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How to Know What NOT to Share

How to Know what NOT to Share  You can find more How to Blogs at www.FamilyTree.comGenealogy research can be exciting! You could uncover family history that tells stories of bravery, deception, secret love affairs, or “madness”. It can be very tempting to post everything onto your genealogy blog or social media. But, is that really a good idea? Before you share what you discovered, take a moment to view this list of things you should not share online.

Never Share Social Security Numbers

Before you post an image of your relative’s birth certificate, marriage license, or other vital record take the time to see if their social security number is printed on it. You should never share anyone’s social security number. Thieves use other people’s social security numbers to commit fraud (that will cause your relative a great deal of harm that cannot easily be fixed).

Don’t Share Stories of Abuse

Did you find court documents, or medical records, that indicate that an ancestor or deceased relative had been abused? It may make for an interesting blog post, but that doesn’t mean you should post that information online. A living relative, who was unaware of the abuse a deceased relative or ancestor received, may be very shocked and upset to learn about what happened.

What if the abuse you found documentation of happened to a living relative? In short, that means this is not your story to tell. Allow that person to make their own choice about whether or not to share that information (online or otherwise).

Don’t Share Family Photos Without Permission

In general, it is polite to ask your living relatives for permission to post a photo of them online. Some people won’t care and will immediately grant permission. Others may not want the world to see what they looked like when they were going through an “awkward stage”. The hairstyle and clothing that was cool when they were in high school could be completely embarrassing today!

Never Share a Password

That may sound obvious, but it is worth mentioning. You should never share your password, to anything, with anyone. In general, it is advisable that you periodically change your passwords to something new.

How does this relate to genealogy? It means you shouldn’t purchase a subscription to a genealogy website and then “share” that account with another relative. Doing so could be against the terms of service for that website. It also means that if you are using a public computer you should take the time to make certain that you have completely logged out of anything that required a password before you walk away from that computer.

Don’t Share the Skeletons in the Closet

Sometimes, information learned from DNA testing can reveal unexpected relationships. You may learn that a relative was adopted, or that someone’s sister was really their biological mother. It might be best to keep this to yourself.

Image by Annie Pilon on Flickr.

Related Articles at

* DNA Tests May Reveal the Skeletons in the Family Closet

* Recording Those Family Tall Tales

* The Sinister Side



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