Sharing information

How to share genealogical information easily

There is an easy way to share information from family trees, and it isn’t through sending pages of typed information or data on spreadsheets attached to an email.  That will require the person at the other end to retype everything that is being sent.

Neither is it wise to type information directly from someone’s web site without knowing the documented sources that have been used.

There is no substitute in family history work for using a software program designed specifically for the purpose. There are many on the market (Family Tree Maker, Ancestral Quest, Legacy, Personal Ancestral File, Master Genealogist, etc., and Reunion for the Mac), but if you don’t have one, you can download Personal Ancestral File free to your PC (no Mac version, unfortunately), by starting here.

First step is to type all of your information into your computer program. Use the sources and notes sections to record where the information came from for every individual. All experienced, competent genealogists do this.

Once you have your family information on computer, you can easily send all or parts of it in a gedcom file (short for genealogical data communications) to anyone else with a family history computer program. It does not even have to be the same program. Gedcom files use a common language that allows large amounts of data to be shared between different programs. Ultimately, this will save you and others huge amounts of time.

To find out how to create a gedcom file, or how to import one, open your software program. Instructions are usually found in the menu under File/import-export. Follow your software program’s screen instructions or Help section to create a gedcom file that you can attach to an email.

Gedcom files can contain information on hundreds and even thousands of individuals. Be careful, however, before accepting data from anyone else that does not include their sources. Names, dates and places in a family tree with no indication as to where they have come from are not much use, and tend to perpetuate errors all over the Internet.

Accessing the Otterson-Berry
family tree

On this site, the tree icon next to some names provides a link to the entire Otterson-Berry family tree of more than 4,000 names on You can download gedcoms from there directly. However, the sources and notes are not  included on RootsWeb because they sometimes contain private or sensitive information. If you would like notes and sources for any of the individuals on my tree, please email me at the email address shown on the “Contact me” page.