TIP # 40



This week's topic is an area that I feel is so very important to cover. It is also an area that I don't think many persons are aware of just how important it is.

The new and modern world of technology and the world wide internet are really just wonderful and have been such a boon for the researcher. Completely new areas, sources and contacts are available to the "weekend researcher" (us).

This is a mixed bag of treasure.

In many ways the resources and contacts are just endless. On the down side, for the most part many researchers have no idea just who they are communicating with. We researchers overall tend to be a trusting lot of people; we also tend to at times be a very desperate group of people and therefore, at times, unknowingly gullible when it comes to getting data for our files.

Some of us are willing to just supply ANYTHING to get that 1 date or name.

Much of the exchange of information depends greatly on the old fashioned bartering system.

I send a little, you send a little.

It is a good system and is beneficial to one party or the other probably about 85% of the time.

And, it normally doesn't matter who knows every particular item about "Uncle George" who died in 1849. But eventually every researcher's database will descend down to the living persons in their family; not necessarily immediate family, but living all the same.


We researchers tend to be the type of people who collect/hold EVERYTHING about a person in our files. Each researcher has different categories of data that they save. Aside from the basic vital information, many of the files I have seen contain Social Security numbers, tombstone data, obituaries (which sometimes contains information on surviving family members).

Nothing is wrong with collecting or knowing that information. The problem arises when that data is distributed to persons that:

1. You don't know from Adam

2. You know nothing of their character or ethics

3. Could well pass it along to other persons.

I am not stating that we should stop the bartering system as it does work well and it is inexpensive. What I am saying is that we should all take the time to PRIVITIZE our data PRIOR to sending it out.

This means to remove any and all references to any living person, no matter how young they are; aside from just mentioning their name. Many persons don't stop to realize just how easy it would be to enter into our genealogical researching arena, pretend an interest and gain data from others in order to steal an identity or at least gain access to people's personal lives. I am referring to persons who have no interest in the research whatsoever. Or if they are legitimate researchers they may have no qualms about passing along data on your parents (still living) to another researcher.

I also realize that we all travel in our own little "researching circles". We all have persons that we have exchanged with for years and we trust without question; sometimes more then our own family members. Those persons I would say are safe to send whatever data you have to.

I am not reffering to them!!

I am talking about persons who are a one time contact, or a first time contact. I myself deal with several people that I wouldn't have any qualms about sending them EVERY personal bit of info about anyone in my files even myself.

These are your "SPECIAL" people.

I also know that for the most part those people are so deeply immersed in finding someone in the 1700's that they seldom if ever look at the current day data.

The others however...

The first time contacts or the one time contacts--

To just give them EVERYTHING, no matter how personal would be equivalent to just flagging down some stranger on the street and saying "Here, welcome to my home. Make yourself comfortable, would you like to see my bank statements? Let me get you a pen and paper in case you want to take notes."

Of course, none of us would do that. (Or at least I hope not).

Even if someone was naive enough to do that... in the event that something later happened, we would at least have a physical description to turn over to the authorities for apprehension.

Dealing with persons on the internet however, we have no recourse or identifying description as many persons have the ability to change email addresses as often as some people change underwear.

So, the next time you are going to send someone a file; at least until you know this person if you MUST send personal data. Please, look through your files or your FTM systems.

Look for instructions as to how to privitize your files. Many of them have a system installed that will do it for you. If you don't have one, take the time to remove all dates or other information on anyone who is still living. Use their name, that is fine. But with anything else either place the word private or just leave it blank. I am not saying not to carry that information in your system, just remove it from a particular file, as you send it out.

Nobody really needs to know about the social security number, home address, phone number, or date of birth for that matter of your children or living relatives. There are other areas that may be in your files also. Otherwise, you may just as well invite a psychopath into your home and say to them "Here, let me get them to sleep for you so that they are easier to work with" or "let me get you their credit cards".

If your father/grandfather passes away and information is in the obituary regarding the current residence of the surviving spouse...and that obituary is in your files, remove that reference prior to sending it to someone.

If someone in your family has had a history of prison time or there are skeletons in the closet relating to living relatives and you don't really want to see that data spread all over the internet... take the time to remove that information also.

This might sound like I am telling you something that isn't necessary; that everyone should have the good sense not to do it, but you would all be surprised at just how much personal data is found on the internet and the number of researchers who never think about the possibility of identity theft.

The greater number of researchers don't really have bad intentions in placing the data there; they are just attempting to get more information. They have no other motive. But the fact still remains that the data is out there. And is up for grabs to whatever deviant person is out there.

So, in closing--

Unless you have an existing rapport with your correspondent and trust them impeccably..