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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Invading My Privacy?

Recently, I received an email that indicated someone had posted information on GenForum in response to my request for any information about Francis Joseph McGuire (b. 1878) and Mary Elizabeth Romaine (b. 1878/79) in New York.  I was specific in my post.  I indicated knowing the current generation and was seeking to find out my great-grandparents ancestors and even more about what happened to Francis Joseph who took off on the family.

I did not get my wish, unfortunately.  To my dismay, the person posted my own father's obituary.  I was actually a little taken aback that this person did this.  My father passed away in 2004.  What I found more concerning is that the obit, while I do understand is public information at the newspaper's website, was posted on a site that can receive fairly heavy internet traffic.  What ever happened to respecting privacy?

Well, as all of you know, I try very hard to keep private the identities of those who are living individuals attached to my family tree, with few exceptions.  I do have some researchers who are absolutely ok with people knowing who they are.  I took issue with the obit posting because it lists my mother, my sister and her family, me and my family, along with my father's two living brothers and his sister.   It also lists where they live.  While addresses are not included in the obit, I felt it was completely unnecessary for this person to have posted this obit that contains personal information about the remaining living family.   Maybe everyone needs to rethink obituaries.  That is a sad sign of the times.

Presently, I have requested that GenForum remove the post for privacy reasons pointing out that there is too much information for living individuals in the obit. post and the post does not pertain directly to the information that was requested to begin with.  I also sent a polite email to the woman who posted the information.    She agreed to have the post removed.   I was able to look at her online activity on GenForum.  She appears to be a serial poster.  I found hundreds of posts by her for various family surnames.  She, in fact, is not my relation but may have thought that she was helping me.  She must spend her day looking up information on and online.   I am glad that I do not have that much time on my hands.  Enough said.

To sum this up...This goes as a lesson learned.  I have put myself out there and fully understand that means a lot of my personal information is easily searchable.  I am sure people could track me down if they want to.  I am not totally anonymous online that is for sure.  I do, however, want the rest of my family to feel that their information is kept private in my hands.


  1. I would ask that the obituary be removed based on copyright law - if the obituary is from a newspaper and it is dated 2004, the newspaper controls the rights for its publication. While an obituary does state facts (and facts can't be copyrighted), an obituary contains narrative written by a reporter for the paper and that is copyright protected.

  2. Thank you for sharing this point. I will be revisiting the GenForum site to make sure that the post has been removed. Thanks again and thanks for posting!

  3. The obituaries in my old hometown newspaper are advertisements paid for by the family and the copyright belongs to the person who paid for it. It's great genealogically speaking because families were not restricted by the same rules that the newspaper had for the reporters who wrote their articles. If the family wanted to say "Nancy was survived by her partner Jane" they could. "Fred was survived by his best friend, his dog Scooter" was allowed. They can say how the person died. And the deceased person's favorite organizations & charities could be listed for donations in lieu of flowers.