Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Selfish "researchers"

Why are some people not willing to pay the price for genealogical research? If we were to take up model trains, stamp collecting, scrapbooking, or water colors, there are attendant costs for materials, research, lessons, books and housing our "stuff." We’d also expect to pay to join a local society, and there’s the added expense of traveling to museums to view spectacular collections and to conventions to learn more about our chosen craft. I can’t imagine a model train enthusiast asking someone:

"CAN I BORROW YOUR LIONEL MODEL TRAIN ENGINE? I DON’T HAVE ONE OF MY OWN TO PULL THE CARS AROUND THE TRACK? While you are at it, if you have a few spare trees and bushes to augment the mini-landscape, it would be greatly appreciated. Nothing taller than 7 inches if you please."

Setting aside all sweetness, that takes some nerve!

In the course of my volunteer administration of a few RootsWeb Mailing Lists and Ancestry.com Message Boards, I’ve seen an increase in postings where folks are requesting "lookups" for ancestors in databases that are part of paid subscription services.

One recent genealogical posting involved someone in the 1880 US Federal Census (free index at FamilySearch.org, with free links to Ancestry.com’s scanned images.) The "researcher" (and I use that term advisedly) asked others to search in the northeast part of the US for his entries in the 1840-1870, 1900 & 1910 census. GOOD HEAVENS.

Anyone foolish enough to respond doesn’t value his time or research dollar.

It’s a bit different if you use the message boards and mailing lists to SHARE what you’ve learned, and hope to find another researcher who has already climbed the same family tree. But to ask someone to do outright original research over a 60 year time period in multiple localities, gratis, that is absurd.

From Merriam Webster’s website:
Pronunciation: 'gra-t&s, 'grA-
Function: adverb or adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin gratiis, gratis, from ablative plural of gratia favor --
: without charge or recompense
Pronunciation: 'chEp-"skAt
Function: noun
: a miserly or stingy person; especially : one who tries to avoid paying a fair share of costs or expenses
: a mean grasping person who is usually stingy with money -- see MISER
Function: noun
Text: a mean grasping person who is usually stingy with money
Synonyms cheapskate, piker, scrooge, skinflint, tightwad
Related Words hoarder, saver
Function: adjective
Text: overly concerned with one's own desires, needs, or interests
Function: adjective
Text: overly concerned with one's own desires, needs, or interests
Synonyms egoistic, egotistic (or egotistical), self-centered, selfish, self-seeking
Related Words complacent, conceited, self-conceited, self-directed, self-important, self-indulgent, self-satisfied, smug, vain
Near Antonyms altruistic, generous, greathearted, magnanimous, self-sacrificing
Antonyms selfless

Doing genealogical research with federal census records is a standard for family historians. In the past we had to order microfilm through our local LDS Family History Centers or view them at regional branches of the National Archives. These avenues are still available to researchers.
One may freely access the scanned images of census records through AncestryPlus (from Ancestry.com) if the local Family History Center has access. Joining Ancestry.com for even 90 days is a reasonable option. Alternately the local or regional public library may provide free access to HeritageQuestOnline.com, or one can access them through low cost membership in other libraries such as Godfrey.org. It’s also possible that the volunteers at USGenWeb.com may have indexed or have begun scanning the census pages for the area where your ancestor lived.

Online cemetery listings online are wonderful, but they are by no means even close to being complete. So there is no point in getting upset via mailing lists and message boards stating that you have searched high and low, and can’t find a thing.

There is no substitute for doing our own research. That involves joining a few societies, turning a few microfilm reels, visiting a few (non-microfilmed) courthouses and churches, turning a few pages in some books, making a few photocopies (OK, tons of photocopies), walking a few cemeteries, interviewing a few relatives and the like.

It isn’t all available online yet, and we cannot expect to get it all done by requesting that other folks do "lookups" for us.

IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, try another "hobby."

Do they have something like online Sumo wrestling? I might also recommend virtual cliff-jumping.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207

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