One of the objectives of registering a surname with the Guild is to be recognised as the centre for information exchange on that name. The Guild provides publicity for your one-name study, so that you are likely to receive enquiries from people whose family history research brings them into contact with that name.
In turn, the Guild expects its members to fulfil their obligations in responding to reply-paid or email enquiries for information. It is important that members with registered names take this obligation seriously, as any failure to respond reflects on the Guild as a whole and may even impact on our charitable status, which requires us to provide benefits to the wider public.
When meeting this commitment, members may like to consider the following guidance:
It can be a good idea to have some general background on the research surname to pass on, as well as any specific data in response to an enquiry. If you have a website or a Guild web profile, then you may want to quote the URL with any response to an enquiry.
When you receive a specific query about the registered name, you should seek to provide any additional information you can from your research records that will help the enquirer.
If you do not have any additional information to help the enquirer, then you should try to suggest areas of research that the enquirer might pursue. This may lead to your receiving additional information for your study.
You may find it best not to give too much information, at least to begin with, so as to encourage correspondents to share what relevant information they may have about the surname. You should also guard against others posting your entire trees into publicly available repositories such as Ancestral File and similar sites. To minimise this risk, don’t send massive GEDCOM (GEnealogical Data COMmunication) files, but instead send relevant extracts in the form of drop-line trees.
Guild members are not expected to undertake additional research to help answer a query – unless they want to.
When you receive a very general enquiry, or a request to provide substantial amounts of your research data, you should reply politely seeking more specific detail about what data is actually wanted. You don’t have to send all the data asked for!
If you are unable to respond within a reasonable time – say, 10 days – then send an acknowledgement that the enquiry has been received, and an indication of when you will be able to provide a more substantial response.
Remember: most correspondents won’t be interested in your one-name study, but rather whether you can help them with their own family history.
Your research may sometimes put you in an ethical dilemma if you discover events in the past two or three generations that have been “hushed-up”, and are now unknown to the family concerned; for example,
- extramarital births
- criminal convictions
The Guild does not specify a policy on what information can be disclosed. However, you may like to be aware that many Guild members believe it is best to remain silent about these (unless specifically asked), since disclosure may be upsetting to the family concerned. You should also respect the feelings of living people by not passing on their details without their permission.
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