Oh No, It’s the “L” Word!!

We all know about the “C” word right, that’s right … copyright. Well today we’re talking about “L” word!

That’s right … LOOK-UPS.

Genealogy Facebook groups can be a wonderful thing, there’s no doubt about it. They’re a great place to share and ask questions. But I was dismayed and disappointed when browsing a number of them recently, simply because of the number of people asking for look-ups on various big-pay-sites.

I was disappointed for two reasons: firstly for those who asked, and secondly for those who responded. Sharing information from big-pay-sites is against their rules – against their terms and conditions.

Now I understand that there’s a number of reasons why people do this …

  1. I didn’t know – this is probably the most common one. And it comes as much from those asking, as those providing the information. Can I suggest going to the bottom of any big-pay-site, look for the Terms & Conditions, and have a read through. It’s always on the home page, right down the very bottom. You should always know what you can and can’t do on any site – but even more so when it comes to sharing information.
  2. It costs too much to subscribe – while I don’t agree with this statement, this is a common complaint, and if this is your reasoning, there are many libraries and societies around that have subscriptions, so why not pay them a visit. Or if you prefer to do your research at home, save up your queries, and take out a one-month subscription. Big-pay-sites need subscriptions to be able continue to acquire more records, simple as that.
  3. But I like helping out – I’m all for helping out, but as long as it’s within the rules. But unfortunately many choose to ignore the rules (see point 1), and think that even though they’re breaking the company’s Ts&Cs, it’s ok, because they are helping others. Sorry, but doing a good deed doesn’t make it right.

This is not a new issue. In fact I wrote about it a couple of years ago (you can read that here). Saying no to others isn’t an easy thing to do, and I’ve been called many names and kicked off of Facebook groups for pointing out the wrongness of it. But that still doesn’t make it right.

I don’t make the laws.

I didn’t write the Terms & Conditions of the sites. But I do adhere to them, as should everyone. And I’m doing my best to educate others. 

So people, if you see others asking for look-ups on big-pay-sites, I urge you not to offer to do it. Instead let the requester know that they can look-up the record for themself at the local society or library, or they can take or a short subscription. Even the 14 day free trial if nothing else!

Then the requester can get their record, it doesn’t cost a fortune, and it’s all within the Terms & Conditions! Everyone’s happy.


11 Responses to “Oh No, It’s the “L” Word!!”

  1. I completely agree with you, Alona. I’ve been shut down when I’ve made comments about violating terms of service when people ask for lookups, which really aren’t lookups. As you pointed out, they are requests for the records behind a pay wall. The one thing I will do is check to see if a record is on the site and let the person know. However, I won’t supply images.

    • Alona says:

      Thanks Linda. And I like your idea of checking if the record is there for the requesting person. And if so, they can go suss it out themselves. Makes sense.

  2. Jill Ball says:

    Excellent post Alona. This practice makes my blood boil.

  3. Barb says:

    We think alike on so many of these topics! It also makes me think they want someone to do their research for them without paying too. We know many genealogy-addicted people will search for more if they can’t easily find it. They will then provide “proof” of everything they find. Hours of free research provided to someone too cheap and lazy to do their own.

    Now to be fair, I’ve asked people privately to look over my documentation for applications. I provide all the documentation and they confirm I have everything I need to have. Definitely not on the same level as those facebook group askers.

    • Alona says:

      I realise that some people are the “instant tree, name gatherer” type person – as in they like to find as many names online as possible, as quickly as possible – but I like think that not all are, and some who ask for look-ups do so without realising it’s wrong. Hopefully that’s the case anyway.

  4. Teresa says:

    I’m with you and have also privately contacted the group admins when I saw it happening. I try till I’m blue in the face to explain that subscriptions support the work – that records don’t magically digitize themselves and appear online.

    Thanks for your plug for libraries etc. – I help people at the library I work at to use Ancestry Library Edition and other sites. These stats (feet through the door) are very important to all libraries these days as funding is scarce.

    • Alona says:

      Good on you Teresa for contacting the admins. I understand the “blue in the face bit”, but we’ll just keep reminding people periodically, and hopefully at least some will take note of it, and realise how wrong it is. Good to know about the “feet through the door” in relation to funding, I wasn’t aware of that, so thankyou.

  5. christeen schoepf says:

    Great Stuff Alona!!! I get sooo angry when it happens and even more so when I am abused for mentioning the quite acceptable alternative … going to one’s nearest public library where for absolutely zero dollars one can use Ancestry and FamilySearch and achieve the same result. Our library has even installed a fabulous coffee machine!!

    • Alona says:

      I think so many people forget about libraries, or find them a pain to go to, as they are not ‘at home’. But I totally hear you, and am always directing people to them and local societies. And so nice of your local library has a coffee machine – that’s got to be a plus for many!

  6. Helen says:

    Why do people think family history/history will be FREE. I often say to people that every hobby has a cost, tennis, golf, swimming etc and so does genealogy. So be prepared to pay.

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