Family Genealogy Website

This entry is addressed primarily to my immediate family members but I’m posting it here to also welcome comments from anyone who cares to contribute or who might be interested in doing the same.

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In the next several weeks, I’m planning on starting a “Private” website that will contain our family genealogy. This will not be just a Skinner website. Instead, it will contain ancestors and descendents with any surname provided they are in some way related to those already in the proposed system.

That is, if you are in some way related to me or any of my ancestors or descendents, then your ancestors and descendents, regardless of family name, are welcome.

There are some issues to be considered.

Privacy of Information

Traditional genealogical practice is to divide potential viewers into two categories: privileged and non-privileged. The latter category, non-privileged, usually includes the general public and the usual practice is to block their view of any information about living individuals. They would not have access to the names or other details of anyone living. And some websites extend this block until 25 years after someone’s passing. Off the top of my head, that additional 25 year restriction seems like a good idea.

Privileged viewers, on the other hand, can see everything. All names, all dates, all photographs, all recorded details are available to privileged viewers.

Privileged viewers are identified by a login (and password), and that login must be approved by an administrator (probably myself initially) before it can be used. The common practice is to allow only family members who request an account into that privileged category.

Changing the Information

Within the privileged category (those who can login), some individuals can then be authorized to change the information in the system. They can add new information, new people, new dates, new pictures and other details. And they can change, or delete, any existing information.

And while anyone who is a registered user could be enabled, there are some reasons not do do so.

  • First, mistakes happen. Clicking the wrong button could potentially delete information that might be hard to resurrect. We want to have a reasonable assurance that anyone making changes directly in the system understands this and works carefully. (Changes from un-authorized persons could be sent to someone who is authorized to then enter it.)
  • Second, passion. While there may be some individuals we might rather not admit are related to us or details some of us would like to forget, the fact of the matter is that they are part of our history and who we are. Future generations deserve to know the facts, not just those we like.
  • Third, well, see the next topic.

Longevity

Considering the next several future generations, this information will, over time, A) increase in historical value, but B) become less and less viable as information technology (e.g., “The Web”) changes. Right now, web pages are all the rage but, in 20-30 years, that could change. Who knows?

So ultimately, the genealogical information needs to be stored in a place and manner that provides longevity for the foreseeable future.

In that regard, there are some commercial websites such as Ancestry.com that might be considered. But businesses come and go and, when they “go”, the information they house could disappear.

Alternatively, the biggest repository of genealogical information right now is the Church of the Latter Day Saints (the “Mormon” church). And while each of us may or may not subscribe to their beliefs and practices, the fact remains that they have a theologically-vested interest in this kind of information.

In a nutshell, the Mormons believe that ancestors can be raised to Heaven by the actions of descendents and, thus, the Mormon Church maintains a very large and publicly accessible genealogical database, and they will accept properly authenticated information from anyone, not just a church member.

The quality of information at these two sites, one a business and the other a church, is consequently very different. Basically the business website will accept any information from anyone while the Mormon church requires proof in the form of documented links to authoritative sources.

It is that requirement for proper authentication that makes it important to know that, if you want something added to the family genealogy website, there are acceptable sources of information — first-hand knowledge is the excellent but second-hand and unproven myths have to be documented as such. Yes, they can be included but they have to be annotated as such.

So, for reasons of longevity, we need to consider where the information we collect may ultimately be stored and, with that understanding, decide what to share and what to keep private.

Website Name

I think we will all agree that our family genealogy website should not focus on any one particular family surname. Nor should it suggest or favor any particular heritage or place of origin.

I’ve tried to come up with a few website names we might use. “Down Of A Thistle” (shortened by removing spaces) with “.org” added to the end is one such domain I’ve been thinking about. (I’ve temporarily reserved that domain name so it doesn’t disappear while we discuss the possibilities.)

But, ultimately, this website is for all of us and we can make the domain name whatever we like as long as it is available.

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The above issues are just the tip of the iceberg but, hopefully, will get the discussion started. I’ve emailed family members directly and expect most of the discussion to take place privately. But when something interesting is brought up or some other tidbit of information arises that I think might be of interest to a wider audience, I’ll post it here.

So, what do you think?

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