Where Should I Contribute My Genealogical Data?

by Gerhard Ruf, gruf@xmission.com

© copyright 2001-2008
updated 28 Sep 2008



    Deciding if and where to contribute your valuable family history data can be challenging. We will look at different databases which invite you to contribute your data and look at how they handle that information and how likely it will be that others will find your information. Criteria for determining which ones to choose will be discussed. It is assumed that the participants know how to create a GEDCOM file.

  1. Why contribute your family history data?
    1. Publish it for others to see.
    2. Allow others with common ancestry to find you, instead of your doing all the searching.
    3. Safe backup of your data, if its fully retrievable to you.

  2. Which are the most prominent databases?
    Ancestry Archive Index at Kindred Konnections
    Only the index can be viewed and searched for free. The My Trees feature matches the names you submitted against all other names in their databases, for a fee.
    AncestralFile at FamilySearch
    Started with 4 generation program submissions in the 1960s.
    All contributions merged into one great tree.
    Can no longer be added to or modified.
    GenServ by Cliff Manis
    Matches your data against all others in its database, for a fee.
    Member Trees Ancestry
    Trees may be set for public private access
    Invite others as guests, contributors, or editors
    My Heritage (formerly Global Tree at GenCircles)
    Smart Matching provides a report of matches between the indivuals you added and other contributed names.
    One Great Family
    See potential matches and conflicts of your data with that contributed by others.
    A fee is required to see the data of others.
    Provides online editing of your own data.
    Pedigree Resource File at FamilySearch
    User contributed information with sources and notes, if included in submission.
    Search the index for free online.
    World Connect Project at RootsWeb
    Largest collection of contributed online databases on the Internet
    Contributor has control of downloadability by others.
    World Family Tree at Genealogy.com
    Full information only available for a fee.

  3. As you view each of the above collections look for answers to the following questions
    1. Will they allow me to change, edit, modify, replace my data as it changes?
    2. Will they allow me to remove or delete my information?
    3. Will they publish it on CDs?
    4. Will they charge a fee for others to access my data?
    5. Will they allow me to retain copyright so I can publish it myself?
    6. Can I retrieve the information (GEDCOM file) that I submitted?
    7. Can others easily retrieve all or parts of what I submitted?
    8. Can I update my contact information?
    9. Are my notes and sources displayed?
    10. Will they remove designated information on living individuals for you?

  4. Eliminating data on living individuals
    1. Get written permission to include living individuals identifying information or leave it out.
    2. Use programs to remove the unwanted information.
      • Most GEDCOM generating genealogy programs allow you to remove living information in the process.
      • GEDClean will remove it from an existing GEDCOM file.
    3. You may want to leave in the names and their family links - be careful. Some financial institutions still require maiden name of mother.

  5. After you have submitted your information
    1. Keep a list of where, when and what file you submitted.
    2. Also note the filenames, account names, and passwords for each submission in a safe place.
    3. Update the site if your email, snail mail, web site or other contact information changes.

  6. Some precautions for when you search
    1. Remember that undocumented information is only hearsay.
    2. Even documented information needs to be verified to evaluate its thoroughness.

  7. Examples of uploading to some of these databases.
    Using WorldConnect as an example
    Using Pedigree Resource File as an example
Searchable Databases of Contributed GEDCOMs
size of database as of (date) Download
by others
fees to search contributor control sale of your information Notes
Ancestry Archive Index
Kindred Konnections
336 million Sep 2008 ? none
? Subscription req'd for pedigree & submitter info
LDS Church
35,000,000 Jan 1998 yes none edit never since Jan 1970
Cliff Shaw
23 million Sep 2005 no $12/yr update delete never since Oct 1991
Member Trees
300 million Sep 2008 yes none update delete never 2006
My Heritage
267 million Sep 2008 ? none update delete never bef 2000
One Great Family 33 million Oct 2002 ? $75/yr online edit update delete never  
Pedigree Resource File
LDS Church
200 million (140 CD/DVDs) Sep 2008 CD/DVD none resubmit DVDs for sale $13/DVD  
World Connect Project
547 million Sep 2008 yes* none update delete never since Oct 1999
World Family Tree
183 million Sep 2008 fee none update CDs for sale $20 each  
*RootsWeb downloads are controlled by the submitter. (yes, no, partial)
updated 28 September 2008 (Copyright© Gerhard Ruf, 2001-2008)

If you have questions or comments please contact me at gruf@xmission.com

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