When A Family Member Says “No” – 3 Things To Do When You Can’t Get The Information

Family history and genealogy can be a tricky kind of project to work on — especially when living family members either don’t know information about the particular topic you are researching, or in this case they flat out say no. In this post, we will discuss three different responses you can give to an individual if this type of situation comes up.

Quote of the Day

This quote really says it for me. We all carry inside us those ancestors who came before us — and in some situations, that can be things like family secrets, divorce, and abuse. As genealogists we need to stand at the top of fields and respect the living and the dead. Here are a few ideas to help you get through those sticky situations.

  1.  STOP! Yep, you read correctly. In order for our profession as genealogists and the field of family history to be taken seriously and respected, we need to respect our clients and those whose histories we are passionately digging into. We all come from different backgrounds and we need to empathize with those who have had difficult ones that they do not wish to dig further into at this time.

    Just as the golden rule goes, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” we need to respect that some people’s past shouldn’t be dug into while they are still living. The most we could do for them is let them live in peace without disturbing the past. Now, I don’t suggest this for every instance, but this is the #1 rule we need to stick to when digging into genealogy.

  2. EXPLAIN. Because genealogical  + religious records have not always been used for good, we need to explain our motives to our clients and their families in a clear and mature manner. Make it very clear you are NOT using their families information for religious rites (and if you are, make sure that CONSENT is giving in writing) or storing and stealing data.
  3.  BE POSITIVE. Noted genealogist Luana Darby  of Lineages by Luana says,

    “Be positive and take the concerns of those objecting to heart. Most likely they fear finding out a part of their ancestry. Assure them you will take it step by step letting them know what you are doing. Peace in the family goes a long way to finding answers.

    Calmly tell them that there is much in the public record already and you want to do it properly before someone else publishes it without thinking or knowing of the family concerns. If they refuse to help, still try and keep them in the loop somehow, documenting each step of the way.”

Aren’t we all striving to be as ethical as possible? Let’s stand together on this and remind ourselves with each and every client + family that these are real concerns and issues.

P.S. Going over the Code of Ethics at the Association of Professional Genealogists (APA) is always a great refresher for the beginner, intermediate and seasoned researchers.






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How’d They Find Me?

In the genealogy, world privacy should be one of our utmost concerns, especially that of our living family and selves. Recently, a post has been circulating the genealogical social media circles about a particular website. by the name of FamilyTreeNow.

Keep Information

The text of the message reads:

“I’m sharing this because the amount of information available to anyone through a basic search on FamilytreeNow is scary. I checked it out for myself and my family, and it was true. This article gives information on how to opt-out of having your information available.”

This particular genealogical website has been catching flak by mining other public websites for information not only about deceased individuals, but those still living. In fact, when I went to check on my name, it came up with my married and maiden name and address’s I’ve resided in.

This was a huge RED flag for me so I decided to do a little more digging. The company currently sits at a C+ on the Better Business Bureau’s website with 15 registered complaints against the company. This business has only been open for three short years and the complaints range mostly along the lines of the social media post being shared in genealogical circles.

What can we do?

FIRST, of all register your complaints with the Better Business Bureau. The more we can let business accreditation websites know of our issues, the more this issue can be brought to light, the more we can discuss as genealogists what privacy means.

SECOND. Use the websites opt-out features and to remove your information for no charge. Remember, anytime you use a website to check their terms and conditions, as many of them include clauses that will allow them to release public information for companies to mine. This is a great article by Ken Gagne, former editor of ComputerWorld, that explains how to get your information off of these aggregator type websites. If you are looking for directions specifically for FamilyTreeNow, click here for and article by Christine Otten.

THIRD.  Be more aware of these issues as you move forward in your genealogical research. Be sure to be respectful of the privacy of living individuals as you more forward.