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Information and Legalities


Recording family history - how to get started

• Make a list of questions prepared in advance. Structure the conversation - what do you want to find out? Be prepared to backtrack and meander, particularly with older people.

• Don't be confrontational - you're looking for a nice, friendly chat. Aim to make the atmosphere as comfortable and relaxed as possible. Some people hold family parties and conduct the interviews there.

• If recording an interview, make sure your relative is comfortable with the technology. A good idea is to start with a Dictaphone and move to a camcorder once they have relaxed.

• Respect the person who is telling the story. You may need to be tactful. The second world war or tales of illegitimacy and adoption can still be painful now. "One way round it is to ask them to write it down or seal it in their will," says genealogist Dr Nick Barratt. "Or they could talk to a third party - a stranger or an expert in the area concerned. However, if they are really uncomfortable telling you certain things, accept it," he says.

• Try to get as many different viewpoints as possible from other relatives. There may be different versions of certain stories but when these overlap, you may be getting to the truth. "People sometimes distort stories," says Barratt. "They make their own roles better or embellish for effect. The passage of time can make it hard to remember too."

• Once the interviews are recorded, what do you do next? Barratt advises doing more research, visiting the places your forebears lived, and searching historical records (birth, marriage and death records, census, immigration and military records, and newspapers). You can also put the collected stories on the internet, where other family members can add to them, start a blog or print them in a bound book.
The Guardian 27.12.2008


Take a look at UK Copyright legislation click for website

Under the 1988 Copyright Act, copyright to a writer's PUBLISHED work lasts for 80 years after his or her death. Copyright to a writer's UNPUBLISHED work lasts for 50 years after the date the work is first published or after December 30 1989, whichever is earlier. "The fear has always been that if copyright is too restrictive it can act as a form of censorship," says Kate Pool, from the Society of Authors. "Copyright tries to be a balance between giving earning power and control to the person who creates something and trying to foster academic inquiry and scholarship."


91 million creative works can now be reproduced on websites in books and on television without breaking the law because the rights owners cannot be identified. These include artistic works, historical documents, wartime diaries, letters, photographs and films.The relaxation means that digitally reproduced images can now be used and placed in the public domain.

Identity Theft and Security on Genealogy Sites:

If you post your family details online, you are giving away information that could be used against you by criminals, but do remember they also need your username and password, or guess them before they can access your account, your mother's maiden name, dates and places of birth are not enough to steal your identity.


A family history is likely to consist of quotations or rewordings of short extracts from a number of different documents, together with a substantial amount of your own text. You can publish this without infringing copyright, and without obtaining permission. You can publish copies of almost all family photographs and portraits executed before 1991, with permission from the family member who inherited them **. Copyright in photos belonged to the person commissioning the photo or if not commissioned to the person owning the film. Copyright in a portrait belonged to the person commissioning it. All photographs published before 1964 have no copyright

Ownership of copyright in photographs taken between January 1, 1946 and July 31, 1989 depends on whether they were commissioned. If they were commissioned, the copyright owner would normally be the commissioner, unless the commission contract explicitly stated that the freelance photographer would own the copyright.

The copyright laws affect both the research and the publication of your genealogy, either a narrative family history or a simple pedigree family line. First, though, consider that the basic facts about your ancestor's life (such as name, birth date and place, marriage partner, date and place, and death date and place) do not receive copyright protection, no matter their source. Whether you went to the county court, rented a microfilm of the relevant records, or found the data in a commercial CD-ROM, the basic facts of a person's life may be freely copied; they are in the public domain.

But adding any kind of narration to these basic facts gives rise to a copyright in the creative portion of the work. The more narrative, the stronger the copyright. If you are the author, you should take care to mark your work to give the proper notice.
Let's assume that you post genealogy information online. Your information consists of names, dates and places. That information was obtained from public and private records. You have published facts, and facts are not covered by copyright. Someone else may legally take your data and republish it as they see fit.

You are allowed to make single copies or take short extracts of works when the use is for research that you do not make any money from or for private study, for educational courses or even for use in connection with a hobby.

Extract taken from &

** Many of the family photos on the site were donated on a CD to the administrator by late cousin Spencer Childs with permission. These photographs belong to Maurice Childs' children in equal shares.

You don't have to register a copyright to have copyrights on a document. You DO need to state on the document that the contents are copyrighted if you want to give that document to someone else and retain rights.

click for website terms



Under UK law if you used a copyrighted photo and the owner of the person's estate were to sue you the ONLY damages the court could award were for ACTUAL monetary loss. so it would be pointless or uneconomic from a monetary point of view to sue somebody who used the photo for no gain personal use, Or thought legally they could do so. ( putting on a site such as Friends Reunited a family website or similar) unless the photo was private & defamatory which would come under a different law.

If you put your photos on the Internet, you may find them cropping up on other amateur websites, but not on professional websites or in printed media. Pictures on the Internet are too low in resolution to use in print. By the way, putting photos on the Internet may make them publicly available but does not (in the legal sense) put them in the public domain.

Smartphone cameras and social media have changed the way a huge portion of society remembers experiences and communicates. You simply can't stop it

GETTY Images from March 2014

“Images are the communication medium of today and imagery has become the world’s most spoken language,” says Jonathan Klein, co-founder and CEO of Getty Images. “Whether via a blog, a website or social media, everyone is a publisher and increasingly visually literate. Innovation and disruption are the foundation of Getty Images, and we are excited to open up our vast and growing image collection for easy, legal sharing in a new way that benefits our content contributors and partners, and advances our core mission to enable a more visually rich world.”



The Resources may be used by you only for lawful purposes and in a lawful manner. You agree to comply with all applicable laws, statutes and regulations regarding the Resources and any transactions conducted on or through the Website.

The copyright in the Records remains with the copyright holders: you must not use them to create your own intellectual property
You must not use these records for commercial purposes or publish them without our written permission .


A person in England or Wales may be known by any name they wish and they will acquire a right to that name by usage and reputation. The Registrar General is advised that there is no reason why a name acquired in this way should not be used for all purposes (except for fraudulent ones).
A child's surname should not be changed if there are any existing legal restrictions, court orders etc about the name(s) by which the child may be known, and it is advisable to obtain legal advice about making such a change

When your child is born you have 42 days in which to register their name. If you are one half of a married couple then both parents must attend the registering of the child’s name and must both agree on what names should be written on the Birth Certificate.
If the parents of the newborn are not married the mother may opt to have the child’s surname to read the same as her’s. The right of the father to have his surname shown as the child’s surname should be taken into consideration and this name should only be used if the father consents. The law is very clear and states that a mother may not give her child the surname of the child’s father unless he so consents.

Under English Common Law, one could change one's name at any time, as long as the intent was not to hide from the law. In order to change your name, you only had to start using a new name. Everything else is merely to prove the name change has taken place. This is generally true in most former colonies, as well.
· A Deed of Change of Name (the official name for what is commonly known as "Deed Poll" is a legal contract in which one binds oneself to using the new name.
· Other types of evidence of a change of name: A letter from a responsible person such as a priest, doctor, member of parliament etc.; Public announcement such as an advertisement in a newspaper; A statutory declaration.

Authors' Rights

Although web pages and email messages are protected as soon as created, copyright registration is needed before owners can bring suit. All messages not intended to be reproduced on a website should be marked Confidential by the author.

Virtually all correspondence, articles and stories have been sent to us via the email system or on contact forms on this website. All, or part thereof have been used to illustrate these pages unless marked confidential. These have been stored for future historical reference, as many concern those alive today.
Some older images and documents have been sent by registered mail for scanning and uploading and then returned to the owner.

Never send anything by email that you wouldn't be happy to write on a postcard and send in the mail. They are not a secure form of communication.

Defamatory emails must not be sent or forwarded. A disclaimer should be visible on your email if you do not wish it to be published. ‘This email is confidential and intended for the use of the intended recipient only'

The Internet is a very public place; once an email post has left your machine, you have no further control over where it will go. Make sure that posts that do leave your account are not likely to infringe copyright and cause you embarrassment.

Although email messages and web pages may enjoy copyright protection, rights are subject to several fundamental limits. For example, only expression is protected, not facts or ideas. Also, later works that merely happen to be very similar (or even identical) to earlier works do not infringe if they were, in fact, independently created.

Emails are easy to distribute widely. A misguided email could be forwarded round the world in seconds.
Emails (and Internet sites) are easily stored and used as evidence.

Fair use.
Fair use is one of the most important, and least clear cut, limits to copyright. It permits some use of others' works even without approval. But when? Words like "fair" or "reasonable" cannot be precisely defined.
Fair use allows limited uses of another's work without approval, but other uses may be approved by implication. For example, when a message is posted to a public email list, both forwarding and archiving seem to be impliedly allowed. It is reasonable to assume that such liberties are okay if not explicitly forbidden. However, when forwarding, archiving or, say, using part of a prior message to respond to an earlier message, be careful not to change the original meaning. No one impliedly authorizes another to attribute to them an embarrassing (or worse) message they did not write!

Copyright is the right to exclude, not to publish.
Copyright does not give its owners the right to sell or distribute, for example, libelous email messages. Also, of course, works that are obscene or invade another's rights of privacy or publicity are not publishable just because they happen to be covered by copyright


FROM HMSO received 14.02.2006

Dear Janice
Thank you for your email

Reproduction of Birth, Death and Marriage Certificates is covered in HMSO's Guidance Note 7. The Guidance can be viewed on line.

It is not government policy to allow reproduction of completed certificates on the internet. I can advise however, that it is the certificate that is protected by Crown copyright, not the information. There are no objections to you transcribing or copying information from the birth, death and marriages certificates for use on your website.

Yours sincerely

Margaret Ferre
Office of Public Sector Information

There are offences relating to falsifying or altering a certificate and using or possessing a false certificate © Crown Copyright

Picture Postcards published 70 years ago and over hold no copyright (1944)
Photographs published 50 years ago and over hold no copyright (1964)

Recent Family photographs
The internet is a big place. By and large, nobody cares who you are. Those that do, already know you, so the information is redundant. Anyone else wishing to look up information about you already has plenty of avenues to do so (Google can be creepy sometimes). Suggestion - don't put names and dates against photos. NJJ

IP Addresses

It is important to note that unlike the US, under European Union law IP Addresses are considered to be personal data as defined by article 2(a) of Directive 95/46/EC " 'personal data' shall mean any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person ('data subject'); an identifiable person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identification number or to one or more factors specific to his physical, physiological, mental, economic, cultural or social identity; " Also see Directive 2006/24/EC.
In association with Time Codes, IP Addressing information will always identify unique ISP account holders unless there is translation of that information.
It is important that this significant difference in legal status be understood, because Websites that provide for third-party interception of IP addressing information and Traffic Data, without Website visitor consent, are committing a criminal offence in the UK by virtue of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, where through the requirements of European Council Decision 2005/222/JHA such Website owners face serious sanctions, including the winding up of their businesses, being debarred from running a business, and more than 2 years imprisonment.

Dear Janice,

We appreciate your message. I have consulted with some of our content specialists and we don't see a problem using the certificates you purchased as long as they are not for commercial purposes. In other words, you are not offering them for resale. These are public records and should be available to share with your family. Many official agencies of the government accept copies of birth or death records when proof is needed, so the process of copying them is not prohibited. If there is anything else with which we might assist you, please let us know.

Member Solutions

If a mother signs the birth register and the father is mentioned on it they have to be married. Also if a mother has more than one name e.g. a stepfather's name it has to be shown as well, as in Florence's and other Bird certificates - Wallace, Mazasitisz and Powell all mentioned.
Also if one of the parents is deceased at the time of registration this has to be put on the certificate.

'Base' daughter/son Always a sensitive subject....
It means that her/his father is unknown or the parents were not married. Often found in old records prior to 1837 in place of the other "B" word...Depending how sympathetic the Vicar was as to what word he used....
"base" is the child of a single woman and "illegitimate" is a child born to an unmarried couple

From 1875 - present a man could only be named as the father on a birth certificate if he consented and was also present when the birth was registered.
Space for father’s name is usually left blank on birth certificates of illegitimates
The father may agree to let the child take his name

Sometimes a mother was embarrassed about the illegitimacy so she would fabricate the name of the father and call herself Mrs. Mary Jones when in fact she was unwed.

The vast majority of bastard births have no record save an entry in the baptismal register

Convention dictates that a child born in marriage take the surname of their father and a child born out of marriage takes the surname of their mother.

It is a requirement that when a child's birth is registered with the Registrar of Births, the surname given is the one by which the child is to be known. If a child born out of marriage is to take their father's surname, both the mother and father must register the birth together.

If a child is born out of marriage and the parents later marry, they must inform the Registrar of Births within three months of the date of marriage.

A young child may become known by a new surname by repute. They may not change their surname by themselves. However, an older child may change their surname themselves.

Generally, anybody may call themselves by whatever surname they like. The surname may be changed at any time. There is no need for them to obtain permission before they change their surname. They need not adopt any formal procedure. However, the use of a changed surname must not be to deceive or cause financial loss to another.

If a person wishes, they may use the surname of someone else. There is no requirement to obtain their permission.


Marriage certificates had a place for naming the father of the bride and groom. Illegitimate individuals often left the space blank. Others would name the father if they knew him. Others would fabricate a name, usually with their mother’s maiden name (and hence their own surname), or they would name their grandfather or an uncle as their father. This, again, would hide the fact of their own illegitimacy.
On marriage certificates, if the father is alive at the time of the marriage he goes on the certificate. If he is deceased it is put down on the certificate under his name.

Comment - it appears most of the birth and marriage certificates issued during Harry Bird's lifetime were a complete sham! This also includes his Will........

If you ever come across a family in a census return where the head of the family is shown as married but their partner is not shown enumerated with them, it is worthwhile looking at the census returns for the Institutions, particularly the Workhouses, Hospitals, Lunatic Asylums, and Prisons.


Does a link to a site violate copyright law?
No. You can put a link from your web site to someone else's web site at any time - and - anyone can put a link to your web site whenever they want. (But, since a link FROM a site would mean you had to change that site, if you don't have the owner's permission, you could be violating his copyright.) The Internet and the World Wide Web is out there for fair use by all - you cannot control links on the Internet - a link does not violate copyright law. There are cases pending about linking to parts of a site to bypass others, which may create new rulings.

If an offensive link is made to your site, you can respectfully request that it be removed. If that doesn't work, watch your temper - try not to get involved in a flame war in cyberspace - just take a deep breath, relax and go on about your business. But if it gets to the point of harassment - contact a solicitor