27 August 2011


This blog is free for the reading.

In case a disclaimer is needed in the face of recent concerns, here is … no business model, no registering, no terms of service, no hidden costs, no annoying ads, nothing to smack you in the face later on when you didn't expect it. It's enough to manage what little I do do.

Mind you, I don't offer databases (unless you count my labels) or family-tree-building. Some of those Internet sites are free but when is free really free? And what happens when what used to be free goes sideways? I've seen “free” compared to lunches, happy hour, bring your own lunch, sandwiches, gift horses, horses to water, freemium, and just plain sharing. Such issues are causing sore heads lately. That's one thing.

Another thing, I'm not exactly growing a family tree (fingernails screeching across a blackboard, that one) for The World's Answer To an All-inclusive Family Tree. TWATAFT, my shorthand. The what? … well, one enormous shared family tree for everyone who ever lived, the concept that has competing techie outfits feverishly growing things. TWATAFT is the new sharing. The faster our voluntarily submitted relationships arrive at headquarters, the sooner we have a universal kinship hug-fest. Get it? Send your trees into the maw of the behemoth.

I'm happy I'm not responsible for tons of incoming information and then figuring out how free the access will be. Free access may not necessarily entail free control of your material, i.e. updating, revising, and flagging your new cousins' mistakes. Who overrides whom? Even as user-generated resources, consensus seems the user will pay one way or another for access.

Did I mention quality control? As trees pour into the content of free sites? Ah! … the content. Some sites I've seen are more akin to a pub brawl. Product … it becomes a product, people. Then again, some will say that committee work produces a better result than a lone voice.

Brings us back to micro-managing our own research and software (and blogs) where each of us alone is responsible for being as accurate as we can. Our “mere” concerns are when our writing, or our research, turns up elsewhere. As appearing (ignorantly or stealthily) on someone else's website, tree, or blog. Like the stuff we share in good faith one-on-one with that new cousin who then grafts it onto their own public tree and sometimes into TWATAFT. Often in the wrong context. Really, I don't feel like hugging them. Never heard of copyright and/or attribution, the dickheads.

Where am sardonic I going with this? Xenophobia? O me of little faith (and admittedly, little technology comprehension). You can tell I'm not ready to dispatch my work-in-progress to acquisitions and mergers. Once your charts are merged into TWATAFT for the benefit of all mankind … along with sillier, undocumented family trees ... you may be flying blind in cyberspace. Collaboration with strangers is as collaboration with strangers does.

Till then, I say do what you do as well as you can. And then some. Genealogical education is widely available for the name-collectors if they have a wit to look for it. Lots of it free. Just like blog reading is free.

My books, on the other hand, are not free.
(Clear faith that books will survive for another generation or two :-)


Antra said...

I'm inclined to agree with you. Most of the time, when I see Latvian families listed on Ancestry trees, or on other similar sites, I can tell from just a cursory glance that the information is either wrong or missing so much that it is not particularly useful and should be researched more before being grafted on.

That said, I am currently starting work into creating an All-Inclusive Latvian Family Tree, but from original sources, rather than reader submissions. Though "Family Tree" is a bit of a misnomer, because more and more I find that Latvian research needs to focus more on the FAN club, and the parish, rather than one individual family. So this AILFT is more intended as a guide to finding how families and their FANs interact and relate. More blog posts coming soon, I promise :)

Sheri Fenley said...

Yeah - what you just said! Also you win the prize for best use of the word "Dickhead" in a sentence!


Greta Koehl said...

Thanks for calling things what they are. I just have to groan when I read feverishly excited promotions for the TWATAFT (great acronym). Working with cousins is fun, but if we see something differently, it's OK.

BDM said...

Thanks for the comment, Greta. I confess part of the acronym came first and the name was twisted accordingly to fit :) Belatedly I've read Tamura Jones' awesome post at

Sheri Dahling, good of you to come by. You'll see my comment on Google+ ... a webcam hasn't magically put itself into operation but will hang out soon.

BDM said...

Antra! Glad to hear from you! .. and that more posts are coming. I know what you mean about focusing on the parish (and the manor/estate) ... your work is exemplary and deserves a wider audience (