What Should You Copy?  What Can You Copy, Legally and Ethically?


On this website, Deep Roots in Hancock County, Illinois:
- tombstone pictures
- all panoramic cemetery, aerial and other miscellaneous photographs
- miscellaneous graphics
- narratives
which were taken, created or composed after 1989 are afforded the protection of copyright.

Please do not reproduce tombstone or any other present-day photographs for sale or profit; do not place them in a publication or on any other Internet site without prior written permission from Marcia Farina or the original contributor.

Tombstone and various cemetery photographs from this website which are also displayed on Find A Grave are still protected by the copyright of the original photographer, and should not be republished without permission.

Please do not reproduce or paraphrase narratives for sale or profit; do not place them in a publication or on any other Internet site without prior written permission from the original author - in most cases, Marcia Farina.  A brief excerpt is permissible as long as it is accompanied by a complete and accurate citation.

Please do not reproduce family pictures or other displayed memorabilia for sale or profit; do not place these images in a publication or on any other Internet site without prior written permission from Marcia Farina or the original owner/contributor.

Every determined searcher will sooner or later discover text or images that are directly related to a research subject.

To be an informed and ethical genealogist, spend some time learning about copyright and public domain.

Facts are facts - they can't be copyrighted, e.g., Aunt Eunice was born in Bibbingham on January 1, 1850, and died there on January 1, 1925.  See Copyrighting Genealogical Information, by Steve Paul Johnson.

But if someone wrote a biography or essay about Eunice and you republish it, it's a breech of copyright if the original composition is not in public domain.  Just because a composition appears on the Internet does not put it in public domain.  If you take sections of someone else's text and republish and don't include an appropriate citation, at the very least it's unfriendly, impolite and poor genealogical practice, and at the worst it's plagiarism - the same as copying someone else's term paper and passing it off as your own.  Biographies from the various history volumes of Hancock and McDonough Counties (1878, 1880, 1885, 1894, 1907, 1921) do fall in public domain; trusting a transcription from this website is a separate issue.  See the link below to "RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees" for an explanation of primary and secondary sources.

If on this website you find a narrative that I wrote and feel that it would be an important source of information for other researchers, you can place on your webpage a statement such as, "For more information about John Smith, see: _____", Author - Marcia Farina.  Fill in the blank with a complete and accurate URL. Also, bear this in mind: this website, Deep Roots in Hancock County, is available to everyone on the web.  Anyone using a search engine can find and explore these pages - you're not doing the genealogical community a great favor by merely duplicating information from this website or any other. Plus, my narratives are subject to update and correction at any time - I do not want old versions floating around the web.  Beyond the salient issues of copyright and plagiarism, consider the value of YOUR time and effort.  What's more worthwhile, (1) spending hours and hours simply copying and republishing information from other peoples' websites - particularly if you can provide no added value or (2) searching out, documenting and publishing information on people for whom there is little if anything currently available?  Of course, it's the latter.

If someone made the trek to Bibbingham and took a picture of Eunice's tombstone and placed it on the web, unless otherwise stated, that photograph is not free for the taking unless it is old enough to be in public domain.

What if there's a picture of Aunt Eunice?  Or interesting memorabilia, such as a funeral card, handwritten documents or newspaper clippings?  First, thank your lucky stars. Old family pictures and other miscellaneous images probably are no longer under copyright - this is more of an ethical issue.  A simple analogy would be if you were to walk into someone's home and take pictures or other items off the wall or out of scrapbooks without asking.  Write to the website owner: it may open a brand new avenue of research!  Beyond that, if you're creating your own webpages - this includes family trees on or any other similar web host, do your visitors the favor of pointing them to the interesting memorabilia by noting a complete and accurate URL.  Then move on to searching for and documenting something not found elsewhere.

Treat others the way you would like to be treated.  You display your pictures and memorabilia, I display mine and those images shared by others.  If I am aware of your website and there's valuable genealogical material there, I'll happily direct my visitors to your pages.  Your images add interest to your webpages and provide a good reason for researchers to visit your site.  The same goes for the heirloom pictures and memorabilia collected and displayed on this website.  I wouldn't dream of republishing your precious images without permission, perhaps drawing away potential visitors to your site - and I ask that you be equally respectful.  In practice, our webpages/family trees can be complementary rather than simply displaying replicated information!


There are many sites on the Internet that discuss copyright and public domain, but many are written in language that can be difficult to understand.

Mike Goad is a respected writer of articles about genealogy and copyright issues.  His website provides a wealth of information.



Composed by Lolly Gasaway, the following linked chart clearly illustrates public domain, an integral facet of copyright law.



If you are a contributor to Find A Grave, you should be aware of Find A Grave restrictions for posted photographs (the exclamation marks are from the Find A Grave page):

Only post photos for which you hold the copyright (meaning photos you took)!
No photos taken from other web sites!!!

What the first above statement means is that you must not take someone else's photograph (for example, a recently taken personal picture or a picture of a tombstone) and place it on Find A Grave without permission from the person who took the picture, because that person holds the copyright. It does NOT mean that a photograph placed on Find A Grave is no longer copyright protected.  It does NOT mean that a photograph placed in Find A Grave is in public domain.

Regarding the second statement, upon notification, Find A Grave administration promptly enforces the rule that photographs are not to be taken from other websites.

(The same restrictions hold true if you find a picture on Find A Grave.  Some Find A Grave contributors/photographers specifically state that their photographs may be reused, some with and some without restriction.  It is incumbent upon you to determine what usage is or is not authorized by the contributor/photographer.)


If you are a user of either or, and/or if you have a family tree or other webpages on either site, you should be aware of the Internet Services Copyright Policy.  Included there:

Content which has been contributed to public areas of Ancestry sites listed above by users remains the property of the submitter or the original creator and we are a licensed distributor of such content.  Occasionally, a person may feel that content submitted by another user is their property, or is covered by the copyright of someone other than the submitter............we will respond to substantiated claims of violation.

If you have a Public Member Tree on Ancestry, go to your profile page and click on the link to COMMUNITY GUIDELINES.  Included there is this instruction:

Don't post anything you didn't personally create.  That includes copyrighted material you're not authorized to distribute, email messages, notes in GEDCOMs, etc.

From the above COMMUNITY GUIDELINES page there's a link to terms and conditions pertaining to what you may post on your webpages.  One of the statements from terms and conditions is:

You should submit only content which belongs to you and will not violate the property or other rights of other people or organizations.  Ancestry is sensitive to the copyright of others.


A good discussion forum for copyright issues is the Rootsweb Copyright Mailing List, or you can search the mailing list archives.

Click here for instructions.


RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees
In particular, see Richard A. Pence's essay: "Understanding Sources, Citations, Documentation And Evaluating Evidence In Genealogy.  Part Three: Evaluating Evidence: Primary and Secondary Sources"


If you obtain some information solely from this website, YOUR source is this website.

Your source is NOT, for example, my dear and much missed cousin, Okle Campbell Browning.  Okle made her vast collection available to me and she was absolutely thrilled with how many of her items are being presented.  Did you ever write to Okle or go visit her?  Help her pull boxes and bags out of closets, cabinets, from under the bed and off the porch?  Go through her pictures and write names on the back?  Carefully restore some of those pictures?  Scan pages and pages of items from her several scrapbooks?  Eat her wonderful fried chicken and heavenly mashed potatoes?  No?  Okay, okay - the last several sentences are exaggerations intended to illustrate provenance of MY source.  Simply put, Okle shared her memorabilia with me, I've presented that memorabilia on this website in various forms.  YOUR source is this website.

If a news item is displayed and transcribed, be sure to check the transcription letter for letter.  YOUR source is the original news item displayed on this website, NOT Okle Campbell Browning.

If a biography originally published in one of the county history volumes is transcribed on this website, YOUR source is this website until you have seen the original page/s from the history volume.  Again, be sure to check the transcription letter for letter.

If you have any questions about information published on this website and no source is evident, contact the author:

Marcia Farina


See also: "Restoring Ethics to Genealogy" by Barbara A. Brown
"Mistake or Misdemeanor?" by Rhonda R. McClure
"Standards for Sharing Information with Others" - National Genealogical Society
"Are You a Genealogist, or Just a Collector of Genealogy?" by W. Scott Simpson
"Copyright Fundamentals for Genealogy" by Mike Goad


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