Henrie.org Genealogy Content Policy

As we are continueing the march into the information age, content available on the internet continues to grow at a staggering rate. Not only used for commercial goals, the internet has allowed any person to share information about any topic. Genealogy and family history-oriented websites are a prime example of this, making the sharing and finding of such information much broader and faster than ever before.

Unfortunately, such websites can contain personal information that can be used for identity theft. I have been asked several times about the safety of or appropriateness of information published online. The purpose of this page is to address such questions and to answer the concerns everyone shares about privacy.

Here are some answers to some of the frequently asked questions (FAQ):

Q: What is being said about genealogy related websites that has people worried about potential risks?
A: The big worry is identity theft and credit fraud. There is concern that the types of information published on genealogy websites make it easier for unscrupulous individuals to commit such frauds or other invasions of privacy.

Q: What type of information is considered unsafe?
A: The types of personal information that identity thieves and credit fraud perpetrators crave are full names, social security numbers, dates of birth, places of birth, occupation and employment information, etc. One fact alone about an individual is rarely enough to cause damage. The danger is in letting all such personal facts fall into the wrong hands.

Q: What is the Henrie.org Website's policy regarding such personal information?
A: The goal of any serious genealogist is both to assemble the pieces of the puzzle that represent his/her family tree, and to preserve such information for generations to come. In conducting research, personal information (such as full names, birth dates, and places of birth) are gathered from and about family members and distant cousins. Such data will prove to be invaluable to future generations in understanding their roots (much the same as we gain today from knowing such information about our own ancestors). In terms of what I publish on line, however, I do NOT want to publish any information that could defame, embarrass, harm or threaten the privacy of anyone. The specific policy of the Henrie.org Website, therefore, is to never publish specific personal details of living individuals (other than names and family connections), unless specifically requested to do so.

I do intend to utilize standard genealogy charts, such as pedigree charts, family group sheets, and indexes. When it comes to the living, however, as I said above, I will publish no more than names and family connections (i.e. who is related to whom) and generalized dates (such as '1930s').

Q: Is there any risk, therefore, with information published on the Henrie.org Website?
A: As you read through the pages of my site, you will notice that most information is historical in nature -- some going back literally hundreds of years. It is hard to imagine such information causing harm. Rather, I truly believe that peoples' lives will be enhanced by the information published on my website.

As to the inclusion of anyone's name on a family tree chart or genealogy report, remember that a name alone is not enough information to be of any danger. You would be better to worry instead about the far greater chance that someone might steal your credit card statement and other personal mail right from your own mailbox.

Q: Doesn't the use of a mother's maiden name on genealogy reports represent some kind of risk?
A: If one were publishing a mother's maiden name along side an account number, a password, or perhaps a social security number or date of birth, it would be, quite simply, financial suicide. For a visitor to a website to find your name and your mother's maiden name can pose no risk if you don't tell people where to use such information and don't provide other critical pieces of information, such as an account number. As was said above, it is the combination of multiple personal facts that poses a risk.

Also, please keep in mind that a mother's maiden name is perhaps one of the most important genealogical facts about a family. Maiden names can open the door to entire new branches of a family tree. Remember, the descendants of William Henrie include far more than just people with the last name of Henrie -- for many people visiting this website, Henrie was just a maiden name, perhaps generations back.

Q: What can other online genealogists do to protect the privacy of their own loved ones?
A: Every genealogist publishing a family history website should adopt a strict standard of privacy protection and should adopt a policy statement similar to what I have outlined above. Furthermore, when publishing or sharing genealogy files, one should take care to remove all data on any living individuals (dates of birth, places of birth, etc.). There are several software programs available today that were specifically created to help genealogists "clean" their online and shared files of all such personal information. Two common programs are GED CLEAN and GEDPrivy. Please visit their websites for more information on obtaining their programs.