You know what they say about the best-laid plans going awry? My genealogical plans seem to be plagued by a chronic affliction called Murphy’s Law.
Twice in the past few months, I’ve signed up for an introductory class on genealogy with a local school system. Twice it’s been canceled because of a lack of interest. What’s up with that? I keep telling people how popular researching family history is and we can’t even convene a quorum of genealogical wannabes?
Fortunately, the Iowa Genealogical Society has a 2-hour beginners’ session coming up. I’ve been waiting to unwrap and install my new Family Tree Maker 2008 until my class began, but I guess I’ll plunge ahead on my own. Thanks to all the great genealogy bloggers out there, I feel like someone’s got my back on this one.
So, instead of writing about my hopes for my new class, I’ve decided to take on the sensitive topic of privacy vs. access. Although this has long been a topic of interest to genealogists, the rhetoric has sharpened in recent years because of the proliferation of identity theft and tighter governmental restrictions on data in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
It wasn’t that long ago that we shared our Social Security numbers with virtually anyone who asked. I remember when I first opted to leave my SSAN off my driver’s license about 30 years ago. It was a novelty then; it’s the law now.
Access to vital records is the lifeblood of genealogical research. Although the explosive growth of the Internet has been matched or exceeded by easy access to these records, many genealogists feel threatened by the new trends. It’s not just government records, either. What about all those personal history sites that have popped up? When is it OK to list information about a family member?
Here’s a news account about twins who were separated at birth, met as adults, fell in love and married. The marriage was annulled when their true relationship was discovered and a discussion has begun on what public information may have prevented this. You can also read Janice Brown’s post at her Cow Hampshire blog on the whole privacy/genealogy issue.
How have you come to grips with this vexing problem?