There are so many pros and cons to publishing your work that is makes it difficult to decide. But I think the key here is to decide whether or not you want to share your work (despite the risks), and in what form you want to do this.
I personally made the choice to share my work on the internet. My main motivation for this was that I wanted other researchers to find me so that we could exchange information just like so many wonderful people had done with me (Well, I didn't really have anything that they didn't have, but that is beside the point). Their kindness helped me get through long stressful hours of confusion. Mind you, they shared their information with me but they also helped me find the information on my own, which is especially helpful because my skill at finding the records I was looking for improved.
So, when you're at the point in your genealogy where you aren't sure if you want to share your hard earned family tree - here are some things to consider:
- Other researchers that have similiar research interests, either with someone in your tree or in a particular area you are researching, can find you and your information.
- If you include your email address, you'll be able to be contacted by another researcher who might have some information you don't have.
- You are building genealogical-karma points by helping out a researcher who may be just starting their tree. Maybe they'll find their great-great uncle in your family tree, giving you the opportunity to not only help this person out with their tree, but you also just found a long lost cousin who might have those pictures of Uncle Joe you've been dieing to get your hands on.
- Some people will take your work and just steal it. They'll take you're hours of blood, sweat, and tears and place it in their own tree without crediting you. They'll forget who/where they got it from and pretty soon - they are claiming that they found the information on their own. Trust me, nothing is worse.
- Or they'll take your work and place it all over the internet, incorrectly, and cite only your name or that email address you had 5 years ago. Oh well, so maybe this one is the worst of the two cons.
Alright - so let's say you make the decision to put your family tree up on the web. Now the question becomes - where do you put it?
Well, a lot of people put their trees on Ancestry.com - which does have the benefit of having a good chance that it'll be seen. Since Ancestry.com is such a popular site in the world of genealogy, you will probably have your work seen. The downside is that Ancestry.com likes to make a seperate database (OneWorldTree) that combines trees submitted by its users that include the same people into one tree. In theory, this is a great idea. In practice - its a disaster. I can't tell you how many trees I have seen that have incorrect information, no sources, no records, nothing! The information in most of this database is just plain wrong. But - people can still find the individual tree that you uploaded and contact you either through your email or through Ancestry.com's service that keeps your email private. Plus - they have some pretty cool things that you can add to your tree such as audio stories, pictures, videos, and it has the ability to just add a record that you find in one of their databases directly into your tree.
A lot of people also try creating a website, either on their own or through a website such as Tribalpages.com or MyFamily.com. Creating a website is a great idea because you'll be found in the major search engines such as Google and Yahoo. Plus, you can upload exactly what you want to share and you control pretty much everything. These can also be a great way to stay in touch with family that may live far away (as long as they are tech savvy - if they aren't it won't work much. Trust me, I've tried!).
There is also Genealogy.com - a sister site to Ancestry.com. People like to also upload their trees there. It doesn't have as many cool features as Ancestry.com - but it still will be visited.
When you have a good amount of information (I'm talking several generations, full of legitimate sources, and you are confident in your work) then you might want to consider uploading your gedcom onto FamilySearch.org. Your work will then be taken to a huge vault in Salt Lake City. I also believe that your work will be accessible to others on their website and in LDS sponsored Family History Centers.
Not to mention - there are a TON of other websites where you could upload it - and I don't have the time to mention every single one of them.
So the bottom line is that you need to weigh the pros and cons of posting your tree to the internet. Then, if you decide to put your information on the web, figure out where you think it would be best to put your information.