Friday, July 17, 2009

Genealogy Wise apology to Terry Thornton

Yesterday was a hectic day in the Genealogy Wise world - first there was a DNS server problem that confused almost everybody for awhile. Then a blog post by Terry Thornton (of Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi blog fame), along with all of the reader comments, was deleted by the website administrators for being "disrespectful and bashing." Censorship raised its head here... Terry's original post is posted in the thread here (but not the other member comments).

Consequently, Terry cancelled his Genealogy Wise account, deleted his Group on Genealogy Wise, and wrote the post My Short Tenure at GenealogyWise on his blog. A firestorm of criticism of Genealogy Wise ensued on Facebook and Twitter.

Today, Paul B. Allen (CEO of, owner of, apologized to Terry, and the genealogy community, for the actions of Genealogy Wise. You can read all of Paul's apology in his post Apology to Terry Thornton. Terry accepted Paul's apology and appreciated Genealogy Wise's gift to the Itawamba Historical Society.

That's all the hard facts - there are many more side issues here. As a result of this issue, and the poorly thought out (and now cancelled) Genealogy Wise contest, the website is asking members' opinions about content and policies. This is all for the good, I think.

There are hard lessons here for genealogy website startups - including "don't censor critical blog posts or forum discussions, the blogger network works really fast and can influence the community, and understand the needs of genealogists."

I, like most people (?) in the genealogy community, want our websites to be open and transparent, to offer useful and well-organized services at a reasonable price (we do prefer FREE), in order to enable us to pursue our genealogy and family history research. Connecting with other researchers with similar interests is one of the best ways to enable us, and websites like Genealogy Wise are essential to success. They're fun, too! Usually.

UPDATED: 1 p.m. I'm sorry that Real Life intervenes sometimes - I missed the re-post yesterday of Terry's original comments in the thread noted. I edited the text above to reflect reality. Thank you, Tamura Jones, for the correction. As Richard pointed out, members that commented on Terry's post did not have their comments reconstituted also. Not only Bruce Buzbee, but also footnoteMaven and others had their comments deleted.


Tamura Jones said...


GenealogyWise did not just delete Terry's original post, but also deleted several comments on his post about censorship.

Terry's original post has been reposted (sans comments) in the forum discussion about censorship, where you can read it now.

- Tamura

Unknown said...

Terry Thornton isn't the only person the encounter censorship on GenealogyWise. Bruce Buzbee, creator of Roots Magic software, posted this comment on his wall yesterday (7/16):
"Bruce Buzbee just had a comment deleted by GenealogyWise because I said that a social network whose owners could censor comments made for a useless social network."

Unknown said... Terry back???

footnoteMaven said...

Yes, I commented and I will always wonder if it was considered disrespectful.

I have received an email response from GW to my email to them.

Paul Allen's apology was spot on. He is acting like the professional he is and GW should be.

I hope GW maintains a professional atmosphere. I don't like the MySpace mentality.

Terry has chosen not to return. It is his decision to make.

My comment was:

Either I'm anti-social or an adult. Either way I'm insulted.