Friday, June 1, 2012

Follow-Up Friday - Comments from Readers on Research Reports, Ancestry Trees, and Mitt Romney

For Follow-Up Friday, I'm delving into the comments left on recent blog posts over the past week that might have helpful hints from readers, or asked for my comments:  

1)  On Samples of Essential Reports for Genealogists (posted 28 May 2012):

*  Becky Wiseman commented:

"... it was an awesome presentation as were the other three with her (and the four with Tom Jones)!  One of the things that I took away from that session is that Elizabeth Shown Mills types up a complete research report using a Word Processor.   She does not enter any data (or the research report) into Roots Magic until after the research report using the Word Processor is complete. She then copies the info from the word processor and pastes it into the Research Report in Roots Magic."

My comments:  I knew that I must be doing something wrong...I have been putting my research results into my Notes as I collect them, and entering the Event evidence as I collect it, with Source citations.  My practice over the years has been to put "too much" into the Notes (with embedded source citations - not always complete!) and sort it out when I need to write it up in a word processor.  In order to use the "Research Note Report" in RootsMagic 5, I've had to copy the Note material into the "Detail Text" part of the Source Citation Detail for each source.   In my opinion, this Report gets me closer to being an "Evidence-based Genealogist."

*  Julliana Lund commented:

"Thank for the review of ESM's class ... you sure make me wish I was there. You mentioned that there would be a video available for purchase - any idea where I can find that? I am desperate to improve my "methods" of research and analysis. This sounds like it would be very helpful."

My comments:  See Connie's comment below about the video issue.   It is my fervent hope that some smart conference organizer will engage presenters like Thomas Jones and Elizabeth Shown Mills to do a streaming video series (like RootsTech has done) for wider exposure.  Every genealogist, from beginner to expert, can benefit from watching them, and only a select few can afford to attend the conferences.  FamilySearch, and the National Genealogical Society, have created some videos of "experts" also.  

*  Connie Sheets commented:

"I'm not aware of video being available of this presentation, but one can purchase an audio CD from Jamb, Inc., not only for this but for many of the presentations at the NGS and other conferences.

"It doesn't look to me like much editing was done to the RM5 Research Notes report, other than adding personalized headers and footers, and inserting graphics.  This report functionality was the sole reason I switched from Legacy to RootsMagic. Once you understand the purpose, you won't want to live without it!

"While I agree one should do a research report first, if (like me) you've been guilty of doing a lot of research without that, RM's Research Notes report is a lifesaver in terms of giving you a way to go back and re-analyze everything you've already done."

My comments:  Thank you for the reminder of the audio recordings for conference presentations.  Is the presentation syllabus provided on the audio CD also?  The syllabus is invaluable.  The ideal would be, I think, is buying a video of the presentation so you can hear the speaker, see the visual aids and have the syllabus.  Presenters should be compensated for permitting this.

I agree with you about the value of the "Research Notes Report."  Perhaps RootsMagic 5 will incorporate the Source image in a later version.

I'm in the situation where I have put information into the software first, in Notes and Events, and have not written a Research Report first.   What I've noticed is that the "Research Notes Report" helps me focus on the analysis of the source material and on adding sources for material that I have in Notes but not in Events/Sources (like deed abstracts and probate transcriptions/abstracts).  I'll write more on this.

2)  In Adding a Story to my Ancestry Member Tree (posted 31 May 2012):

*  Ginger Smith commented:

"... anything I write or create (with the exception of my blog posts) or email to someone has either a copyright notice, source citation, or my name, email, and date created noted at the top or bottom of the document. 

"I receive a LOT of documents that people share with me that have no author's name on them. This is frustrating. So I make sure if and when I send something to someone else, whether it is mine or belongs to someone else, I write the author's name, contact info, and date on it. 

"As for the online trees. My tree is private. The most important research I did was already copied and pasted to (not because of something I posted to my tree but from a site) and the author refused to remove at my request several years ago, so I let it be. I think it's funny, though, because everyone who has copied this info, inevitably ends up with a tree with at least 3 "siblings" with the same name! If someone wants to believe a person who has three men of the same name in a single household did all that research themselves, well...they are in for a big surprise!"

My comments:  I put a copyright notice on every one of my blog posts in hope that someone who copies the post will include it so that there is some attribution.  Ah, yes, the "three guys of the same name" trick, that works to sort out who didn't do the research.  I sometimes add a mis-spelling of a name or place on purpose for the same reason (but now can't remember all of the instances).  

*  Jenna commented:

"... I blogged about a similar situation last year:   Be sure to read all the comments, there are some good ones! :) 

"I don't mind that people copy my information at all. That's why I put it out there to the public. But I do expect them to contact me to see what our connection is or what additional information I may have.

"For one particular line that I've spent a lot of time on, I attached a probate document to an individual on my tree...but I redacted all the good stuff...the names and locations of all the heirs including the daughters married names! In its place I added a text box and said: 'Through collaboration we can achieve our end goals quicker and with more accurate information. I am happy to share this and additional documents with fellow researchers, however I have seen too many documents attached to the incorrect person on Ancestry member trees. Please contact me if you believe we are researching the same family and I will be happy to work with you.'  I've not received one email. :( People just want to grab and go!"

My comments:  Jenna tried a different way to try to bring collaborators together.  Unfortunately, it hasn't worked out, but it was a valiant try!  The redacted probate record is an interesting idea.  In my case, I've posted so many wills on my blog that anybody who can Google can find them and add them to an Ancestry Member Tree.  My purposes for transcribing them were to bring the records into the public view, and to encourage collaborators to contact me.  It works, once in awhile.

*  Connie Sheets commented:

"I believe Ancestry public trees are the death of collaboration. Most people just copy mindlessly and never think to contact the person who posted the information. 

"There is a big difference between gleaning facts from me and stealing my copyright. I have had at least one person copy an entire narrative webpage of mine (well, except for my name and copyright notice, which she deleted) and paste it to her own blog as though she had done the research and written the narrative. I need to follow through with this one to have the blog provider remove the post (since my polite requests directly to the thief have resulted in stone cold silence), but I've not taken the time to do it. 

"I have had numerous people take unique documents or results of my research that I shared via e-mail (or snail mail in the olden days) and post them without attribution. While that is not a copyright violation, it is rude and maddening.

"I appreciate those few cousins who have the common sense and good manners to state where they got something I shared that they use."

My comments:  Connie has a contrary view, and it's a valid one based on her experience and that of many others.  I agree that Ancestry actually hinders collaboration.  It fosters an individual approach.  Trees are isolated, not connected  to other trees.  Notes are hidden behind the Owner's wall - no one else can see them.  The Hints and the "Save this document to someone in your tree" encourages attaching records - which is good - but there is no real effective way to discuss them or collaborate with others.  A connected tree that encourages source images, source citations, evidence analysis and discussion, and collaboration is the ideal.  FamilySearch has that goal, but will it work well?  We'll find out soon, I think!

Connie raises an interesting copyright/plagiarism issue - are private emails or unpublished research reports protected by the copyright laws?  A question for Judy Russell and James Tanner! 

*  Susan Petersen commented:

"a) I subscribe to the member connect feature in my RSS reader, so I constantly see who is saving what from my tree to theirs; I also receive notification if another Ancestry subscriber adds a photo or document to the media file of a common relative.

"b) Yeah, it bugs me when Ancestry users grab my entire tree and add it to theirs without even making contact. On the few occasions when I've contacted them to find out how we might be related, the answer has always been, 'I don't know - who was your relative again?'

"c) I've given up on attempting to be the internet police in regard to copyright. I'm with Jenna - the reason that I put as much information online as possible, as well as making my Ancestry tree public, is to make the information available. I don't own the facts. I don't own the links and documents that I locate on Ancestry. I'm doing the research for my own enjoyment and if my legwork helps another family member fast-forward their research, that's fine with me. What bugs me is when an Ancestry user downloads my 'stuff' and re-uploads it as their own original content, rather than using the "Save to my tree" feature. Again, I can't police this, so I don't try.

"d) I'm concerned with the 'you don't need to know what you're looking for; all you need to do is look' mentality. While I find the clues via Member Connect activity helpful, I seldom add the research to my tree without doing the legwork myself. I will view other Family Trees, then follow the trail myself.

"e) So many people have jumped to conclusions with their research that my fear is that some family histories are destroyed beyond repair. It will take the diligent researcher to sort this all out, realizing that just because the name's the same, it's not always the same person. Many times, I have done the research on two people with the same name so as to absolutely rule out the one who isn't my guy.

f) Clearly copyright doesn't mean anything to the average internet user. Years ago, pre-internet, I had a boss who took a publication I had written and produced and used it his portfolio when applying for another job. What I couldn't get over was that he actually showed the portfolio to me. When I called him out about it, his response was, 'I was your supervisor when you did it, therefore I can put it my portfolio.' For me, that was the most blatant and egregious theft of my work ever. So someone stealing the results of my family history research doesn't bother me that much. It bothers me, but not much."

My comment:  Susan should have written her own blog post about this!  Excellent commentary.

3)  On I'm Mitt Romney's (Distant) Cousin (posted 28 December 2011)

*  Anonymous commented:  "I have just recently started using My grandfather used to tell us he was related to George Romney, but I never knew how to check it out. Alma Luella Robison (she is Mitt's maternal grandmother), is my Grandfather's Aunt, which makes Mitt my second cousin, once removed. (Charles Albert Robison, is Grandpa's dad, and Alma's brother). Small world."

*  Anonymous (another one) commented:  "Mitt Romney's maternal grandmother, Alma Leulla Robison is my Grandmother's Aunt, which also makes Mitt my second cousin, Once removed. I am wondering who posted before me?"

My comment:  Hmmm, looks like we have a close cousin match here!  If you both will email me at I'll be happy to facilitate contact between you.

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

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