Monday, July 8, 2013

Time to name names

I have been avoiding this for quite some time now but I can’t let it go any longer.  I have to name names.  As a writer, copyright and plagiarism are important topics to me.   I have spoken several times about this problem within the genealogical community.   To get you up to speed you can read these blog posts.

General information about copyright, plagiarism and ethics:
Copyright ©

Here is the background information for what I am going to talk about today:
Cyndi Howell’s of Cyndi’s List

What I didn’t tell you in that blog post were the specifics.  I kept names out of it because you are “innocent until proven guilty” though at the time I was furious and felt that Cyndi had been done wrong.  Because of the events of the last couple of days I am not going to protect the guilty anymore.  In a nutshell, Cyndi Howell’s of Cyndi’s List sued Barry Ewell of MyGenShare in federal court for copyright infringement in December 2012.  You can see the court filing HERE.  Cyndi had tried to work it out with Barry without having to resort to legal action but that was not to be.  Just a few days ago it was announced that the lawsuit had been dismissed.  You can read the particulars on Dick Eastman’s Blog.  Myself and many of the other genealogists that had been following this story thought that the matter had been resolved to the satisfaction of Cyndi Howells though at the time we noticed that Barry had not removed Cyndi’s content from his page.  It was discussed and it was thought that maybe he had some sort of grace period to remove the stolen content.   One positive note is that the case brought the problem of copyright violation and plagiarism to light and many more genealogists are being educated which is a good thing.  Then Dear Myrtle posted this:

Is there such a thing as ethical plagiarism?
Follow up:  Is there such a thing as ethical plagiarism?

Evan after the lawsuit Barry Ewell is still up to his old tricks.  To say I couldn’t believe what I was reading would be an understatement.  Since the lawsuit apparently didn’t work, the genealogy bloggers have started getting all of this information out to their readers.  Hopefully pressure from the consumer will make Barry understand.  Barry’s website isn’t free like Cyndi’s List is.  I am giving you the information for his website because I want you to visit it and nose around.  I want you to know who Barry is and what he has been doing.  I want you to know what website NOT to subscribe to and what services NOT to hire. You also need to get the word out to your genealogy friends.

Before I wrote this blog I sent a private message to Barry Ewell.  I really don’t expect to receive an answer but I felt that I needed to say a few things to him in person before I asked my readership to boycott his website.  Barry Ewell is a good example of a bad genealogist.

  After posting this article today I read an EXCELLENT post by Michael Hait, CG.  He is another Barry Ewell victim.  Michael did a slide show comparison between his copyrighted work and what is posted on Barry’s site.  I think after seeing this you will understand why the people that have worked so hard to author materials to help other genealogists are upset.

Copyright, plagiarism, and citing your sources by Michael Hait, CG

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. I recently received an email survey from Barry Ewell asking me to state why I like MyGenShare and what recent success I had in my research using his site. I was pleased to respond to this email telling him I do not, and will not, use his web site and signed myself as "Friend of Cyndi Howells". Just a few days later I received his email stating the law suit was dismissed, but that does not change my opinion of him. I am glad to see the genealogy community taking this stand.

  2. Michele - excellent post. I have added a link to it from my blog post of a few days ago called "Personal Opinion About Copyright and Plagiarism Online" and found at

  3. Wow, Lorine! Readers, please click on the link that Lorine provided. Her article is a first hand account of copyright infringement. Such arrogance!

  4. With your article adding to all that I have read over the past few days (including Lorine's post), I've definitely taken him off of any and all lists I have - FB, Twitter, blog feeds, etc. I'm thinking of doing a Friday Follow post this week with JUST the links to all of these posts because we really need to get the word out about what is being done here.

  5. I agree with you Christopher. A list of links has been started on the wall of the facebook group "Occupy Genealogy".

  6. And I added to your list on FB, Skip :) I am glad you are putting all the links in one place.

  7. There is another side to this lawsuit. Cyndi claims to have tried her best to resolve her dispute with Barry before filing a lawsuit. That is false. By the time Barry learned that Cyndi had any concerns, she had already destroyed his reputation in the industry.

    Over a period of nearly four years Barry Ewell had devoted full-time effort and spent his life's savings in developing MyGenShare. He had carefully nurtured partnerships with several important organizations, and had been very careful to respect all copyright laws. I had met with him multiple times for nearly two years. I learned a lot from Barry, including expert guidance on how to properly cite sources in various situations.

    Then, when he was finally about to launch MyGenShare - after many delays and severe cost over-runs, Barry's phone rang. It wasn't Cyndi calling. It was one of Barry's publishing partners. Cyndi had gone directly to this partner and in a few minutes destroyed a relationship Barry had nurtured for years. Cyndi had made other calls too. In an industry where reputation is everything, Barry's was suddenly and utterly destroyed.

    All this happened before Barry had any idea that Cyndi had a problem. I am no lawyer, and cannot offer a valid opinion on the merits of Cyndi's case. But even if her case has merit, Her methods do not. I find her actions irresponsible and contemptible.

    Barry's MyGenShare was designed to give instruction to people on the many nuances and skills needed to find their ancestors. He wrote, developed and produced hundreds of hours of presentations. With publishers' permission - had scanned hundreds of pages of dozens of books and industry magazines. He had gone to university libraries, and at considerable expense copied large period maps. He digitized and made searchable all that content. I am speaking of several years of 6-day-a-week work, all trying to help people find their ancestors. Well over 90% of MyGenShare was always to be offered for free. All Barry was doing with subscriptions was to charge enough for some premium content to feed his family.

    Now, in an industry to which he'd shown nothing but goodwill, Barry has none. By accepting at face value all of Cyndi's claims - without considering the other side of the story - many in the genealogy industry have participated in the financial destruction of one of the industry's best.

    1. Since I have seen, firsthand, the fact that Barry has lifted word for word sentences from other people's blogs and websites and books, I know that Cyndi's claims are in fact, true.

      You can't fight the facts.

      And while I 100% believe that she tried to settle this with him first (cause we all know she isn't a millionaire with money to blow on an expensive lawyer), she had every right to contact his web host, his publishing companies, or email him if she had evidence of his copyright infringement - which she did.

      SO.... in conclusion.... Barry is still up to his stealing content games. Whether he does so with a malicious heart or with the intention of educating the genealogy masses does not matter. He still has no right to steal it.

      But A for effort.

  8. I am more than happy to post the opposing viewpoint and I am very glad you submitted a comment. I would like to know if you watched Michael Hait, CG's slide show presentation. Here is a link.

    I would love to know what you think about the information he presented. He shows his copyrighted information being used by Barry Ewell/MyGenShare. This is totally separate from anything that was on Cyndi's List.