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We Don't Own Our Ancestors

Our thoughts on sharing The Welsh of Harpers Ferry research.

You have how many ancestors?

Each one of us has eight great-grandparents; we all have sixteen great-great-grandparents -- and the numbers keep doubling from there. We most likely aren't the only descendant of our ancestors. Even if we were, our ancestors aren't just names and dates on paper. They were once living, breathing people who simply walked before you or I.

So, no. We don't own our ancestors.

What if?

Imagine your excitement. You just discovered the only known photograph of your great-x3 grandmother online. You excitedly contact the person that posted it and ask if you can have a copy for your own research. The person that posted it says that that photograph was passed down through her grandmother's things who received a bunch of photographs from a family friend, and follows up with "but you can't use it".

The subjects of the photograph passed away a very long time ago. The person who took the photograph passed away a long time ago. The original photograph, of your grandmother, is simply in her possession.

Know that I'm being a little unfair. The large majority of people would say, "Sure!", and be absolutely elated that they were able to help someone else make a connection. But, there are people out their who hoard their genealogical possessions like they are theirs and theirs alone. While photographs and written genealogies can be copyrighted, these people likely do not own the copyrights to most of these works.

I understand the hours and years that go into your research -- but what is all that work for if you can't share it, particularly with other descendants?


Here's the truth.

You can't copyright facts. You can't copyright photographs which you did not take. And you don't have much jurisdiction over a photograph of ancestors who are no longer living.

Quite frankly, genealogy and history, as disciplines, aren't well suited for copyright law.

Your ancestor's stories were meant to be told.

What can I use?

While we laid out our use license in our website's terms, we thought it would be a good idea to make our thoughts a little clearer.

Most of the research here has been conducted by Kaila A. Welsh-Lamp, with various contributing family members and outside researchers.  The Welsh of Harpers Ferry was created with one goal in mind -- to share the research that has been collaboratively collected throughout the years on the Welsh family of Harpers Ferry and connected families.

We'd love for you to build upon our research. We'd love to collaborate. We hope that we can help others make discoveries. We hope that our research helps someone climb their brick wall. The history within these pages was meant to be shared with family members and other families of Harpers Ferry and its surrounding areas.

Use of any of our research or other content is restricted to non-commercial use (don't sell the photographs or the research). We have a few requests for all content that you choose to use. If you use materials from The Welsh of Harpers Ferry:

  • Please credit The Welsh of Harpers Ferry, including a link back to this website. This helps other people find us and extends our research to others who may be able to make a previously unknown discovery here.
  • We ask that you notify us of your intent to use our materials, if possible. We love to hear that someone has made a discovery through our research!


Yes, you can use the historical images on this website for your own personal family history websites, online and offline trees, your GEDCOM file, to share with family members, or any other application of your own research. We only ask:

  • You do not knowingly misidentify people or locations in a photograph.
  • If the photograph has people or locations already identified, you share those identifications along with the photograph.
  • You don't use these photographs as Pinterest images, or create other graphics with them. These are family photos and historical images -- not stock photos.
  • You credit The Welsh of Harpers Ferry and include a link back to us if possible.
  • You credit the original source of the image, if applicable.

We have taken the time to add meta data to many of our photographs. Photos with meta data attached will typically automatically populate the description field on many social networks. You can read meta data by opening up the image in a photo editor, such as Adobe Photoshop.

Here's where it gets a little more confusing. In short, yes, you are more than welcome to any of our research, but there are a few limitations.

  • Please don't copy our articles, histories, or stories word for word. While the facts aren't ours, the words are ours.
  • It is completely fine to quote us -- even in larger chunks. If you are quoting the majority of an article, please choose to link to us instead.
  • Please credit us, preferably with a link back to The Welsh of Harpers Ferry, whenever possible.
  • You can, and we'd encourage you to, re-trace our research steps.
  • Please don't call our research your own and call it a day. It is here for you to use and build upon.
  • While we completely don't recommend it, we're okay if you use our research for the basis of your own. This means that, if you absolutely must, you can take our names and dates and run with them -- but we hope you are able to report back with new discoveries!
  • We would be grateful if you could take the time to notify us so we can hear all about your discovery!