Saturday, April 25, 2015

Familysearch.org stole my family from me.

I remember the day my Aunt showed me the crumpled, imperfect and torn family tree drawing that my grandfather Gerhard McGee I had drawn. The branches were skinny, dead looking apendages to the attempted artisticly craved tree trunk. Names were scattered from branch to branch with obvious care and forethought to the generations later that would attempt to decipher them.
This first encounter with family history touched in me what my faith taught me was named "the spirit of Elijah". The term is taken from the biblical book of Malachil chapter 4 wherein the prophet of Elijah is promised "to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers" My heart had been turned to my fathers and was set in motion 23 years of seeking them out. 
When I became a member of The Church of jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints I was eighteen years old and had lost both my parents and two of my grandparents. I understood the desire and hope that many feel to be reunited one day with deceased loved ones. The doctrines of the lDs church which hinged on genealogy research spoke to that hope and longing in me to see my parents and to know from where I came. 
The years that I have spent locating documentation, connecting with online groups of researchers, contacting distant cousins and discovering within myself an identity led me to entrust the LDS church with my growing family tree containing over 1000 names, notes, dates and personal stories. What was once contained on a personal hard drive came to be part of the online community called Familysearch.org. As a member of the LDS faith additional information and tools are available to the user of the site. 
Fastforwarding to the current day I find myself writing this post from a state of disappointment. I am no longer a member of The Church of jesus Christ of Latter- Day Saints via excommunication for my views on sexuality and marriage.  The unfortunate result is that my records of family history that my grandfather began and I built upon for many mnay years have been stolen by familysearch.org. When i state that the records are stolen I mean that they have all of my research, notes etc to the benefit of the familysearch database yet have seen fit to block my access to them. While I am not the author of the said records individualyl I am the author of the organization of said records into the family tree linked to my account with them. Just as Tyndale did not write the Bible, his organization and notations,commentary on the scriptures make him rightful owner of a copyright so to speak. 
While I am certain there are terms and conditions of utilizing the familysearch.org site, there are most certainly ethicaly boundaries that have been trampled upon. As I search for a solution to this dilemma I hope my story serves as a warning to those who share and trust digital sites so easily.

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