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Re: Sinclair Genealogy Digest Number 11
I hesitate to dip my toe into these rather warm waters, but I have
a few thoughts that may or may not be of interest.
Having spent years assisting with finishing and publishing a 997 page
family history book, http://www.quarterman.org/, I have some
familiarity with genealogical research and publishing. There's no
money in it for individual genealogists. As my Aunt Jane always
reminds me, the predecessor of that particular book took decades to
sell its first printing.
As sources we used more than a hundred books, some of which I had
to go to Oxford, England, and Cambridge, Mass. to find, as well as
numerous primary sources, written, engraved on stones, and living.
We scanned and carefully prepared images of photographs from tintypes
I'm not especially anxious to give away copies of this book (other
than to libraries and museums and the like if they ask nicely),
considering that a huge amount of work went into it (the project
began with my grandmother in 1918) and any relative who really
wants one can afford to buy one.
I have also seen instances of people taking materials off the Internet
(or from other paper books) and republishing them in some mass market
form (book or CD or online database) with the intent of making money
from other people's work without permission. It does happen. It's
not the same thing as appropriate use of the same information.
Nonetheless, there is no way we could have collected and coordinated
nearly as much information as we did without active cooperation from
many correspondents all over the world, many if not most of them
through the Internet. We did use various online databases, as well.
We wrote software to do things that we couldn't find software to do.
For organizing our own material, we used an online database of our own,
and we did and still do exchange copies of it in GEDCOM across the
Internet. The productivity gained by doing so is phenomenal. The
possible ways to examine the information are greatly enhanced. For
example, without the database I never would have computed statistics on
typical marriage ages for purposes of estimating birth dates in order
to guide further research.
So there is a tradeoff here. On the one hand, there are powerful reasons
to want people to get our information in its intended form, and yes,
to recoup some of at least the printing cost of the book.
On the other hand, we can't just sit on this pile of information. We
were helped by many people, and we must return the favor. When we get
inquiries from genealogical researchers, we answer them as readily as
There are ways to use the web (and electronic mail) to provide selective
access to qualified family members or researchers (for example, mail
responses, as both Jean and Lena are already doing). There are ways to
determine qualifications, as well, such as by requiring the inquirer
to submit some information before releasing any. There are existing
online genealogical databases that use such means.
It seems to me that Jean and Lena are each in their own ways addressing
both these concerns. It doesn't appear to me that either of them are
motivated by greed (I won't say anything about suspicion :-). I see no
reason for contention, although far be it from me to spoil anyone's fun.
No doubt both Lena and Jean could do more than they are doing, given
enough time and resources. Lena has asked for volunteers....
John S. Quarterman <email@example.com>
PS: Social Security records were only of very peripheral interest to us,
since most of our research was for years before SS existed.
PPS: It's been several years now since the last book, so we may finally
get over it and produce the Sinclair volume some day.
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