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 Uploading Data

 

Put Your Genealogy on the Web

Dick Eastman June 2002

One of the best methods of obtaining assistance with your genealogy research is to place your database on the World Wide Web where everyone can see it. Other Web users will use search engines or other techniques to find their ancestors. If they find matching information in your database, many of them will contact you for further details. In this manner, you can find distant cousins, most of whom are willing to share data and research efforts with you.

 

Putting your data on the Web is easy. In fact, there are so many ways of doing it that perhaps the toughest part of the job is deciding which method to use. You can add your data to one of the large shared databases operated by major genealogy information providers. Another method is to place your information on a personal Web page that you have available. You will also want to decide which information to place online, as not everything in your personal database is appropriate for public viewing.

 

First, let's consider the several large databases that collect information from thousands of people and then share the data. The more popular services include Ancestry.com, RootsWeb, OneGreatFamily.com, Genealogy.com, MyTrees.com and, to some extent, FamilySearch.org.

Ancestry.com (the sponsor of this newsletter) operates the Ancestry World Tree. This online database contains more than 200 million names in family trees submitted by Ancestry.com users. The Ancestry World Tree is free of charge; you do not need to be a paid subscriber to use it. In addition, anyone on the Internet can search all the information on the Ancestry World Tree without

charge.

 

There are three methods of entering data into the Ancestry World Tree:

 

1.  Manually typing the data into an entry form at: http://www.ancestry.com/trees/main.asp

 

2.  Uploading a GEDCOM file that you created with your genealogy program. Almost all modern genealogy programs will create GEDCOM files, so you can use any of these programs on your PC or Macintosh with the Ancestry Family Tree. See my explanation of GEDCOM files at: http://www.ancestry.com/library/view/columns/eastman/5743.asp )

 

3.  Use Ancestry.com's own Windows genealogy program, Ancestry Family Tree. You can enter your data into this free, full-featured program, and it will automatically upload your data to the Ancestry Family Tree with just a few mouseclicks. See my reviews of this free program at

     http://www.ancestry.com/library/view/columns/eastman/5000.asp

     and at

     http://www.ancestry.com/library/view/columns/eastman/5001.asp.

 

One noteworthy point is that you always own your data on Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com allows you to update or delete your family tree at any time. Also note that you will never find your data included on CD-ROMs or on any other form of data sold by Ancestry.com for a fee. Next, anyone who views your data will also see your e-mail address so that they can contact you directly for

additional information.

 

For more information about the Ancestry World Tree, look at:

http://www.ancestry.com/trees/main.htm?lfl=m

RootsWeb is a separate service that is also owned by Ancestry.com. RootsWeb operates the WorldConnect Project, which is somewhat similar to the Ancestry World Tree. The WorldConnect Project is free of charge to all users. Information from the WorldConnect Project is never sold on CD-ROM, and no subscription fees are ever charged for the online service.

 

With RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project there is only one method of adding your data to the database: uploading a GEDCOM file. Almost all modern genealogy programs will create GEDCOM files, so you can use any of these programs on your PC or Macintosh with the

WorldConnect Project.

 

Your data is not merged into one big file. Instead, your data remains in a separate GEDCOM file bearing your name. Anyone else who searches the site looking for ancestors is actually searching

through thousands of GEDCOM files.

 

The data you contribute to the RootsWeb WorldConnect Project remains under your control. You can add, modify, or delete the information ay any time. To update or correct information for a

GEDCOM that you have previously submitted to WorldConnect, you simply revise the data in your genealogy file and create a new GEDCOM file. By using the same user code and password that you used originally to upload the new file, you overwrite the old file with the new one. Here, too, anyone who views your data will also see your e-mail address so that they may contact you directly for additional information.

 

For more information about RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project, look

at: http://worldconnect.rootsweb.com

OneGreatFamily.com is a somewhat different service from those described previously. Data that you contribute to OneGreatFamily.com is merged into "one great database." This collaborative effort then becomes visible to all other OneGreatFamily.com subscribers. The software on OneGreatFamily.com attempts to identify people in your database that are already listed online and merge those individuals together, all under your control. As a result, your data is added to that of thousands of others, resulting in one huge database.

 

With OneGreatFamily.com, you can enter the data manually on their Web pages or you can upload a GEDCOM file created by your present Windows or Macintosh genealogy program. OneGreatFamily.com then becomes, in effect, your genealogy program. You can navigate through your data and the data of other people in much the same manner as you navigate through any genealogy program. The only significant difference is that you are online and looking at data

in a remote database, not data on your own hard drive.

 

OneGreatFamily.com allows you to control your own data. You can add more information, edit existing individuals, or delete information at any time. Your data is never sold to others on CD-

ROM disks. However, access to your online data is restricted to paid subscribers of OneGreatFamily.com. Once again, anyone who views your data on this site will also see your e-mail address so that they may contact you directly for additional information.

 

OneGreatFamily.com is a commercial service that costs $74.95 (U.S.funds) per year to use. The company offers a 7-day free trial at

http://onegreatfamily.com/landing/create_family_tree.html#getstarted

 

For more information about OneGreatFamily.com, look at: http://onegreatfamily.com

Genealogy.com is the company that creates and sells Family Tree Maker, one of the most popular genealogy programs in the world. The same company also operates the World Family Tree, another huge database contributed by users. This database currently contains more than 138 million names and 200,000 family trees, according to information currently on their Web site. The information can be accessed online as well as on CD-ROM disks that Genealogy.com sells separately for $19.99 each. Whenever subscribers submit enough new data to fill a CD-ROM disk, Genealogy.com creates a new "collection" and offers it on a new CD-ROM. At the time this article was written, the Genealogy.com Web site listed 94 CD-ROM disks of World Family Tree data.

 

The online World Family Tree is open to subscribers only. Non-subscribers can search the database, but the only information supplied to a non-subscriber is that a given name does appear in

the database or on CD-ROM. To obtain all the details, one must either subscribe to the site or purchase the CD-ROM (or CD-ROMs) that contain the sought-after name. A monthly subscription costs $9.99, and an annual subscription is $49.99 (U.S. funds). Given the likelihood of a name appearing on multiple CD-ROMs, the subscription would seem to be the more cost-effective choice for those who wish to use the World Family Tree.

 

The World Family Tree has a couple of subtle differences from some of the other databases. Unlike the other online databases, the contact information of the submitter is not easily available online or on CD. If you wish to contact the person who submitted the information, you must send a request to Genealogy.com asking for the name and contact information of submitter. The easy method of doing this is to use the online World Family Tree Contributor Contact Information Service. This free service is provided for those who have purchased a World Family Tree CD or an online subscription. The Contributor Contact Information Service will then send you the name and address of a submitter.

 

Another difference is that erroneous information is not easily corrected.  To be sure, you can submit a new file with corrected information; however, this file does not automatically replace the earlier file. As stated on the Genealogy.com Web site, "So that we may efficiently update the entire World Family Tree at once, we encourage you to wait to send us your updates until we send you an update request letter. If you don't want to wait to send in an update, we will store it for you, but you will still have to wait for the update to appear in an upcoming volume."

 

For more information about the World Family Tree, look at:

http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/wftonline/.  You probably will also want to read the legal language at http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/subagree.html  before submitting your data.

MyTrees.com is the online database operated by Kindred Konnections. It is similar to the other databases already described but with a few significant differences. While the bulk of the material available online is derived from information submitted by customers, MyTrees also contains 10 million extracted records from a variety of sources.

 

You upload your data to MyTrees.com via a GEDCOM file. The contributor controls information on the service and can upload corrections at any time. Almost all the data at MyTrees.com is

displayed in a single pedigree-linked format. This allows you to quickly cut and paste this data into your personal family history database. You just select the download button on any pedigree screen, and the data can be merged directly into your personal database, both on-line and on your home computer.

 

MyTrees.com is also a subscription database. Again, a non- subscriber can check to see if a name exists. However, to obtain the details, a user ID and password is required. The company does,

however, offer free access to the MyTrees.com subscription services to those who help with an on-line data extraction project. Volunteers who extract birth, marriage, death, census, and other records are paid in free time on the service.

 

The data you enter on MyTrees.com remains under your control. You can add, edit, or delete data later if you wish. Access to your data is restricted to online subscribers; it is never sold on CD- ROM disks. Finally, anyone who views your data will also see your e-mail address so that they may contact you directly for additional information.

 

For more information about the many services of MyTrees.com, look at: http://www.mytrees.com.

FamilySearch.org is the well-known genealogy Web site operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often referred to as the Mormons. The Family History Department of the Church maintains a number of genealogy databases. The different databases contain information obtained from different sources. The database that contains information contributed by users is called the Pedigree Resource File.

 

Everyone is encouraged to submit a GEDCOM file for inclusion in a future Pedigree Resource File. In fact, you can upload the GEDCOM file directly on the FamilySearch.org Web site. A copy of your GEDCOM file will be placed in the Granite Mountain Records Vault, located near Salt Lake City, Utah, for preservation. Unlike some of the other services, your data is not instantly added to an online database. Instead, it is scheduled for inclusion in the next update, which might be several months in the future.

 

A copy of your GEDCOM file may be published in a CD-ROM product called Pedigree Resource File. Pedigree Resource File is now available for purchase at near cost. An index of the current

Pedigree Resource File may be made available for searching on FamilySearch Internet. However, note that the online version is only an index. The full content of the GEDCOM files (pedigrees,

sources, notes, and so on) is not available on FamilySearch.org at the current time. For full information, you must use the CD-ROM version.

The above is a list of the more popular genealogy database sites. However, some people will prefer to place their information on personal Web pages, either in lieu of the above services or in addition to the above. It is not unusual for someone to upload data onto multiple online data services as well as onto his or her own personal Web site.

 

You can obtain your own personal Web site from a number of places at little to no cost. Many Internet service providers allow their customers space on Web servers at no additional charge. AOL is obviously the largest such provider; every AOL member can create a free personal Web page on AOL's servers. Many other Internet providers do the same.

 

Another possibility, you can find a number of free Web page providers. These services will allow you to upload your Web pages onto their site at no charge. These companies derive revenue from selling advertising space on your Web pages, often in the form of obnoxious "pop-up ads." Free Web space providers include Angelfire, GeoCities, Graffiti, Netscape and Tripod. You can find

an extensive list of free Web space providers at http://www.freewebspace.net.

 

One notable exception to the obnoxious advertising is RootsWeb. RootsWeb will provide free website space to users who request an account and whose intended use fits within the company's mission (no personal photo albums, games, fan sites, video files of any type, music files, etc.) While commercial advertising banners will appear at the top and at the bottom of each Web page, there are no pop-up ads or other intrusive advertising on RootsWeb. There may also be a psychological advantage to having your genealogy home page hosted on a major genealogy provider's servers. You can learn more about the RootsWeb free hosting service at http://freepages.rootsweb.com.

 

Finally, you can always purchase space on any of hundreds of Web hosting services. By spending a few dollars, you can purchase Web space that does not contain advertising. Prices for your own hosted Web pages without advertising start at about $8.00 a month and go upward, depending upon the options selected. Most genealogy Web pages have no need for the extra-cost options.

 

Of course, if you have a personal home page hosted on either a free or a commercial service, you need to place information on that page in HTML format. HTML, or Hypertext Markup Language, is the language of Web pages. You will need to create your Web pages using an HTML editor of some sort. Not everyone is a Web guru and conversant with HTML programming.

 

Luckily, almost every modern genealogy program is capable of directly generating HTML files. You can use your present program to create HTML files and then upload the results to your personal home page. Of course, you could also modify the HTML files with almost any HTML editor in order to "personalize" the files before uploading. The popular genealogy programs that will create HTML files for you include: Legacy (a free Windows program), Personal Ancestral File (a free Windows program), Family Origins, The Master Genealogist, Ancestral Quest, and more. Family Tree Maker will also create Web publishing files but only in a format that is suitable for uploading to Genealogy.com's Web site. Family Tree Maker users who wish to place data on another Web server can use one of the GEDCOM-to_HTML utilities listed later, however.

 

For those who either can't use the above programs or choose not to use them, there are several utilities that will convert your GEDCOM file to HTML. If your present genealogy program will not generate HTML files or if you do not care for the "look and feel" of the files generated, you can always create a GEDCOM file and then use one of the GEDCOM-to-HTML file converters. You can use the resultant HTML file as is or even modify it a bit as you wish. You then upload the HTML files to your personal Web page. Here is a partial list of the GEDCOM-to-HTML converters:

 

   * GED2WWWF at http://home.nordnet.fr/~jbfahy/ged2wwwe.htm (free program)

 

   * GED2WWW at http://www.lesandchris.com/ged2www  (a free program)

 

   * GEDbrowser at http://www.misbach.org   (a free program)

 

   * GEDpage at http://www.frontiernet.net/~rjacob/gedpage.htm  (a

     free program)

 

   * GENbrowser at

     http://mail.pratt.lib.md.us/~bharding/rippleeffect/GenBrowser/GenBrowser.html 

(a free program)

 

   * GED2HTML at http://www.gendex.com/ged2html ($20.00 shareware

     program)

 

   * GenoPro at http://www.genopro.net/gedcom2html ($24.00

     program)

 

   * GEDVisual at

     http://piazza.iae.nl/users/hvvugt/GEDvisual/Index.htm

     (shareware program)

 

   * Sparrowhawk for Macintosh at

     http://www.bradandkathy.com/genealogy/sparrowhawk.html  ($20.00

     shareware program for Macintosh)

 

One final consideration is perhaps the most important of all: What information do you want to place on the Web?

 

You need to protect the privacy of living individuals. In some countries there are laws about publishing private information that is less than 100 years old. In addition, there may be other information that you want to keep confidential. Perhaps some of your relatives do not want their personal information or even information about their immediate ancestors placed on the Web

where millions of people will have easy access. You need to respect the concerns of others.

 

Remember also that the information that you place online is available to everyone. That is both a good thing and a bad thing. While you want to reach others who can help, keep in mind that others can use your information themselves. It is common for people to download data from the Web, insert it into their own genealogy work, and then upload the results elsewhere without attributing the sources of their information. Some people may claim that such plagiarism is a violation of copyrights. However, even if true, enforcing your claim of copyright is almost impossible.

 

If you do not want others to use your data as they see fit, you might not want to place it online. Then again, the data you have collected probably came from public domain sources anyway, so I would suggest that there is no reason to keep it private. The choice is yours to make.

 

I will tell you what I do. I do not place any information online that is less than one hundred years old. I don't even mention the names of anyone born in the past one hundred years. I also deleted one birth record that involved an unwed mother about 125 years ago. Somehow, I don't feel "right" publishing that information for the entire world to see. The simple fact that my great-aunt was an unwed mother doesn't bother me, but I suspect that some of the other descendants in this staunchly Catholic family might not approve.

 

I also accept the fact that others may copy my information and use it in ways that I do not approve of. Since 99.9% of my information was obtained from public domain sources, I don't worry about whether or not someone obtained data from me or from some other source. Sure, it would be nice if they first asked my permission, but I recognize that not everyone will.

 

The method of "filtering" your information to keep some information private is easy. First, make a copy of the family tree that you plan to publish online. Then delete the information from that copy that you don't want to share with others. Most modern genealogy programs have the capability to automatically exclude information about living individuals when creating GEDCOM files or HTML files. Make sure that your program has such an option, and then make sure that you use it. Next, manually go into the database copy, and delete any information that might be of concern to you or to others. Once you are sure you have deleted all the information that you do not want published, upload that copy to the online service or personal home page.

 

I hope this gives you some ideas about publishing your genealogy information on the Web. Even with the minor concerns about privacy, publishing 100-year-old or older information about your ancestors can contribute to someone else's research efforts. Best of all, they may contact you and offer information that you do not yet have.

The previous article is from Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter and is copyright 2002 by Richard W. Eastman. It is re-published here with the permission of the author.