

One other note is that so many people just copy from others and there is so much mis- information out there that our decendents are going to have a heck of a time figuring out who's right and who's wrong.

Thanx for listening and happy hunting!
I'm sure you are right that Ancestry pulls together stuff that individuals contribute and then publish it. However, they aren't stealing anyone's copyright as data cannot be copyrighted and old pictures have lost their copyright, although formats and presentation can be, so I think the individual who scans a photo holds the copyright to the scan, unless he/she signs away that right. There is probably some fine print in the agreement you sign to use Ancestry that gives them the right to use and publish whatever you post to their site. It is sneaky and of questionable ethics (in my opinion, anyway). One good way to avoid your stuff being in their books is to not post your family tree on their site. (I think Rootsweb is an ancestry company, too, and they pull stuff from there as well.)

I certainly wouldn't buy one of their surname books and it is not because of the copyright issue. Since, like you, I think they just use contributed family tree material, there is no verification that material is correct. I have seen some trees out there that include some very confused data on people in my family tree.
Your comments about really concern me. I have listed all my trees I have on there as "private" and feel that if any of my information contained within those trees should remain so. I believe that if any and all of it is my "property" and would go to any length to keep it that way. It's appalling to me to think they would think they have a "right" to any of it to do with what they wish. I certainly would question this practice if I had a public tree also. It makes one think again about reading the "fine print" in your agreement with them. You are right also about Rootsweb as it is part of the Ancestry family as is and others.



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