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The Genealogy Grinch

Over the years, I have found that two enjoyable aspects to researching my family have been meeting distant cousins that are also into genealogy and getting the chance to trade our research. I have often been surprised by how close genealogy can bring two people together, that would otherwise just be considered strangers.

My research has brought many amazing people into my life, who have become just as close as my immediate family. We have helped each other break through road blocks, identify unknown faces in family photos, shared letters, family stories, research and laughs. We found excitement in sharing all of our hard work and watching the joy we brought to each other through it.

Unfortunately though, like everything else in life, there are also people who like to ruin the fun for others. If you have been researching your family long enough, I am sure you have come in contact with a genealogy grinch or two. They always have an excuse to not share their information-even if you have sent all of yours. Sometimes they don’t bother with excuses, they just flat out refuse to share any of their research, photos or records. I have run into this several times, it is by far my biggest pet peeve when it comes to genealogy.

While most were happy to answer questions, add their photos, records and stories, thrilled someone cared and wanted to be apart of it-others promised to send their information never to follow through. However, they took great pride in showing off their work at a family reunions and get-togethers. I have also had some people say flat out that they didn’t have pictures of particular people, only to find out that they did. I could never wrap my head around this need to keep everything for themselves. I mean, it’s not like I was expecting them to just hand over all of their original documents and photos-I just wanted copies.

There are so many ways to share information these days, there really is no excuse. From making photocopies, scanning, burning a disk, email, to uploading your tree and photos to share on sites like, the options are endless. So why be the grinch ruining it for everyone else?

If you are guilty of being your family’s genealogy grinch, I’d like you to stop and remember why you got into genealogy in the first place. Chances are you wanted to get to know your family’s past, keep your lost loved ones alive and hoped to learn a bit about yourself along the way.

Now ask yourself… why would you want to be the dead end for someone else who is just hoping to do the same?


  1. Sadly, I have run across this. One family member has tons of photos of my paternal side and refuses to share with anyone.

    A bigger issue for me is how do I deal with people who don’t want to be included in the tree at all out of “privacy concerns”?

    1. Hey Mica,

      Both are tough situations… for the first one, refuses to share as in doesn’t know how to scan them and refuses to let them out of their sight? Or refuses to even let others have a look? If it’s the first of the two I have gotten in the habbit of bringing a scanner with me when interviewing family members. Many don’t mind sharing but don’t feel comfortable having the items leave their sight. If you are able to scan on the spot-in their home right in front of them-they tend to be more willing. They know that item isn’t going to disappear.

      Other times you will just run into rotten relatives that will refuse to share no matter what. I’d say try having another relative reach out to them-one they may be close to and trust. Or consider writing them explaining why you’d appreciate the opportunity to view the item and scan the documents. In this case-again-having a scanner on hand may help ease any fears on their end.

      Your “bigger issue” is blog worthy… this is a tough one-hang tight and I’ll tackle this in an article!

      Thank you for reading, commenting and for your patience,


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