What Happens When Cousins Won’t Share?

What Happens When Cousins Won't ShareA friend writes:

What is your experience with/opinion on genealogists (amateur or pro) who don’t share and share alike their cited/non-cited info?   For example, a distant relative contacts you for info, you give it, and then he/she doesn’t reciprocate?

I have trouble understanding why people don’t share their info publicly when it is cited and for a relative they never met/who was long gone prior to their birth.  I understand stuff like not wanting to share all the details about your parents, a beloved aunt who recently passed, etc. But someone who died in 1805? Come on! Share with meeeeeeeee!!

Yeah, that’s frustrating.

I actually have pretty limited experience with sharing in general.  When I started doing genealogy in the 1990s, the internet was so new that there wasn’t a lot of that going on.  Then I was away from my research for much of the 2000s.  When I started up again in late 2009…well, I felt like Rip Van Winkle.  A lot has changed, and it’s much easier now to find living descendants of the people you research.  I’ve found a handful, but only one of them does genealogical research; the rest are regular people.  They’ve all been really nice; I have not had a bad experience yet.

On one hand, I wish they’d all share more.  I want every photo, every letter, every detail, and I want it right this minute!  On the other hand, I understand why I don’t always get what I want.  Not everyone is into this stuff as I am.  I realize they may not want to spend hours scanning in photos for me, or be willing to send photos for me to scan.  I’m delighted (and motivated!) when they do, but I try not to be disappointed if I don’t get a lot.  Sometimes it makes people sad, too, to open up that box of memorabilia.  I totally get that.  So I try to keep my expectations low.

With the ones who actually DO genealogical research, it’s kind of a head-scratcher as to why they wouldn’t want to reciprocate in some way.  I don’t share GEDCOM files, but I’m happy to provide the information I have, copies of photos and source documents, etc.  I’m not always super fast on it, because real life has a way of taking over and taking me away from stuff like that for weeks (or even months) at a time.  But I do think it’s fun to be able to share your work with someone who will appreciate it.

Sometimes, though, there are circumstances you just can’t anticipate.  Maybe the other researcher doesn’t have anything on that line, because she knows of a non-paternity event that is a secret (it could be way back…or it could be so recent that she didn’t work on that line, because she knew it was unrelated).  It could be that great-grandpa Herman was abusive, and she doesn’t want to be the one to tell you, or promised her own relatives she wouldn’t say, or who knows what.  There are all sorts of things that make people clam up.  Some make sense, some don’t…but you can’t steam these folks open like an envelope, unfortunately.

Like I said, though, I don’t have a huge amount of experience with this, so I’m throwing it out to the crowd.  Crowd, do you share with other researchers?  How much, and to what extent?  How do you handle people who want to receive but not give?

Photo by C!…

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