Re: Publishing Genealogies #general

Simon Tardell

Stan Goodman wrote:

It is indeed possible to bowdlerize a genealogy in deference to the neurotically
defensive. Remember that you are gathering this information as a way to preserve
information for the future, and that anything you omit because the person is
still alive is lost forever -- nobody, after you are gone, is going to fill in
the details as the nervous nellies die off.
I don't agree. The discussion was about publishing as in making publicly available
on the internet. No information is *lost* if you choose not to do that, or if you
choose to omit data on living people when publishing. The data in your unpublished
database remains. Also, this is not an all-or-nothing situation. Sharing your
data, your full data, with family you know and trust, is an entirely different

What is true is that it is foolish in many ways to publish sensitive and
identifying details, sometimes even of dead persons. Dates/places of birth,
marriage, and death are already matters of public record. You are not releasing
secrets into the public domain by publishing them.
Again, secret is not an absolute, it is the degree of difficulty in obtaining
information. Information available through a search with Google is ostensibly much
less secret than information available through public record only (or being called
out by the gabbai in your local shul). There used to be a sign in railroad cars in
Sweden saying "The opportunity makes the thief", it applies here as well: The more
difficult it is to obtain information, the less likely is it someone will bother
to use it for sinister purposes. If it were otherwise, genealogy would be much

Also, public record is not unconditionally public. Maybe your cousin has
protected identity and changed names and addresses because her husband used to
beat her up. Maybe *you* got the information on her through some family relation
who didn't realize you were going to publish it on the Internet.

Inevitably this discussion seems to turn to identity theft, and that may be a
problem, but it is definitely not the only problem that can arise >from publishing
personal information. There is the hide-and-seek of the ex-wife and the ex-husband
I mentioned. There are other reasons for harassing people, of course. Some people
may have taken offence with your father's business practice and would like to get
even, but decide to take it out on a family member who happens to get in their way
instead. Maybe you have a gay relative who has not come out in his workplace yet.

And, I understand this is not a problem in Israel, in some countries some people
fancy making list of Jews. This is a fear strong enough that the Jewish
communities in Sweden do not collect their membership fees through the tax
returns, even though it would be much cheaper, because that would mean that there
would be a public database of all Jews in the country.

Once again there is no way you can know what concerns are valid for other members
of your family tree, so if you don't have their consent, filter them out before
publishing. As I mentioned, this is actually a EU directive, and one reason I'd
favour to see Israel as member. The same directive also forbids the export of
personal data of non-consenters to a third country which effectively means that
Europeans that participate in the FTJP are breaking the law.

Simon Tardell,
Stockholm, Sweden.

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