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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Question: Is It OK for Someone to Take Information from This Site and Add It to Their Ancestry Family Tree?

This blog is a great place for discussing ideas and sharing opinions. Here's our first opportunity, and we really need to hear from you about how we permit information to be copied and shared.

One of our readers was very excited by the Bible pages posted on this blog. They support her genealogy. She asked permission to upload the images to her family tree on We cannot stop anyone from doing just that, but this person should be commended for requesting approval first.

Ancestry's terms and conditions say this about the content added to family trees on its site:
The decision to upload or share User Provided Content on the Websites is your responsibility and you should only submit or share User Provided Content that belongs to you (or where you have obtained all necessary permissions or consents) and that will not violate the rights of others. Be aware that copyright and other intellectual property rights will normally belong to the creator of the material in question and you should not reproduce or submit anything without permission of the owner. By submitting User Provided Content to any of the Websites, you represent and warrant that you have the right to do so or that you have obtained any necessary third party consents (e.g., under privacy or intellectual property laws). If you submit material to any of the Websites on behalf of a group, organization or business entity, you represent and warrant that you have the right to do so and that you have obtained any consents from the group, organization or business. You agree that you will be liable to us and indemnify us for any loss or damage we suffer as a result of your breach of the foregoing warranties. Upon our request you agree to furnish Ancestry with any documentation, substantiation and releases necessary and reasonably required to verify and substantiate your compliance with this provision. 
By submitting User Provided Content on any of the Websites, you grant Ancestry and its Group Companies a perpetual, transferable, sublicenseable, worldwide, royalty-free, license to host, store, copy, publish, distribute, provide access to create derivative works of, and otherwise use User Provided Content submitted by you to the Websites, to the extent and in the form or context we deem appropriate on or through any media or medium and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed or discovered. You hereby release Ancestry and its Group Companies from any and all claims, liens, demands, actions or suits in connection with the User Provided Content you submit, including, without limitation, any and all liability for any use or nonuse of your User Provided Content, claims for defamation, invasion of privacy, right of publicity, emotional distress or economic loss. This license continues even if you stop using the Websites or the Services. Ancestry may scan, image and/or create an index from the User Provided Content you submit. In this situation, you grant Ancestry a license to the User Provided Content as described above and Ancestry will own the digital version of documents created by Ancestry as well as any indexed information that Ancestry creates. Except for the rights granted in this Agreement, Ancestry acquires no title or ownership rights in or to any User Provided Content you submit and nothing in this Agreement conveys any ownership rights in such User Provided Content on the Websites. The licenses granted continue for the maximum time permitted by applicable law, even if you stop using the Websites or the Services. 
You acknowledge and agree that Ancestry may preserve any User Provided Content and may disclose any User Provided Content (including its origin) if Ancestry believes that it is required to do so by law or that such preservation or disclosure is reasonably necessary to: (a) comply with legal process or governmental requests; (b) enforce the Agreement; (c) respond to claims that any Content violates the rights of third parties; or (d) protect the rights, property, or safety of the Websites, the Users, or the public.
Ancestry can change their terms and conditions at any time. The ones above are labeled Revisions as of March 17, 2015.

The Bible pages are not copyrighted, but it seems posting them on Ancestry's site gives Ancestry the right to do whatever it wants with them, in perpetuity. Is that a problem or a good thing?

 Please add your thoughts by posting a comment. After you've all had a chance to express your opinions I'll revise this post.


  1. This is really thought-provoking. I have generally (and I suspect most people do) gleefully copied pictures and documents posted by other descendants of my ancestors, as I supposed that was the intent of the poster in sharing them on a semi-public forum. My intention in posting all details I have about my ancestors is to identify other descendants who might have more or less information so we can mutually share our knowledge.

    Only once have I come across an individual who took umbrage at the fact that others had copied her material. She had not posted it on Ancestry but on her own site and she took the material down after becoming aware that others were using it.
    I understand her wish to be acknowledged and/or compensated for her work but I think most people view the purpose of amateur genealogy research as an interest in identifying our ancestors as well as locating living cousins.

    I believe the terms and conditions on Ancestry's site are strictly for the protection of Ancestry, not the users. By their act in managing all the posted data so that it can be searched I believe they are showing that their intention is for it to be copied by others who share the same ancestor.

    As to the Bunnell-Bonnell Blog, yes we should probably have a statement indicating how documents and information should be treated. If I had anything worth sharing I would certainly want anyone else to use it as they see fit. Since I don't have anything useful, I am probably biased to that viewpoint. I hope that people who have information and documents to share will continue to do so with a generous spirit.

    1. Michelle PendletonMay 3, 2015 at 9:46 AM

      Lenita, you expressed exactly what I was thinking in a much better way than I would have done. Thank you.

  2. To me the question is one of sharing information vs. copying and sharing someone else's "original copy" documents. For example the Bible pages cited in the lead-in to this discussion are "original copy" documents for lack of a better term. Without approval of the original poster of those pages, I think it would be inappropriate to copy them and then post them on Ancestry, or any other "pay for view" site. If someone wishes to reference them, I believe they should quote the germane data and cite a reference that includes the Bible and the web page where it is viewable. I have some discomfort with Ancestry (or other similar sites) being able to copy and sell my specific "original copy." I'm not sure if that clarifies anything, but those are my thoughts on the subject.