Should I Plant a Tree in a Garden?

As folks know, I’ve recently been working on my family tree. I’ve actually been working on it for years: it started out as a paper exercise in the 1970s. In the early 1980s, I was doing it as a graphic on early Macs. Later, I moved it to a DOS program I don’t even remember now, and then into Family Origins (which then was marketed by Parsons Technology [remember them?]). After Parsons was absorbed into Broderborg, I moved my genealogy database into RootsMagic, which was actually the followon to Family Origins, written by the original authors. The translation of this is that I’ve always had full control of my tree: it has been local on my machine at home.

Later versions of Family Origins/RootsMagic have permitted me to create a webversion. I’ve done this, but I’ve never made the full tree available. To see anything other than the index of names, I’ve required folks to get a password from me. Part of the reason for this is privacy: Family trees are excellent data mining sources for things like mother maiden names, and if you can get to the SSI death records, you can get SSNs for deceased family members.

I now have a membership on Ancestry.Com. Ancestry.Com provides a variety of search sources: census records up to 1930; SSI death indexes, ship registries, US public records, etc. I’ve been able to add a lot to the tree, but I’ve still been keeping it local to my machine. I’ll save the census images to my home machine, and attach them as a multimedia attachment. Most folks don’t do this: they save the trees up on This makes it easier to share with other researchers, but doesn’t provide you with ownership of the information, as they currently don’t have an export ability. With respect to privacy, I should note that Ancestry obstensibly restricts access to the tree to paid members of and those individuals you specifically invite to have access. However, names are available to everyone to entice folks to join. Specifically, their tutorial says:

As you build your tree, we’ll ask if you want to make your tree information publicly viewable. Most members make their tree “public,” which means that other Ancestry members can see their family tree information. (This does NOT INCLUDE information about living individuals. If we believe a person in your tree to be living, we hide that person’s information from others.) When you make your tree public, you help others find information about their ancestors. You also help yourself, as other members may have more information to share back with you.

If you choose to mark your tree as “personal,” others won’t be able to see your tree. When they find a match in your tree, they will only be able to contact you for more information, but can’t see the details and relationships for that person.

They do, however, provide an import ability, whereby you can import a GEDCom file to create a tree. This is the crux of my dilemma. Should I upload the tree I have to make it easier to share with others? They don’t appear to have the ability to update the GEDCom — it appears, based on what I have read, that I would have to delete the old tree and upload a new one. I also have the privacy concern. On the plus side, it will make my tree more accessible to individuals using ancestry to do their genealogy searching, which is more likely than the simple google searches that will find my existing page.

So, those of you in LJ land who are into genealogy: How would you handle this?