This week I was contacted by a new cousin on one of my branches (Thielke) that I have been struggling with. This will be my first contact for this branch of the family and I am very, very excited. I am a firm believer that we as family historians need to share our family research with as many family members as we can.
However, sharing means give and take. I don’t
like it when someone contacts me and takes my information and never shares
their information. Thus I have been a little more cautious when sharing my
family data. First, I must know where you exactly fit into my family tree. This
way, even if I don’t get information back, I know where you fit, and can prove
you are indeed a distant family member. Second, I keep my family tree’s
private, where others can match my people in my tree, but I don’t share my
entire tree anymore with just anyone. I have had too many people take my information
and turn around and present it as their own information. Sometimes I get the
last laugh, when I discover problems with my data and later correct it. Unfortunately,
this means the bad information is out there for the world to see. When I
discover major corrections to my data, I always share it with those who have
previously contacted me or those I am working with.
This brings up another subject, what it means to work with
others on your family research. To me it means, we both work on the family line
and we touch base with new finds and share it with each other. Or we just touch
base and see if any new information has been found. Other times it can mean, we
pick branches we will be working on and set a date that we will share the data.
Usually, my sharing falls under the first case, because let’s be honest, we don’t
have the time we want to research on our families.
I did spend a year working with my aunt on her maiden name
and helped her publish a family history. That was a wonderful year, working
directly with another researcher. We would go to a library and as a team work
together, gathering information. The next day, we would sort through our information
and compile and add it to our database. I learned a lot that year. However,
back then I wasn’t too concern with documenting where I found that information.
That would be my biggest regret on that joint effort. But I would not trade the
experience I learned that year, toning my research was wonderful.
So the moral of this story, share your family history with
others so that they can find you and you can expand your research. However, be
cautious on who you share information with. Make the requestor give you enough
information that you can confirm they are a member of your family. If they don’t
want to share sensitive information on living family members, then don’t share
your information on your living family members with them. In the end, you might
find some wonderful distant cousins who share your passion on family history. I
feel a special relationship with all my distant cousins who share my passion.