What Kind of Neighbor Are You in The Genealogy Community?

I try to be a friendly, helpful neighbor. I am sure most of you do as well. If any of you follow me on twitter, @Terri_OConnell, you know that a few weeks ago I was on a rant about those that are not good neighbors.

It started with an innocent email, requesting help breaking down their brick wall. To be perfectly honest, I was thrilled that someone would ask me for help. I replied the same day to the request and asked the sender to please send me ALL the information they have and I would go through it and where it leads me.

I received an email later that day giving me the details of the family in question. I then started a tree on ancestry.com to see what else I could find, I also searched familysearch.org and the records on a state specific web site. (Please understand that I am being vague to protect all sides involved).

I did not find much beyond the information that was given to me. A census record, a few things of that nature. But nothing to take me back any further than what this person had already found. So, I reached out to this person again via email asking for scanned copies of the records that they might already have. I did get a reply that might have answered a few questions I had, but my request for the vital records was ignored.

At this point, I probably put in about 3 hours of research into this family, and did not mind doing it. I then ended up getting sick and quit research all together (including my family). About a week passed and I received another email from said person asking for an update. I replied that I have been ill and that when I was feeling better I would continue my search.

Fast forward another week, I am still sick and have not moved forward on any research. I receive yet another email, this one was not so nice. The gist of it was they were deeply disappointed in me.

I was more than furious, how does someone who I have NEVER met send me such a mean email. Especially when I was volunteering to help with their research. I ranted on Twitter and most replied that I should be charging and not be doing this for free.

I waited a few days before replying to the email. Which, is very unlike me, I am usually prompt at replying. I wanted to make sure my reply was to the point and not mean in any way.

I finally pulled my thoughts together and began my reply to this person. Using a few bullet points, I explained a few things, such as: I am doing this for free, it took me over 10 years to break a brick wall down and 2 weeks was not enough time, I also have a life which includes family, my research and my business that I need to run as well. My life needs to come before whatever I am doing out of the goodness of my heart. I also advised that if they are looking for prompt answers they should think about hiring a professional to do their research. I then added that I have requested numerous times for vital records which they have not provided to me.

Two days later, I received a reply and to my surprise it was an apology. This person went on and on about how others have said they would help and never follow through.

So, I put this question to all of you. What kind of neighbor are you?

Most people I have met or interacted with in the genealogy neighborhood are helpful. And, to be perfectly honest, I now that my genealogy neighbors/friends are in my corner no matter what I need. From help with my research, to a joke when I need to smile, to a prayer for family/friends/pets when needed.

Please keep in mind when you interact with our genealogy neighborhood, we are a giving bunch. But, we will not tolerate this type of behavior. I believe these saying’s truly fit the situation, “you catch more bees with honey” and “if you cannot play nice, don’t play at all.”

Please help keep our neighborhood friendly!



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  1. Terri,

    I SO agree with you. When I offer to do something for free, I always, always stress and list everything I do so they completely understand that this isn’t going to happen overnight.

    Also in the cases where I choose to help someone for free, I’ve started evaluating their situation research-wise, get them to a point, and then list what they need to do next & where to go to find it. Then, I tell them to let me know what they find for curiosity’s sake. Clever, eh? Let them do the work. So far, I’ve had a positive reaction to it. *shrugs*


    1. There’s food for thought, C. I have not even looked at the info since this all went down, maybe I will do that and then tell her what might be a good next step for her.

  2. I just recently went through something similar. I was helping two cousins and one was very nice and the other not so much. I continued with it only because the one was grateful for what I found. I ended up writing it all up as a series of blog posts including a list of what they needed to do to continue to research the lines back further.

    I have helped many people over the years. The unpleasant ones have been few and far between.

  3. Apple,

    It is true that they are far and few between, but they do leave a bad taste in ones mouth (for lack of better expressions).

    Sorry that you have had the same experience. My hope is that by putting this out there for all to read, people will take the time and be appreciative of the help they get (for free) and if not, let me point you in the direction of someone who is more than happy to charge them for the work. I just do not have time for it.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

  4. Just a couple of weeks ago I got my first request for assistance from someone I didn’t know and in no way related to. I wasn’t sure how to respond, but in the end I decided to see what I could do. I just got back from being out of town and you’ve given me the umphf to move forward…I want to be a good neighbor!

    1. Heather, I am glad to have given you that extra umph to be a good neighbor. Just remember to set the expectations with some kind of time frame. That way, you will hopefully not have the issues I did. Good luck and thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  5. I am really surprised that the person sent you a mean email. It’s just common sense that when someone does something for you and expects nothing in return that you should try to be nice to them. Doesn’t matter what the topic is. Seems like this person just didn’t have any common sense at all.

    1. Marian, I was surprised as well. I think I waited about a week or two to even write about the experience because I was so mad. I will say that after I sent the email to them, they apologized and said that many people have offered to help and no one really has. They just put all of the information they supplied up on Ancestry and thats it. I did say I would continue to look into this family for her, but it will be at my available time – not when they think I should be doing it.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Its greatly appreciated!

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