Does Recent Changes at Ancestry.com Matter?

The recent changes in Ancestry’s Terms of Service do not mean the “sky is falling.” However, people with posted family trees are in turmoil because Ancestry added “perpetual” and “non-revocable” to their Terms of Service. These words are profound, and people should be concerned with the rights they are granting Ancestry when they upload their content to their trees. Yet, Ancestry had the right to do what they wanted with our content before adding these words. The difference is that the new terms do not expire.

Another point to remember is you still own the copyright to your content. Therefore, Ancestry cannot violate any copyright laws if they use you’re your content. They would be foolish to do so without asking your permission.

The current dilemma points to the fact that we need to consider how we use the online family trees and how careful we should be in posting content to our trees.

  • What is your goal in posting an online family tree?
  • Do you use your tree as the central depository of your family history?
  • Should you be posting all information?
  • Do you consider privacy issues before you post?

Online family trees are an essential communication tool, and they must be very public to be effective towards this goal. Nevertheless, we do not have to post everything for it to be effective. I use my online trees to connect with unknown cousins and exchange information with them. My trees are not complete. They may mention information but not include the documents. I use my online tree to attract unknown cousins to contact me.

The new issue with Ancestry unmasks the problems when using online family trees as the primary tool in saving and compiling our family history. Family trees are just the skeletons of our ancestors. A family history is much more. It should contain stories that bring our ancestors alive. Please consider, there are better and more private tools than online trees to compile, save and share the stories and documents associated with your family history.

Contemplate compiling your research offline into notes and summaries of your ancestors. This method gives you the flexibility to add stories and facts in a readable format. The format allows you to embed the documents and add the needed citations. Using the summary of facts will help your research be more efficient. As a text document, you can share it at any time with your family because it is readable in a language they understand and not in our genealogy jargon and forms. Offline, your family history is on your computer and can remain private and within your control. You decide who sees your pages.

Online family trees are important but remember they are public. Most family members do not refer to them because they are difficult for the non-genealogist to understand. Save your family history using another method that remains private and understandable by your family.

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