Web Publishing for Genealogy

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Legal and ethical issues: Privacy

While genealogical information about living persons held privately on computer by individual amateur genealogists is exempt from registration under the UK Data Protection Act (1998), this is almost certainly not the case if you put computer files (i.e. Web pages) containing such information on the Internet, making them available to everyone.

In any case, regardless of the legal situation, it is obviously a discourtesy to publish personal information about living persons without their permission. This means that if you are going to turn your gedcom file into a set of Web pages, or make it available for downloading, you should take care to exclude living individuals, unless you have their agreement.

Probably for your immediate family, this is not a big issue, but you should think carefully if you are going to produce pages listing, say, all known descendants of some ancestor. Remember that some of your relatives, particularly the older ones, may be extremely sensitive about family information, and may not be happy to see it published.[1]

There are several ways of ensuring that information about living persons is not published on your Web site:

  • a genealogy package with Web facilities should permit you to exclude living persons from your GEDCOM file
  • many of the GEDCOM converters have "privacy" facilities
  • there are a number of utilities which remove living persons from a GEDCOM file before conversion.

The following programs have facilities for removing sensitive information from a GEDCOM file:


[1] See also Myra Vanderpool Gormley, Exposing Our Families To The Internet.

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