Madness Monday--Barry Ewell, You're a Tool

There is evil afoot in the genealogy community. And while I hate basing what I post on current/trending/controversial events, this one has its usefulness to me as I tighten up my belt on a few things. (Note my Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA Copyright at the bottom of the page.)

Barry Ewell is the founder/owner/whatever for Many of the big-name genealogy sites, including Cyndi's List, have recently discovered that he has plagiarized them in his work.

The consequences will now be a coup which will jam my RSS feed for an undisclosed period of time with the exact same story, which is really going to piss me off. Everyone will hash and rehash their grievances, then publicly lick their wounds--regardless of whether the rest of us actually care.

Do I care?

So Barry Ewell, I'm going to do something that should equally ruin your day. In fact, I wish I had the time or the experience to do it on a much bigger scale than I'm currently able to do. Give me time, and I'll get there.

So here it goes.

Paid genealogy is the biggest waste of money you could ever commit against yourself. With time, practice, and basic common sense, you can avoid ever having to pay anyone for anything they could possibly teach you about genealogy. I refuse to pay for anything in genealogy because I have since figured out that I don't need to do so. (Exception: Donations. There wouldn't be a need for paid genealogy if people would donate the way they should.)

Most of the money which is spent on genealogy is not money well spent. Here are some examples of what I mean.
  • With the same money you spend on magazines, subscriptions, memberships, trips to conferences--all of the many services which paid genealogy has to offer--you can actually go out and DO genealogy yourself. Instead of paying to go to Las Vegas for whatever conference that was, I can pay to drive to Tennessee and Virginia to transcribe the cemeteries for my great great (and great great great) grandparents, for my mother and father's family both. Using free tools like BillionGraves and, and even this blog, I can do my work and share it with everyone who needs it on my own terms. And because there are many people out there who agree with me, there will always be a free site you can use to find the information that you need. Always. It's the first lesson of the novice in genealogy--the first time they pay for something, then find it somewhere else for free.
  • The very sites and services you pay for end up making money off of your contributions, regardless of what you do. I am the very first person to have ever researched the patri-lineal line of my father's family. When people will begin to search for anything in relation to that line, my work is the work they will WANT to find. And requires them, by default, to pay to see my information. Which is totally unnecessary, because I give it away on least a half a dozen other sites FOR FREE. Does tell you that? No, because they have no idea. Nor do I expect them to do so. I am pleased with their services, and I am willing to allow them to make money off of someone for exactly as long as it takes that person to realize it is unnecessary. But not one moment longer. 
  • You will end up wasting your money. My husband's mother's family is from Iowa. He was paying for a membership to a genealogical society in Iowa so he would have unlimited use of their records. Included in that membership are newsletters with genealogical information in them. Sometimes they're indexes to cemeteries, sometimes they're bios for important people, things like that. Do you know when the last time was that my husband paid his dues? He has no idea. Do you know how many times he has received this newsletter? With postage encroaching on 50 cents, enough times to exceed the 10 dollars a year in dues that he paid. Do you know how many times he has been back to that part of Iowa since he purchased the membership? Not one time. Do you know where all of those newsletters are? They are sitting inside of our genealogy chest in our closet. Many of them are unopened. Before that, they were sitting inside of various boxes, packed away until we got married and had a place of our own. He hasn't used them at all. The genealogical society lost money on him, and he paid $10 dollars for quite a bit of precious information. Which is exactly the kind of thing that happens to you when you do it yourself. No amount of paid subscriptions to websites will ever recreate that kind of experience.

My husband and I have become wiser in how we spend our money on genealogy. We spend exactly what we want to obtain an exact desired result. We know what we should have to pay for success, and we refuse to pay one cent more than that. And what Barry Ewell has done is a reflection of my least favorite kind of person in genealogy. It isn't someone who expects to get something without paying--because that is exactly what my philosophy is. It isn't someone who refuses to work--the man obviously read enough material from enough sites to piss a lot of people off, so you can't say he didn't work. It isn't even someone who doesn't give credit where credit is due--because I don't want credit. Needing, no, NEEDING credit is basically...

No, the reason Barry Ewell gets on my nerves is because he is the exact evidence of why some people shouldn't get involved in paid genealogy. (Because if he wasn't getting paid, he wouldn't care enough to steal.) They give genealogy a bad reputation and give everyone a bad taste in their mouth. They make everyone else paranoid about whether or not someone is going to steal from them, so they become more reluctant to share. They make new genealogists think that genealogy is all about money, and reluctant to even start. Because of people like Barry Ewell, everybody loses--including people that don't care he exists. Like me.

So Barry Ewell, you are now a tool. You are someone that everyone is now going to use to excuse themselves from giving--or in my case, a reason to give MORE. Either way, more than anyone else, you lose.

How you like dem apples?