How would you respond to a guest who writes this?

+10 votes

How would you respond, politely, in keeping with the Honor Code? I've written an email with explanations, but would like to have feedback how others would handle this.

"I thought I already had volunteered to help others. However, I am not willing to share my personal or family history information on this or any other public tree. "

in Policy and Style by Debby Black G2G6 Mach 8 (85.3k points)
Thanks to all of you. As a new Greeter, feedback is greatly appreciated.

6 Answers

+25 votes
Best answer

When I've encountered this sentiment before, it's not due to concern about sensitive information or skeletons in the closet. It is a still-prevalent stance that many, especially older, family history researchers/genealogists have about the value of their research: they worked long and hard on it and are not going to give it away, or put it somewhere online where someone may steal it. 

I recently wrote an email to someone about this; here's what I wrote-- and it changed her mind about sharing:


There's a lot of cr*ppy "research" posted online. The only way to distinguish the good from the bad is to make sure there is also GOOD research online. 

I've gotten to the point where I feel it's my DUTY to put my work online, including full sources, to try in some small way to balance out all the crud out there.

I encourage you to do so, as well. Because if we don't, the cr*p will prevail. And we can't have that. 


by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (921k points)
selected by Living Evans
That stance makes me so sad. I don't work long and hard on my genealogy so it can sit on my computer not being appreciated!
I agree with Jillaine. If you have an association with the rich, famous or infamous, there's money in a book you write or an online site we have to pay to access.  For my tree research, I've spent several hundred dollars buying books published by distant cousins who wouldn't answer phone calls or emails until the check was in the mail.
Nicely put Jillaine!
+11 votes
I would think that we are all here to gather information relating to the histories of our families, and that if this individual is visiting this site and is choosing to keep his family information a secret that is his perogative, but then why would he visit the site to begin with.  I have been working on my family tree for over 10 years, and while some sides of the family provide a vast amount of information some provide very little.


I would share my information with anyone, it might not be 100% accurate all the time, but it might also give clues on other possibilities.  I respect anyone that trys to help another
+13 votes
I'm very surprised by this person's comments. Perhaps their reason for not sharing is that some of their information is of a sensitive nature they feel they cannot divulge. In this case, they would obviously feel more comfortable documenting their family tree using a software package.

Having said that, I have also discovered some skeletons in the closet - with  probably more 'surprise' to come. But I am not responsible for my dead ancestors actions and therefore I do not feel that this should prevent me from sharing my family tree as I am hoping that there is someone out there  on WikiTree who can benefit and also add to it.
by Margot Pickering G2G Crew (720 points)
I completely agree with your comments about us not being responsbile for our dead ancestors' actions.
+19 votes
I saw that comment too Debby. This person probably has not read or does not understand the basic idea of WikiTree-that information about living people is private and that recently deceased people can remain private or protected too. I would ask this person which ancestors she or he has concerns about in terms of privacy and make it clear that anyone alive or recently deceased can be private. And, of course, it is not required to post bios or stories which might be embarrassing.

by Shayne Davidson G2G2 (2.4k points)
+10 votes
Debbie, maybe something like this.  I respect your right to privacy.  When inputing a profile of a person 100 years or younger it's always best to select the keep private dot.  These people may not want their information divulged to the public.  Anyone 101yrs and over it is safe that they no longer live and are beyond caring.  Beyond that sharing is what internet genealogy is about.  I have over 30 yrs researching and many others on this site have many years doing this.  Take all of the thousands of people in this program multiplied times their number of years researching and you have tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of hours of research available.  Just imagine if we did not share what gems we have, how slow our trees would grow.  Sharing is growing our Wikitree.  We want to share so others can add to what we have started or correct mistakes we may have inadvertantly made.  By holding back your information you are stunting your trees growth.
by Living Butchino G2G6 Mach 4 (44.7k points)
+9 votes
Debbie, you could try this as an Idea, if you know his person try leaving your Wikitree open, and invite them over, and show them throught the processes of what goes on in and aroung the program, and explain to them the different levels off securities, that why the person in question might have a better understanding of the perpose of the Wikitree experience, and might just relenqishes there family history, I had the same problem with one of my relatives when I suggested that I was going to publish my tree, they thought I was going to but it on a very well known social web site, and that details like national security numbers,  and very personal details of there family was going to be seen by all, I had to tell them the only details anyone could see is Names, and dates, Simples.  And as a result they understand now! hope this helps.
by Richard Sayle G2G6 Mach 1 (10.8k points)
I think I have never seen a National Security Number on a genealogical site. And I think I wouldn’t know what to do with such a thing.

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