OneGreatFamily Guest Newsletter
June 16, 2005

OneGreatFamily Takes Online Security Seriously

In This Issue:

OneGreatFamily Takes Online Security Seriously

Tips on Avoiding Online Fraud

We at OneGreatFamily are committed to providing you with the best genealogy experience. In that vein, we feel it's important to remind you from time to time of the safety considerations you should use when working on the Internet.

Online fraud occurs when someone poses as a legitimate company to obtain sensitive personal data and illegally conducts transactions on your existing accounts. Often called "phishing" or "spoofing," the most current method of online fraud involves imitating the look of a legitimate company in emails, Web sites or pop-up windows, or any combination of these, with the goal of convincing you to provide confidential information.

Fake emails
While some emails are easy to identify as fraudulent, others may appear to be from a legitimate address and a trusted online source. However, you should not rely on the name or address in the "From" field, as this is easily altered. Fake emails often contain an overly generic greeting and may claim that your information has expired, been corrupted or been lost, and that you must immediately resend it. Or, they may direct you to a counterfeit Web site carefully designed to look real, but which actually collects personal information for illegal use.

These fake emails may also contain a virus. The viruses may live in an attachment or be accessed via a link in the email. Never respond to emails, open attachments, or click on links from suspicious or unknown senders. If you're not sure if a OneGreatFamily email is legitimate, report it to us without replying to the email.

Be particularly suspicious of emails that try to create a sense of urgency, often by threatening to "close/suspend your account," or charge a fee. One other telltale sign is misspelled words in the subject line, which are used to evade spam filters.

How is my email address obtained?
Email addresses can be obtained from publicly available sources or through randomly generated lists. Therefore, if you receive a fake email that appears to be from OneGreatFamily this does not mean that your email address, name, or any other information has been taken from OneGreatFamily's system.

Counterfeit Web sites
Online thieves direct you to fraudulent Web sites via email and pop-up windows and try to collect your personal information. In many cases there is no easy way to determine that you are on a phony Web site because the URL will contain the name of the institution it is spoofing. Further, these thieves work hard to reproduce the look and feel of the real web site to put you at ease. However, if you type, or cut and paste, the URL into a new Web browser window and it does not take you to a legitimate Web site, it was probably just a cover for a fake Web site. Another way to detect a phony Web site is to consider how you arrived there. Generally, you were directed by a link in a fake email requesting your account information.

How can I help protect myself?
With a few simple steps, you can help protect your personal information from fake emails and Web sites:

  • Delete suspicious emails without opening them.
  • If you do open a suspicious email, do not open any attachments or click on any links it may contain.
  • Never provide sensitive account or personal information in response to an email.
  • Install and regularly update virus protection software.
  • Keep your computer operating system and Web browser current.

Lisa Lights the Way

Map Use

by Lisa South, Certified Genealogist

Genealogists need to use maps, but there are a few important things to remember.

1. There are many types of maps: atlases, land ownership, topographical, minor civil division, and road maps just to name a few. Each map was made for a specific purpose and few mapmakers had genealogists in mind. You must find the kind of map that best fits your needs.

2. Most maps have a "legend" of which a proper and complete understanding is essential.

3. Be sure to check the date of the map. It will be important that you have a current map if you are trying to visit a cemetery or church, but a map created about the time your ancestors lived would be more helpful in understanding county boundaries etc. that existed during their lifetime.

After you have located the map, study it to understand the "genealogy" of places; where a county was located, what county/counties it was formed from, how close that county was to the state line etc. Use a topographical map to help determine a possible migration route, or possible placement of a family cemetery. Locate your ancestors land on a county map and mark it.

Maps can be found all over the Internet The National Archives has a huge collection. A good reference that is a broad introduction to types of maps and where to locate them is The Map Catalog, Every Kind of Map and Chart on Earth and Even Some Above It - Joel Makower, editor.

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Tip: Avoiding Genealogy Fraud

How can I identify and avoid fraud while doing genealogy online?

You should be aware of at least two forms of fraud while you research your family tree online. This article will help you avoid falling prey to phony websites and fraudulent genealogical information.

Phony Websites
Greed has motivated some people to "capitalize" on the desire of genealogists who possess the drive and passion to find their ancestors. Genealogy and technology expert Dick Eastman helped expose Elias Abodeely of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as one such scam artist. Through a number of "genealogy websites," most notably GenSeekers, Abodeely allegedly tricked genealogists by getting them to subscribe to a site that simply linked to other websites.

Beware of websites that charge fees to access links or pieces of information that are freely available elsewhere on the Internet. These sites often make people pay twice to access the record they are looking for. A fooled consumer may pay the fraudulent website and then pay separate subscription fees to the legitimate websites that provide the real value. The rise of fraudulent websites is one reason OneGreatFamily allows new guests to take advantage of a 7-day free trial. Registered guests who have taken time to become familiar with OneGreatFamily understand what they are paying for when they decide to subscribe to the service.

The best way to avoid such frauds is to make sure you know what you are paying for and can try the website before you are billed for the service. Another way to protect yourself is to ask fellow researchers if they have used the site and what their experience has been. You may also want to look for a means of contacting the site's owner or administrator. Fraudulent websites seldom provide any means of contact.

Fraudulent Genealogy Information
The perpetuation of fraudulent genealogy information is typically more benign. The root of this fraud, however, typically stems from the same greed.

Much of the false genealogical information that has been published is also the result of greed. Several incidents of this sort of fraud have been documented as being done by hired researchers who wanted to embellish the research they were providing. Other false information has been perpetuated by researchers who have tried to "prove" relationships with little supporting evidence. In many cases, when a well-meaning researcher is given a choice between two possible alternatives, the more convenient or glamorous alternative is chosen without first looking for more evidence.

Several of these genealogies were "created" by Gustave Anjou, who repeatedly ensured his clients had genealogies that included several high-profile ancestors.

Unfortunately, much of this "research" has found its way into the databases of sincere researchers who were happy to quickly claim these high-profile (albeit false) ancestors as their own.

This information has also made its way online. In most cases, this information has been shared and promulgated unknowingly. The only way to identify and correct the result of this fraud is by carefully examining and documenting each piece of evidence.

Even in cases where sources are given, you may need to consult with the original source to verify that information is correct.

OneGreatFamily can help. OneGreatFamily lets you see alternatives for information in your family tree and collaborate with people who can help identify false information that may have crept into your tree. You can also share your discoveries and documentation with others to correct false information they may have unwittingly accepted from another source.

One Great Genealogy Site Award features 40 free spreadsheets which are designed for researchers to electronically organize and archive extracted census and cemetery data. The census spreadsheets faithfully reproduce the format of original records for the US Federal (1790-1930), Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, and eight states. There are also spreadsheets available for specialty census records such as slave and mortality schedules, surviving spouses, pensioners and Indian rolls. Complimenting each census spreadsheet is what CensusTools calls the Tracker, a special spreadsheet which allows a researcher to display census data from multiple years for a particular person in a single worksheet for ease of analysis. The beautifully designed spreadsheets can also be printed blank to use as extraction sheets or filled in for inclusion in book projects. All of the spreadsheets are available as free downloads from

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Managing Editor: Heather Matthews
Contributors: Heather Matthews, Lisa South and Rob Armstrong
Editor: Tracy Armstrong

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