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.


Another Copyright Issue

Copyright. Yes, it’s that word again. The word few like the hear. The word that gets me kicked out of Facebook groups. But the word copyright is an important one.

Copyright is there for a reason. Copyight is a law that is there to protect the work of the author or compiler.

But before I get into that, let me just say that there’s no doubt that genealogists for the most part, are a wonderful bunch of generous people who love to help each other out. Be it on research advice, cemetery visits, or lookups.

Research advice, fine. Cemetery visits, transcriptions or headstone photos fine. But lookups can be an issue.

The issue of doing lookups from big-pay-sites has been mentioned before, and you can read all about that here, as has the general copyright issue before which you can read here. But another copyright issue has come up that needs to be addressed, and that is offering lookups from books.

In theory doing a lookup from a book sounds fine. You have a book, you offer to do lookups, and respond back to those who ask with details of yes/no they’re in there. But this is the digital age, and what I saw on Facebook was someone offering to do lookups from a number of books (probably all out of print, but all still in copyright). But to help out fellow researchers, the person had kindly photographed the entire index of each book and pasted it online.

Like it or not, that breaches copyright law.
Several in fact.

But not only that, the person then posted photographs of EVERY page that anyone was interested in.

That breaches copyright.

Copyright is there for a reason. It is to protect the author’s work. And in Australian Copyright Law, works are protected for up to 70 years after the author’s death.

So while this person was being helpful in offering lookups, it is wrong to do it that way.

Offering to do lookups is fine (and very admirable), but don’t put up images of the indexes, and pages. And if you do supply a copy or image of any page definitely don’t put it out there publicly. But ideally, why not refer the person to the local library or society, afterall that’s what they are there for.

I’m not going to name names, or Facebook groups. I’ve simply chosen to write this in the hope that it will educate others on the law.

For more on Australian copyright law, head on over to the Australian Copyright Council website.

It Pays to Read the Ts&Cs

Ts & Cs (Terms and Conditions). You know that little checkbox we click saying that we “agree to the Terms and Conditions” usually without reading anything. It is important. And here’s why.

An issue arose earlier this week where someone on Facebook asked “if anyone who has a subscription to a certain Big-Pay-Site can do a look up for me?” Sounds innocent enough. And we’ve all seen it many times.

While I’m totally all for helping out, doing lookups and so on – Facebook groups are great for that, I was reminded about a blog post that The Legal Genealogist did stating how ethically wrong it is to do so on Big-Pay-Sites, so I put the link up as a response, and boy did that cause controversy.

I was accused of not wanting to help, and told how rude it was to put that up, and that the post is ‘old and isn’t relevant now’ … I’m still not sure what that means, because it most certainly is, and that my membership to the group ‘was currently being discussed’. I wasn’t selling anything, I wasn’t being rude, I was helping a fellow group member by educating them that it was wrong to ask someone who has a subscription to do a look up for you.

I urge anyone member or non-member to any Big-Pay-Sites, to look at the Ts & Cs, they’re on the home page of each of them – right down the bottom. And you’ll see it stated there that you are allowed to use the site for your ‘personal use only’, and if found to be using the site wrongly, they reserve the right reneg your membership.

I get that not everyone can afford a membership. But that still doesn’t make it right ask for a lookup! There are libraries and societies that have access to the Big-Pay-Sites. The sites themselves often have free weekends and trial periods. So make the most of those opportunities, but don’t ask for free lookups.

I’m sure some who read this won’t agree with me. I expect that. But remember I’m not the one who wrote their Tc&Cs.  I’m just a user who’s abiding by them, and trying to educate others who do lookups on Big-Pay-Sites, that they are breaching their Terms of Service.

Then there’s the copyright issue about putting images up publicly from their site. But that’s a whole different issue which I’m not going to get into here.

Anyway I urge to you take a moment to read The Legal Genealogist’s post “Just say no” and you’ll realise WHY you shouldn’t do lookups from Big-Pay-Sites.

17 Websites to Find Photos for Your Blog

From time to time I write a non-genealogy related post. One more general. This is one of those. But all of the links listed below are useful for not just regular bloggers, but they can certainly be used for those who are geneablogging as well.

I have always believed that graphics in blog posts are important. And when you read the “what makes a good blog post” type articles, photographs and images always seem to get a mention, so I’m not the only one.

Over the years I have been asked where do you get the images that I use on my blog, and the simple answer is I use BigStock which you do have to pay for, but it is low-cost compared to some.

But there are other valuable resources out there that you can use, so I thought I’d introduce you to some of them. Many are free free stock photo sites, with a few pay stock photo sites listed as well.

It kind of goes without saying that you MUST read the terms of use on each site, because each is different. Some are free without any attribution needed, some require attribution. Some allow you to alter the image, and others don’t. Some are available for personal use only, but not commercial. Others are fine for either use. So be aware, read the licence.


BigStock – $
BigStock (formerly BigStockPhoto) offers users over 35 million royalty-free photographs and images. They are available to download in various sizes and various file formats, and are available for individuals and commercial organisations. BigStock is a pay site, and you can pay per month, or buy credits. I use the credit method, and just purchase a batch of credits which last a year. Each photo costs a certain number of credits (between 1 and 6 depending on the size and format 2 or 3), and I find enough choice for what I need. You can try BigStock free for 7 days, and download up to 35 royalty-free images during that time.

British Library Images Online – $
Images Online is the picture library of the British Library, UKs national library. This site allows you to search, and ‘buy’ pictures online, which are sent to you as downloads. A totally unique collection with thousands of images available.

Flickr – free
Flickr is used by many of the world’s largest libraries and cultural organisations as a place to share images after determining that “no known copyright restrictions” exist. You’ll find millions of images from 100s of institutions on Flickr. Just a few are the Australian War Memorial (AWM), the National Library of Australia (NLA), LINC Tasmania, NASA, the Smithsonian Institution, the British Library, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), and more from Australia, the US, Canada, France, Scandinavian countries and elsewhere.

Getty Images – $
Getty Images is another pay site. Costs of the images vary according to the chosen resolution and type of rights associated with each image, and they claim to have 80 million images that you can search from.

Gratisography – free
This site is a website created and run by Ryan McGuire, and offers free high-resolution photographs that you can use on your personal and commercial projects, with new pictures added weekly! All photographs are taken by Ryan, and are free from copyright restrictions.

Imgion – free
“On Imgion we provide free images on large topics to share with your friends and on your blogs.” This is a good site to find modern photographs, but just don’t expect to find millions of images like you get on some other sites.

Morguefile – free
Morguefile is a free photo archive “for creatives, by creatives.” The site was created to serve as a free image exchange for creative professionals and teachers to use in their work. A community-based free photo site, all photos found on Morguefile free for you to download and re-use in your work, be it commercial or not. The photos have been contributed by a wide range of creatives from around the world, ranging from amateur photo hobbyists to professionals. Be sure to check licencing for attribution requirements.

New Old Stock – free
The paragraph below the title of this website describes it as “Vintage photos from the public archives. Free of known copyright restrictions. Recapturing History.” And all photos photos on this site “are at the very least available for personal and non-commercial use”.

Pexels – free
Pexels keeps it simple. All photos on Pexels are free for any personal and commercial purpose. They can be used as is, or altered, and no need for attribution is required. They also add 50 new stock photos each day. One to check out if you haven’t before.

Pixabay – free
Pixabay isn’t one I’ve used yet, but it was recommended by a fellow geneablogger, and is now on my list of places to check out. Their website says … “on Pixabay you may find and share images free of copyrights. All pictures are released under Creative Commons CC0 into the public domain. You can copy, modify, distribute, and use the images, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission and without paying attribution.” And they have over 640,000 of them. So definitely one to check out.

Public Domain Archive – free
The Public Domain Archive offers users new free photos each week, or you can pay $10 a month and get unlimited downloads from their site. The photos you’ll find on their website are modern, but stunning.

Shutterstock – $
Shutterstock is the world’s largest subscription based images site with over 80 million images. It is a pay per image site, they also have one image available for free download each week – so if you remember, this is a great way to build up a collection of images for free.

TheGenealogist Image Archive – free/$
With thousands of vintage photos this is a great place to look for images relating to places and topics/occupations in England. While TheGenealogist’s Image Archive is available for everyone to search for free and it allows you a small low-res image, if you want a hi-res one you will need to be a Diamond Subscriber to TheGenealogist website.

The Old Design Shop – free
This is a treasure trove for vintage images. Here you’ll find free clipart graphics and vintage images that come from a variety of public domain sources, as well as magazines, textbooks, calendars, label art, postcards, greeting cards and ephemera. These graphic images are in .jpg format and are available for download. You may use the free clipart images for personal projects or to sell artwork you have created. If using images on a blog or website, a link back or credit to this site is required.

Vintage Stock Photos – $
A pay-per-image site, that offers royalty-free retro and mid-century stock images from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Not a vast quantity of images, but they are good quality ones.

Wellcome Images – free
Wellcome Images is one of the world’s most unique collections, specialising in the medical and social history themes. You can explore over 170,000 historical and contemporary images on their website. All available to download free for personal, non-commercial use.

Wikimedia Commons – free
Wikimedia Commons is a database of over 31 million “freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute”. While this site says “freely useable” be sure to check the licencing, as the images are uploaded by individuals, so licencing can vary from image to image.


I know this isn’t all of the stock photo sites out there. In fact there’s hundreds. If you use something different, feel free to leave a comment below and let others know what you use and how you find it.