Monday, February 13, 2017

Creepy Genealogy

Over the weekend I read about a new genealogy website, actually a controversy brewing over a genealogy website that spends time analyzing the present—and perhaps, eerily, revealing too much information, about you. In the the article a woman did a people search and her name popped up, not unusual as she was an author, but the troubling part was that at this website the names of her children and their ages was listed. So this wasn’t so much about researching the past, but the present. She didn’t want that info out there.

I’ve been off and on conducting research into my family. What I find on the web is both interesting and confusing. For example one bit of misinformation about my dad has snowballed into all the websites that collect and generate genealogical information. It started with a misprint in an on-line newspaper obituary and spread from there. He did not die in 2001, but in December of 2011. Yet, now and forever on the WWW he will have died in 2001. That date will carry much more pervasive weight than anything I put together.

Secondly, why is this lady so upset? Her personal info is out there, no matter what she does. Privacy on the internet is complicated and unless she is a rich author and can afford to hire someone to keep track and manage her on-line reputation, then what recourse does she have.

From the article: Profiles on FamilyTreeNow include the age, birth month, family members, addresses and phone numbers for individuals in their system, if they have them. It also guesses at their “possible associates,” all on a publicly accessible, permalink-able page. It’s possible to opt out, but it’s not clear whether doing so actually removes you from their records or (more likely) simply hides your record so it’s no longer accessible to the public.

The woman pulled up her file and opted out.

One other note on my own research. At the turn of the century—the last one—it was considered an achievement for someone to be a high school graduate. Apparently in Nicholas County, Kentucky in 1900 you did well if you made it that far. 

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