by Sue Roe
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION
The internet has changed the "climate" of genealogical research -- and not
always for the better. It can be a pitfall, if we are not careful. There are
several things I've been seeing that concern me.
- The same people who are very careful to document information they take
from books don't seem to be doing the same thing for things they find on the
internet. Just as you would take down the author, title, publication facts,
and page number of a book, when you take data from the internet, you need to
take down the URL (internet address), the date you found the information, and,
if it was taken from a particular page on the website, the name of the page.
In addition, it would be a good idea to take down the name of the website
owner. That way, if the URL changes because the owner moved his webpage, you
can find the new site by running the owner's name on a search engine. Always
cite your sources no matter where you find the information.
- Many people who understand perfectly that it is stealing to republish data
taken from someone else's book, don't think anything of stealing data
published on the internet. If you find information, written by someone else,
on a website, it is covered by the same copyright laws as something written in
a book. It is not okay to copy that information and then post it on your own
website or publish it anywhere else â€“ unless you have the author's
permission. Nor is it okay to take data from books and publish it on your
website â€“ unless you have the author and/or publisher's permission. Yet I
see people doing this all the time. It's against the law folks!
have a website and are publishing your own material, it would be a good idea
to make a copyright or "use by permission only" statement. That may serve to
keep at least the honest people from stealing and republishing your
I have been doing genealogical research for over 20 years
and, in that time, I have helped many people by sharing information I have on
their ancestors. This I am glad to do. However, with the advent of the
internet, it has become a problem. People seem to think it is perfectly fine
to post my work on the internet as if it were their own, giving me no credit
at all. But what is worse, some of that data has been, over the years, added
to and corrected by me, but is being posted without benefit of those
corrections and is, therefore, erroneous. Please, folks, don't do this. It
makes people like me feel that they don't want to help you anymore.
- Please be careful about adopting information that you find on the internet
and believing that it is true just because you found it on some wonderful
genealogy site. Any information you find, no matter where it is published, is
almost useless if the author has not cited sources. It can be used for clues
-- but that is all. What I am seeing on the internet is alarming! Hardly
anyone is citing sources -- but almost everyone is believing what they find
there. Don't abandon good research skills -- or fail to develop them if you
are new to genealogy -- just because information is now so readily available.
This is a giant pitfall! And, if you are publishing information on the
internet, please cite your sources. If you don't, your information will won't
really be of much value to others.
The internet is great! Much help can be found there. We just need to use the
same research skills, obey the same laws, and use the same courtesy that we did
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