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A Note from the Editor: Following Up on Genealogical “Clan” Characteristics and Sharing Genealogical Information Online

(A Note from the Editor) Permanent link
Lynn Betlock

Lynn Betlock

Two of last week’s stories struck a chord with readers and we received many responses, some of which will be shared here.


Genealogical “Clan” Characteristics


The excerpt on “clan” characteristics from The Grant Family (1898) by Arthur Hastings Grant elicited a number of emails, particularly from readers who didn’t think I gave enough credibility to the occurrences of those characteristics in the various lines of the Grant family.

From Letha A. Chunn of Prescott, Arizona: I read the Genealogical “Clan” Characteristics discussion in your last newsletter with interest. I am a marriage and family therapist with theoretical underpinnings in Bowen Family Systems Theory originated by Murray Bowen, M. D., in the mid-1900s. There may be more truth to the family/clan characteristics than you may think. Dr. Bowen described certain family processes that are extant in families through generations, and developed a “family diagram” (a genogram), a sort of a family tree of these intrafamilial processes, to track them. One of the processes he describes is family extinction, not to mention branches of the family that succeed vs. those that don’t, and the reasons why.


The Bowen Center for the Study of the Family operates out of Georgetown University under the direction of Michael Kerr, M.D. An overview of the theory can be seen on their website at


Sharing Genealogical Information Online


Ronald Miller’s story of how his genealogical research had been posted online by others led to a number of reader emails. Unfortunately, we only have room for a fraction of them here:



I had a sour experience with sharing information, and have tried to learn from it. A number of years go I met a distant cousin on the web and we started exchanging data. I had recently put ten or twelve generations of my ancestors together, and was very eager to pass on all my wonderful work. I sent him a GEDCOM file of it all. Some months later I came across some forum postings by this cousin offering new info on this ancestry as though it were his original work.

Well, live and learn. I freely offered the GEDCOM file, and there was no discussion about further dissemination. So I have only myself (and my eagerness to show off) to blame. Perhaps in the years since, it has helped others in their research. After all, that's what genealogy is all about, in my opinion.


Now all these years later, I have new research which I am putting online. I chose to create my own website, and make it publicly available. I have put each family group on a separate web page. The citations, images, charts, etc, are also on separate pages. I feel it makes the site easier to navigate. But more importantly, it limits the amount of info that can be copied in one operation. There are many thousands of pages, and if someone wants to copy them all, one at a time, then I'm willing to let them have it. Needless to say, I do not do GEDCOMs at all, for anybody.


Janet Bailey:

I offer family information to relatives and share information with those researching the same lines. Early on I would share a GEDCOM with new cousins but later I found my information online. No one asked for permission but felt that adding my information and my research to their database made it their own. I now do not share any of my research online or via GEDCOM or tree format. I will correct information that I see on Ancestry or other places, but do not add mine. I would rather wait until I am ready to publish with thorough edits and full sources. My working GEDCOM is not something I want on the Internet. 


Ellen Stevens Newton of Boothbay, Maine:

I share my information with people that place queries online, but I am very cautious about accepting unsourced information. I have often found that what is so freely given without proof is usually copied and often incorrect. One example is a French family in Maine. I studied countless records and manuscripts and traveled to Boston and New Hampshire to prove the correct lineage. Shortly thereafter I saw an online genealogy of the same family on, and knew it was incorrect. I contacted the submitter and offered my resources and proof, and the information was met with some hostility. I think that folks are just grasping at whatever information they find and assume it's true. There are many erroneous family lineages online that will be perpetuated by those not willing or unable to take the time to do it correctly. Researchers beware!


Daisy Thomas:

Recently when I contacted someone to verify her posted information, she said she just copied from others online. Do I want to give out all my hard work for nothing? Absolutely not! Just a little name recognition would be nice. I also had the experience of having my data botched up completely by someone else, and I was then grateful my name was not on it. Back in the days before www, we did a lot of snail mail with correspondents sharing information back and forth. I made a major breakthrough on our family that no one had cracked in over fifty years of trying. I, of course, shared that with a correspondent, who later posted it all on the web, signing his name as if he did it all by himself. Like Mr. Miller, I was the one to do all the leg work, and traveling miles and miles to gather this info searching through primary documents. Also, like Mr. Miller, I will not post any of my research on the net. And I have over forty years of data that I've gathered. All of our family members that are interested in it have a copy with the caveat that they not post it online while I'm still living.

Posted by Jean Powers at 02/10/2012 07:55:00 AM | 

I had similar problems with people who do not verify their info and do not correct the mistakes that are pointed out to them.
Posted by: Madeleine Dee ( Email ) at 2/10/2012 5:51 PM

I am exploring this topic for a report I have to write. You have good content and I would like to know if you have any other posts about this?
Posted by: Perdue Annette ( Email | Visit ) at 5/5/2012 11:27 AM

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