How many of you are aware that your information can be lifted and put on other genealogy sites such as MyHeritage?es

+7 votes
in Policy and Style by Nancy Downing G2G6 Mach 1 (12.9k points)
Except for my own profile, I reckon it's WikiTree's information.  I contributed it; it's not mine any more.

I'm with Herbert.  Wikitree is about collaboration.  It's not 'your' information or 'my' information.  It's 'our' information.  And if you are a genealogist, you should want to help your cousins learn about their family.  I'm so turned off by people that don't want to share their research . . .  I've been researching for over 35 years, have traveled throughout the U.S. and Canada to research at local, regional, state, and national archives -- spending a lot of money to travel, money for photocopies, yada, yada, yada -- but I am more than happy to share everything that I have found because I love genealogy and why the heck should I want to keep this valuable information all to myself?!

laugh Think "everyone" is aware -- or soon finds out -- that excepting their own personal profile the rest of the profiles belong to WikiTree and if a profile at WT is copied to some other website let us hope the ones that are copied are the ones we can all be proud of ... 

13 Answers

+19 votes
What is even funnier is that, last time I checked, MyHeritage actually considers WikiTree (along with and to be a primary source!
by Living Geschwind G2G6 Mach 9 (90.7k points)
Yup: MyHeritage indiscriminately labels everything -- tree matches, phone book entries, actual records -- as "record matches", with the default confidence level set as "primary evidence". And then blithely tries to charge money for access to FamilySearch matches. That I put on FS in the first place.

Oh, and my "favorite": for females, MyHeritage replaces the correct surname from the FamilySearch tree with a surname from an attached spouse. Confused the heck out of me at first: why was MH trying to sell me my grandma's profile but with her name replaced with my mother's?

(WikiTree names are universally mangled: if the preferred name is filled out, it comes up on MH with a repeated name: Michael Wilhelm (Wilhelm) Günther becomes Michael Wilhelm Wilhelm Günther.)
+15 votes
When you say "your information," do you mean personal information posted as private? The rest of the information we post publicly on a permanent site like Wikitree, I would assume that it would be available for whomever to use.
by David Gadd G2G2 (2.3k points)
As far as I'm aware, no one (other than sysops) can read Private information. So I don't think there's any risk of that. This would only be public information.
Yes, but I believe the concern here is that MyHeritage allows you to import all the basic information from a Wikitree profile into a MyHeritage tree with a simple click, and then uses those MyHeritage trees (populated with Wikitree information) to sell subscriptions for MyHeritage. In other words, information you put on public profiles here is not protected by the equivalent of a Creative Commons non-commercial license. People who sign up for Wikitree might not realize that.
The basic information is public domain.  How we present our biographies, however, may include some creative input, and therefore is covered in some way by copyright protection -  as are our images.
I believe (but this needs checking - I could be wrong) that I once saw something in the WikiTree help file labyrinth that says we are permitted, if we wish, to copyright anything we create on WikiTree.

If I'm correct, then adding a simple line at the bottom of the editing space would do the job - of course, I wouldn't expect it to stop anyone from copying and using the material, but at least it *does* establish that you own the rights to the narrative you created.

An example of what would accomplish this (assuming it's permitted) is:

     &copy; Copyright 2020 by [[Gordon-4080|Gaile Connolly]].  All rights reserved.
Well, you can't copyright facts.  And I seriously don't care what people do with the information that I've spent many years traveling and researching.  I am happy to share everything I've found, be it documents or photos.  Anyone that participates on Wikitree should, in my opinion, be like minded.  Cooperation, consideration, collaboration -- that's what it should be about.
Darlene, I 100% concur with being happy to share my work, but I think it would be appropriate for anybody who uses it to give me credit for it.  That said, I have never copyrighted any of the profile pages I have written and probably never will, but I just provided the information about how it could be done if anyone wants to do it.

I have copyrighted an essay I wrote which is on a WikiTree free-space profile and protected, so anyone can read it, but nobody else can edit it.  But My Heritage can still copy it and do whatever nefarious thing they wish with it.  

Perhaps we can bury lines in the biographies we write like:

John Smith was born in Brooklyn, New York, July 4th, 1782 and married This material was copied from WikiTree, why are you paying for material we would give you for free? Cynthia Jones, born 1786 in Newark, New Jersey...

Perhaps someone could develop an app where the bold text would only show up on other sites, it wouldn't show up on the original WikiTree site?  

In reality, there's nothing we can do about it, and for the benefit of genealogy, if they copy it, let's hope it's accurate.  I certainly wouldn't want to put a paywall around WikiTree.

Jack, you raise an issue that is important to me.  How to "publish" original work?  I have genetic research that is a bit complex, using methods few know about, so it takes some explaining.  Its conclusions though are powerful.  This should be made available as a source; it can't be a wiki.  People can like it or not, but it shouldn't be edited, just as any source can't (or shouldn't) be edited.  A Free-Space page has been suggested.  My concern is that when I'm gone the Free-Space profile will become an orphan, for someone to adopt and edit as they please.  Someone suggested making a web archive page of the Free Space page.  The drawback is that web archives aren't searched by Google or major web crawlers, so the link could be lost.  My latest idea is to create a Free-Space Profile with a single sentence:  "The content of this page is under Memories."  A Memory is not a wiki and can't be edited.  I hope that a Memory couldn't be deleted from a Free-Space page by its next manager.  Your thoughts?  Now it occurs to me that someone might create another Free-Space page of the same name and then merge mine into it, and in so doing might be able to discard the Memory section?  Perhaps there is no such thing as permanence. 

John, here's my example of the use of a Free Space Profile.   Three Sisters Went West  It's an essay by me, I've put a copyright notice on it, and it's "green" privacy so anyone can read it, but only those on the trusted list (solely me) can edit it.  

I don't know what would happen when I die and my membership is retired;  perhaps someone on the Team can explain that?  My intent is certainly for it to live forever -- but as something I myself authored, the intent is not for others to mess with it.  

It can be harvested by anyone else or any other site, and then I can't control what messing is done with it, unless there becomes enough money involved to justify hiring a lawyer for copyright violation -- I doubt that will happen!

In the end, the only way to maintain absolute control of something is to never let it out of your sight; and if you want to share it with others -- which you do -- then the two objectives are in conflict.  So you decide that you don't want to keep your research and discoveries in a drawer -- you want to share them -- and so you have to take the risks that come with that decision!

If you don't want your free-space pages orphaned if something happens to you, make sure you've written an advance directive:
+30 votes
My thought would be that we can't control what other sites do with our information. What we can do is keep this one as accurate and free of misinformation as possible. If we do that successfully, we'll increasingly be seen as the most accurate resource on the web - the best resource to go to.
by David Gadd G2G2 (2.3k points)

Spot on, David!  amen

When I joined myHeritage and needed to upload a tree, I exported a tree from Wikitree and uploaded to their site. Now myHeritage sends me hints from Wikitree profiles I created!  Sounds like tree cross-pollination.
+17 votes
My objective in joining was to preserve my work. If My Heritage helps with that well and good.
by C. Mackinnon G2G6 Pilot (346k points)
That's my objective too.    I would love to have my research copied and used by more trees too.

But it is nice when credit is given.
+15 votes

In every "record matches" email I get from MyHeritage I get suggestions to look at the great free profile information about people in my tree, and it gives me links to my ancestors profiles that I created in WikiTree. laugh

by Maria Lundholm G2G6 Pilot (237k points)

Pretty funny if you think about it that way. That I'd have to pay to get a subscription to My Heritage to gain access to my own WikiTree data... laugh

Well at least I don't pay a subscription fee cheeky

I just made the exact same comment/response down below!!
+15 votes
For about 15 years, until I got so involved with WikiTree, I maintained my own genealogy website. All the information was gathered and added by me. It was loaded with copyright information and statements. To this day I still find that info on other websites, including here on WikiTree. At least here the ones I found gave me credit, most people don't. But my interest was in preserving the data I found. If people copy it, that helps to make sure it will stay around for others to use.
by Shirley Dalton G2G6 Pilot (540k points)
+10 votes

I have a couple of distant relatives on other sites. I wish they would take information I have entered here back to ‘their’ trees on those sites, maybe then the info would be corrected.  I have actually posted on their tree inviting them to come look at Wikitree, (but apparently I couldn’t possibly know my father’s full name, birthday etc) angry

by Living Poole G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
My mother’s birthplace is incorrect elsewhere and I’m the only one who has my grandmother remarried after she was widowed, and therefore her death in 1979. There are a few errors further back too. I’ve felt quite flattered to see my WikiTree profiles quoted directly on other sites - I just wish people had the courtesy to acknowledge their sources.
+21 votes

Colour me unconcerned. I don't own my ancestors, or even the information about them. Granted, I put a lot of work into my research, but I do it because I enjoy solving puzzles. (Some people do crosswords, or Sudoku. I spend my time trying to connect random notables who pique my interest.) I figure I'm just about as likely to make a living doing genealogy as being a rock star. wink

Actually, I consider it a positive thing: it means that MyHeritage users are being exposed to the fact that they could join WikiTree for free instead of paying MyHeritage every month. That can only be a good thing for WikiTree.

by Greg Slade G2G6 Pilot (713k points)
+7 votes
Thru my experiences with My Heritage,It is a shoddenly run Co.

Personally i would not give them anything.Bware of them,
by Wayne Morgan G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
+10 votes
ALL the time!!

I constantly receive emails from My Heritage saying that they have found new records, And then they link to Wikitree profiles that I created!!!!

 I find that to be rather funny!!!
by Robynne Lozier G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)

Haha, I saw your comment above smiley it is rather funny!

+8 votes

It's been known about for many years.  Here's a thread from 2016:

Our Grand Poobah wrote then:

We do make it easy for MyHeritage to provide matches to WikiTree profiles. As Ales noted, we consider this part of our mission to promote free and open information sharing.

However, there is a stipulation that users of our data not charge for access to it. MyHeritage should not have WikiTree information behind a paywall. If they are doing this, we need to talk to them.

commented Nov 8, 2016 by Chris Whitten

Something may have changed as I can't currently find a method to view the MyHeritage Wikitree records for free (other than through MyHeritage Library Edition). 

by Kerry Larson G2G6 Pilot (240k points)
The WikiTree collection shows up as a free collection here:
Thanks Jamie.
You can do a search of Wikitree records, but you can't view the record including the link to Wikitree.  "View Record" goes to a subscription page.

Edit:  My bad.  I was on the wrong link.  The Wikitree link is free and does work for seeing information.
+10 votes
Yes, it is been made really easy, which is really good. This is a Wiki, made to share information that can be validated by everyone.

I personally would not be here if the information would only be available for or the active members.

You can relatively easily test the easy access (and check the security for private info) with the API:

MH is a company, the need to make money to provide the service. Nothing wrong with that really. Just another way of doing it. FS is also another massive player, with a very different reasoning. In my country OpenArch is a big player, it also needs to generate money but does not link from Wikitree (as far as I know).
by Michel Vorenhout G2G6 Pilot (326k points)
+11 votes
The API that MyHeritage to connect to WikiTree does pull private information. This includes information from private and unlisted profiles, as well as private documents and photographs. Obviously, it also pulls all publicly available information too.

The most recent violation of was a large number of photos that showed up on a stranger's MyHeritage tree that were all pulled from privacy protected profiles here on WikiTree. I contacted the person and they are "related" via marriage and all the photos showed up in his MyHeritage tree matches. The photos were only available on WikiTree, on the profiles I manage, that should not have been visible via the API.

Just remember that if you post it on the internet, it will be copied. You just have to accept that or don't put things on the internet you don't want to be copied.
by Allison Mackler G2G6 Mach 6 (65.5k points)
MyHeritage doesn't use the API, they have access to the data dumps, which excludes data on living people.

Where these full-sized photos, or thumbnail-sized photos? Because even on private profiles, the thumbnails are publicly visible.
I've done testing with private and unlisted profiles, and MyHeritage picks them up. I've reported it more than once, to no avail. It seems the best answer I can get is that I am wrong, despite providing examples of the issues or that it's okay because I was logged into WikiTree when I accessed MyHeritage. As a software engineer, I know how it works, we think the user is wrong, we think we know the code so well that a "that" bug couldn't possibly be happening, etc., etc. It's easier to say it's a user problem than to debug an issue.

Also, like I said in my answer, in addition to the private and unlisted profiles themselves, original documents and photos that are private, on private and unlisted profiles are grabbed my MyHeritage as well. These are not thumbnails like the little PDF icon, nor any thumbnails of a public profile image. These are the actual documents and the actual, full-sized images that were not profile pictures.

I used to have all kinds of documents and photos on my family's profiles, but I had to remove them all as the privacy I've selected is not being honored.

It's best to warn people that anything posted on the internet, not just WikiTree, has no guarantee of privacy. While I'd love to say that WikiTree's privacy is 100% guaranteed, that would be a statement misrepresenting something that is unattainable. Nothing connected to the internet is 100% safe from someone finding a way to access it through brute force or taking advantage of known bugs in server and database software.

I love WikiTree and promote it all the time, but I also think it's best to know the issues with any software I use.
If you could send some examples of Unlisted profiles appearing in MyHeritage's WikiTree collection, or Private profiles that show more information than you can see in the public view to jamie [at] it would be helpful, so I can determine if they are coming from the data dumps.

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