Hi, Price cousins,

Here’s the question I’ve been grappling with lately: how does a family history website like this one guarantee that it respects the privacy of living family members like you?

I would really appreciate hearing what you think about it. You can use the comment section below (or, if you prefer, a private message through the contact page).

I’ve made a similar request on my Warner Family website, so please accept my apologies if you’ve already responded to that one.

So what I’d like you to tell me is how this website can fulfill its mission of researching, preserving, and sharing the Price family’s history, stories, and pictures, while at the same time ensuring that nothing published infringes the privacy rights of family members who are still living.

It may sound harsh, but dead people have no right to privacy. The living do.

Take a look at that family photo above, for example. The ethics of genealogy say that I can tell you pretty much anything I know about the two adults and the little girl, because they are no longer with us. Their privacy rights expired when they died.*

I can’t do that with that darling little boy because he is very much alive, he has privacy rights, and I don’t have his consent.

Here’s the generally accepted rule of genealogical ethics:

No professional genealogist or family historian will ever publish vital information about living people (dates and places of birth and marriage, addresses and telephone numbers, email addresses, etc) which a stranger could manipulate for criminal purposes.


I would even go a little further than that. If I publish the name of a living family member here, with a link to the pages of his or her late parents, then I’m telling the whole world his or her mother’s maiden name.

Your mother’s maiden name is one of those supposedly private bits of data that institutions use to make sure you’re who you say you are. Sharing it here could increase your risk of identity theft.

So here is what I am proposing to do, and I would like you to tell me if it’s enough:

  1. I won’t share any living family member’s key dates, address (physical or email), phone number, or parent’s identities with the world at large
  2. I will only identify a living person in the family tree by his or her initials (for example, I appear as “POW” and my brother appears as “SJW“; the baby boy in the photo appears as “JELP“)
  3. Clicking on those initials will take you, not to the family member’s page, but to a registration page
  4. Only family members and known and trusted friends of the family will be allowed to register
  5. Once a family member or family friend has registered, they will be able to see the same kind of genealogical information about the living as they already could about the dead
  6. In other words, information about dead people is open to the world but information about living people is behind a door that only a few trusted family members and friends are allowed to go through
  7. The names of living people will sometimes appear when I share things like an obituary or an old wedding announcement, but my current thinking is that this is acceptable because such items have already been published and are already available to the world
  8. The names of living people may be mentioned in stories or when citing the source of some information, but it will never be done in a way that puts anyone at risk for identity theft

So, what do you think? Is that the right way to approach it?

I need your opinion.

* The adults are Leslie Price and his wife Blanche Edmonds. The little girl is their daughter Isabel. The little boy is JELP.