Genealogy Research and Privacy Concerns.

August 8, 2019

Genealogy Research and Privacy Concerns.

I had a very eventful day yesterday, I woke up to a message from a stranger saying that I might be managing a profile of her great grandfather in one of the trees on geni.com. After exchanging a few messages, we were almost sure that that profile belongs to her great grandfather. Few minutes later, I was listening to a conversation of second cousins that I connected on the phone sighing and wowing while speaking to each other first time in their lives. I was tremendously happy for both of them, but one thing mentioned by one of the cousins had me stumble … “we may need to discuss privacy, as I wasn’t sharing my tree with anyone”.

I am sure as you started putting information on the web about your family, you started asking yourself if this could do any damage to you or your relatives. When friend of mine saw my activities and posts on the Facebook and decided to join the genealogy crew, that was his first question: how about privacy? It took me a few minutes to collect information about him and his family, addresses, work places, resumes, phone numbers, relative names, etc. by just googling his name. The more technology comes into our lives the less private our information becomes.  You don’t even need a tree with names to be built in order for someone to learn details about your life.

So back to the newly found connection and her privacy concerns: had I or the person whose tree I manage and who allowed me to publish the tree at geni.com had the same concerns, this phone conversation would have never happened, and these two close family members would have never learnt about each other’s existence.  I guess everyone decides for themselves what is more important: the false sense of privacy or meeting a close family member. While I do respect everyone’s right and acknowledge the privacy issues and concerns, I also want to remind you that the websites like geni.com and ancestry.com make living people profiles private by default. You can certainly change the settings to set profiles for deceased people as private as well, but consider leaving at least their last names visible that would allow your potential relative to find you and reach out to you with “I think I found my relative in your tree”…