Genealogy, Plagiarism, Ethics, and Belonging.......

A long time ago, when I was much younger, my mother gave me some sage advice.  She said keep company with the people you admire and want to be like.  It makes sense and perhaps that same advice should be used in our genealogy.

I wanted to become a better genealogist.  I enrolled in Boston University, NGS courses, ProGen and the National Institute for Genealogical Studies.  I go to seminars, jamborees, conferences, SLIG and attend webinars.  I am picky about how, what, and with whom I study.  I pay for many of these opportunities and I want my dollars’ worth.  I talk to others about the events to find out if they are a worthwhile purchase.  I ran Boston University and National Institute through the BBB and read about them on the BCG Educational Preparation page    I check out who is speaking and what subjects were being offered.  I strike up conversations with conference attendees at events to find out who they liked and disliked.  I check out speakers prior to attending seminars.  You might be thinking sure you’re a private detective you do that for a living.  Hello, anyone can run a Google search, no excuses!

I always thought that RootsTech, NGS, SCGS Jamboree, and FGS vetted their speakers.  I was making assumptions, I was wrong.  RootsTech allowed Barry Ewell to lecture this past February.  I am so disappointed and so glad I did not attend.  A simple Google search on Barry brings numerous entries about plagiarism.  I think RootsTech needs to apologize and let all of us know they are rethinking their speaker selection.  My trust has been lost.

RootsTech brought innocent newbie genealogists to Barry.  Barry sold books with plagiarized content to his attendees who in turn told others about his book.  By not vetting there speakers they are allowing unethical behavior to continue.  What are we saying to new genealogists?  What are we teaching them?  We are teaching that stealing and unethical behavior is ok.  Is that what we want? 

Now we can’t all agree and we are all entitled to our opinions.  As genealogists we need to share opinions and thoughts, both negative and positive.  I recently removed myself from a genealogy blogging group that had an administrator that deleted comments of people that belonged to the group.  They were deleted because they spoke the truth.  I did however find a delightful replacement for the group called “We Are Genealogy Bloggers” .  Now folks you need to vet your Facebook groups.  Do not join just to join.  Make sure that the people in the group share your ethics and ideals.  Like mom said “be friends with the people you admire and want to be like”.  I encourage all of you to think about your decisions to belong to groups.  Belonging to a group that is unethical is not something I want to be a part of. 

What else can we do?  Lean forward during a lecture and let the person in front of you photographing slides know they are stealing from the speaker.  Educate fellow attendees, most do not know that what they are doing is wrong.  Be your own detective and make educated decisions regarding your education, money, and the people you hang out with.  


Sheri Fenley said…
Amen sister - Amen! This is exactly what we need to be talking about. Yes we know who the bad guy is and what he did, HOWEVER what we all need to be doing is shouting to the mountaintops - "IT IS NOT OK TO BEHAVE THIS WAY!"

Thanks Amy for being a voice!
Jill Ball said…
When I saw Mr Ewell's name on the Rootstech program I was surprised. Even though I am in Australia I was aware of his reputation - I hope the people in Salt Lake City are more careful in selection of 2017 speakers.
Barbara Fisher said…
Hello Amy,
First of all, I must say how much I enjoyed the photo in your blog header – it reminded me so much of my own family photos.
I am very new to genealogy having come to it almost by accident. A holiday to find the places my parents talked about when I was a girl sparked my interest, and I rather jumped in with both feet.
I am amazed by how much there is to learn and by the wonderful people who are willing to share their expertise. As for Barry Ewell, this is the second post I’ve read about him in the last few days. It amazes me how he not only gets away with it but gets paid for it!
Thank you so much for visiting my blog ( leaving a comment, it made my day! I've added my blog address here because I also have a book blog and I think Google will take you to that if you click on my name. Barbara
Jana Last said…

I want to let you know that your blog is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

Have a great weekend!
Amy Urman said…
Barbara the picture is of my Grandmother Clara Miottel her step sister and nieces. It is one of my favorite pictures!

Jana thank you for listing me on your blog!

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