To share or not to share? Follow these tips for safely including information about living relatives in your genealogy projects.
I'm on a mailing list with about 20 other genealogists descended from the same Loyalist in the Revolutionary War. Recently, as we planned to build an online family tree, we had a spirited discussion over what details to include about living relatives. Some folks -- concerned that publicizing dates of birth and mothers' maiden names could leave people vulnerable to identity theft -- opposed sharing any information on living descendants. In the opposite corner, advocates of more sharing noted that maiden names are readily available from multiple public sources, and most companies have stopped using them as passwords. With the two camps holding disparate views, our group arrived at a standstill.
Genealogists collect a lot of personal details on ancestors and other relatives. Sharing your discoveries is an essential part of research: You might want to acknowledge the existence of modern descendants in an online family tree, a book or CD to distribute during the holidays, a family directory available at the next reunion, software reports or family files sent to other researchers, stories on your genealogy blog or Facebook profile, or just in conversation with Cousin Ginny.
But you also don't want to be the bad guy who spills details others would rather keep quiet. Relatives might fear identity theft or the revelation of what they see as shameful secrets. Tensions unknown to you might mean some relatives want to stay off the family radar. And some people just don't like the idea of strangers (even those they're related to) knowing anything about them. To help you balance those opposing concerns, we offer eight tips for being safe and savvy about sharing information on your family and yourself.