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A word on 'Ownership' and 'Privacy' - and how technology is shattering some very old views

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By Claudia_Reynoso - Posted on 01 February 2013

Hello all--

I don't chime in here often with postings, as I am dedicating most of my genealogy time to researching, editing and managing the blog as I grow my family tree, but I find it much beyond my control not to respond to the recent postings implying piracy of genealogical data (again).

As some of you have experienced--the index project at is an invaluable tool for anyone conducting family history in many areas of Mexico--useful to the novice and advanced alike.

I started the above-mentioned indexing as a 'personal research project,' and I kept copious notes on my laptop as I viewed hundreds of images at Then, an awful thing happened--I lost ALL OF MY NOTES...dozens of hours of work...lost to a computer failure. Yes, my 'personal and private' work was lost forever and I would have to work harder and longer now for the same list of names that I had already compiled.

That experience prompted me to keep my notes 'on the cloud,' so to speak, and so an idea was born. Why not publish my findings on the Internet so I will never lose them again? And a RADICAL THOUGHT entered my mind: Why not share my indices so that others can find their ancestors. My logic was not motivated by altruism, but by a genuine desire to collaborate.

I predicted that if someone else advanced THEIR tree...when they did, they would post their findings at and share their info...and THAT NEW INFO shared would complete another puzzle for me, or for someone else who would then also collaborate, and thus I would have new info to advance MY TREE. I envisioned a Win-Win-Win scenario all-around. And it has been just so.

Although not a perfectly polished site--the would have a permanent home online, available to be viewed by ANYONE AND EVERYONE who had Internet access. FOR FREE.

I worked on this project for months--alone. Then, one day, a member of Nuestros Ranchos offered to assist in the indexing work. I never requested volunteers. I never asked anyone to do any indexing on my behalf. Then, a second person came forward...then a third...and then a fourth.

To date, we have had a total of TEN (10) volunteers doing indexing of Dispensa documents for everyone's consumption. How many of your brick walls would still be up if it were not for the generosity of these volunteers?

As some of you may relate, there is a frustration that builds after knowing that so many others before us have already searched through these SAME thousands of documents and have the capacity to share their knowledge--but either don't share, or have published obscure works that nobody has access to due to limited publication. This idea compelled me to compare the differences between the modern researcher versus a researcher twenty or thirty years ago.

Yes, in Mexico twenty or thirty years ago, only some very few people had access to the records most of the World population of Mexican descent now can view easily online. Twenty or thirty years ago, it cost a researcher in Mexico much more time and money to assemble a family tree of only maybe four or five generations than it costs anyone nowadays. I see how this disparity has perhaps fueled a sense of ownership in some older researchers.

Individuals in Mexico who have had the privilege to view and possess original documents and family heirlooms should consider themselves fortunate--but not unparalleled. You see, Technology has evened the score for the rest of us.

I understand how some who are stuck in the old paradigm feel a sense of being robbed, and all I can say is that we are living in the year 2013. Get with the program. You do not own anything and no one is stealing from you, or robbing you of anything. [I am speaking of information on ancestors who lived 100 years ago or more.] Information technology is advancing at such a rapid rate, that in a few years' time, in terms of genealogy, most of the developed World will have access to their 'personal' family tree going back many-many generations--without doing a minute of research themselves. Get with the program or just don’t participate in any forums like NuestrosRanchos or anywhere else on the Internet. You won’t be much missed.

I recall a comment that was posted here by a respected Mexican researcher. He said that (and I am paraphrasing)...there were some genealogists who work without any purpose--these are the ones who assemble projects of general utility for the community as a whole--but that, although meritorious, they 'have no grace.' I believe he was directing that comment at me, as he was responding to a post I wrote dealing with the issue of Genealogy and piracy.

Now let us define 'Grace.' Grace is: elegance or refinement. I am sure most of you will agree that our volunteers are all the epitome of Grace, in the complete definition of the word when compared to those who hoard their supposedly personal information and heirlooms.

My humble opinion.


wow, that guy was rude. using technology can preserve history.

anyways, i sent an email to you containing the additional indexes i haven't sent to you yet.

Thank you Claudia, for your input on this issue. I very much agree with your perpective. In a truly academic and professional atmosphere, researchers share information with eachother. This I know from my years as a graduate student, (before the age of the internet!) One of the reasons I appreciate nuestros ranchos is precisely because it is a place when i can participate in the exchange of research discoveries. I can get help, and i can help others, just as you pointed out. This work is not pnly about family trees, fascinating as they may be. We all have pieces of the same extraordinary puzzle of the transformation of society in mexico over 500 years. The more we share with eachother, the clearer that picture becomes, and the better we understand the decisions and choices our ancestors made in marriage and migration. There are surely graduate students and academic historians out there who would find this forum a treasuretrove of leads to ethnohistorical sources- likewise guadajaradispensas. I truly appreciate the work you and the other volunteers do!

Denise Fastrup

I would also like to congratulate Claudia and her team of volunteers for all their great work in the Guadalajara Dispensas.
By the way, one of the familysearch links for these documents does not work. I reported it to them but I think it would be better if more people interested in these documents could do the same.
This is the familysearch path:

-Mexico, Jalisco, Catholic Church Records
-Diócesis de Guadalajara
-Matrimonios 1751

Instead of getting the images for the corresponding film #168008, I get images for film #577210, which belongs to Bristol County (Massachusetts), Register of Deeds (Deeds, vol. 1-3, 1687-1734).

Victoriano Navarro

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