WeRelate talk:Living people

(The 20 November 2006 contributions here were copied from the Watercooler. Please continue the discussion HERE)

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No Living People - This is nuts [8 March 2013]

I'm not sure what privacy laws the person below is refering to, but other websites allow living persons (WikiTree). How can this site exist without living people in it? Is there any other reasoning besides these "privacy laws"? I have a domain name, dege.net, that I wish to link to a geneology site where Dege family members can enter there information and link, but if there is no useable provision for living people then why should I use this site? It seems easy to me to implement living people, if there is no death date then the person is presumed living. You could impose that those with ages over 110 (or some number) with no death date are presumed dead and fill in a "no known death date" attribute.

I know that you can enter someone called "Living", but this is an incredibly unusable solution. How can I find out about living relatives when all of them are named "Living". I'd like to put myself in the database as I can provide all the information (marraige, divorce) but my given name is not allowed... what?

I see that WeRelate allows certain exceptions to the living person rule, look up President Bush. So famous people have more rights to this database? I can't believe that a Wiki would do something like this.

Is there any talk that WeRelate will change this soon? If not then I am stearing people to another site from dege.net. What site would you recomend? There doesn't seem to be a "Central" site, why is that? WikiTree seems like a growing site, can or does WeRelate import dead people from other sites into WeRelate so that in the case that WeRelate becomes the central site that they don't loose this valuable info? What's a Dege, who mostly know only living Deges to do?

WeRelate, please reconsider this rule. Your database format and tools look like the best I have seen on the web yet. Why not make it truly usuable to everyone?

- mike@dege.net


Thanks for the compliment. The issue is that non-public individuals don't expect to find their vital statistics posted in a public place, especially with people's concerns (unfounded or not) about identity theft. So we don't allow creating pages for living people. "Public" people, who qualify for pages on Wikipedia, are excepted.

I think the ideal solution is to come up with a way to synchronize a private family website or a desktop genealogy program (which could store living people) with WeRelate.org. This would also address another concern that people have: they want to have more control of what changes come into their "master" database. This is one of our major goals for this year.--Dallan 21:15, 20 January 2009 (EST)

Are you not allowed to add information about yourself? Metasj
No. There is currently no mechanism to "opt in" to having information about living people.--Amelia 00:23, 10 October 2009 (EDT)

It's sad, but I think Dallan is right about the identity theft. The solution you propose of a private database is unusable for most people. I tried a home grown site on our family and it was bombarded with spambots and I had to shut it down. The problem with most people, even professional computer people, is that they don't have the time, expertise or resources to create and maintain geneology software. In my case, I have not much interest in geneology, but I do own a domain name for my family and I would like to provide some link for people who email me to enter and find Living relatives as well as dead.

IMHO, Geneology is for the living, not the dead. I get requests from time to time from my family name domain wanting to know who they might be related to and where they might find them. What might be a solution is for WeRelate to allow for private Wiki leafs to store living people, password protected somehow or digitally fingerprinted so that identity theifs could be detered and or proven and prosecuted should that become a problem. These leafs should be in the same format as WeRelate so that when a person dies, the leaf can be automatically available on the public tree.

I know this is a big task, but in my line of work there is no such thing as "multiple standards", this is an oxymoron. Multiple geneology sites to me seems like an oxymoron. Somehow the major sites like this need to merge. For now, for all the living relatives who keep bugging me to put them on the web so they can find their cousins, I'm going to have to find another website for now, sad.--Tuffshed 11:27, 21 January 2009 (EST)


I'm curious, could User pages be used for this purpose? My user page can list any information about me that I am comfortable divulging. I could list my full name, where I live, my family's happenings etc... It is essentially a page about a living person, but since I have entered the information, privacy issues wouldn't come into play. Cousins could find be by conducting a search, and they could watch the page for updates. Also, if I want to plan a family reunion, couldn't I just create a JBS66/Family Reunion page and list details there, with links to other cousins' WeRelate pages?
So, when you say "for all the living relatives who keep bugging me to put them on the web so they can find their cousins, I'm going to have to find another website for now", I wonder why? You can put them on the web, in the form of a User page.--Jennifer (JBS66) 12:15, 21 January 2009 (EST)


Jennifer,

I suppose I could put all that info on a user page, but how would I link this to my living father and siblings, etc. Would I have to create a new user page for each of my 5 siblings and 20+ cousins? The whole purpose of geneology (I thought) was in the links, no links, no family tree. Now Dege is not that common of a name, but imagine the thousands/millions of Smith lines, many of which will never intersect for a long time.

All I was looking for was the most used, simple, web oriented, wiki style (anyone can update), family tree site to point my family members to so they can enter information in order to create a family tree. Am I barking up the wrong tree with WeRelate? I myself have mostly only info on living people, I expect others (more interested in geneology) to provide dead relatives. Where should I point to?--Tuffshed 14:12, 21 January 2009 (EST)


If you want to put up details on your living cousins so they can find each other (kind of like a family address book), you probably want a private wiki where you can control who gets access to the information. I've used PBwiki in the past and liked it. You could also try WetPaint, although I've never used it personally. You could even create pages for living people on one of these websites with links to dead ones on WeRelate if you wanted. As I said above, eventually I plan to add the ability for people to create private family wiki sites with the ability to "synchronize" pages on dead people with WeRelate, but that won't be for awhile.--Dallan 15:08, 26 January 2009 (EST)


[quote] I plan to add the ability for people to create private family wiki sites with the ability to "synchronize" pages on dead people with WeRelate, but that won't be for awhile.--Dallan 15:08, 26 January 2009 (EST) [/quote]

Dallan, this would be great. When you say awhile, what does that mean? A month? 6 months? A year? I'm willing to wait, but for how long? I, and I suspect many others, would not want to run their own private wiki. There is the problem of implementing it, security concerns, tieing it to a common database like WeRelate, tons of issues. If WeRelate has private trees that could be easily imported into the general database this would solve everything and allow WeRelate to become the de-facto standard, which is what I am looking for (and have so far failed to find). --Tuffshed 15:33, 26 January 2009 (EST)


That's the plan. I'm expecting it will be a 6-9 month timeframe. I'm pretty excited about it. I need to spend the next few months clearing up some usability issues on WeRelate, then spend the summer working on the private website code. I agree this is a huge need right now and the ability to tie people into WeRelate should make it the de-facto standard.--Dallan 22:42, 27 January 2009 (EST)


Lock the living

If we could upload our entire gedcom but the living are only able to be viewed by the person uploading or others who they give permission to would that not be a viable solution to both privacy and access to growing trees.

Jeffrey--JeffreyRLehrer 21:22, 6 April 2009 (EDT)

I like that idea, Jeffery. I just came across another huge problem with this issue; my father was adopted and my sister and I are tracing both his biological and his adopted lines... Of course, my father is still living... this means that with my tree, there is a "Ghost line" which has no relation to my tree at all... Again, I do see what the issue is, and I don't disagree in principal... The problem I'm having is that I have expanded my tree a massive amount here... but I can't use the data, because to take the data back from here deletes almost all of the top of my tree... Once we have GEDCOM export it will damage my tree to replace it with this data instead of helping it. Is there any way to lock the data on living people as Jeffery recommends so the page is "Private" except to certain accepted users? I've been here a while now and I've done a lot of work... it would really suck to have to say "Well yes... we use THIS Gedcom for the old stuff and THIS Gedcom for the new stuff..." Aabh 03:44, 7 April 2009 (EDT)

The problem is the MediaWiki (Wikipedia) code that this site is based on doesn't allow you to restrict viewing certain pages to only certain users. The question has come up enough times that there's a section in the manual along with a list of issues to watch out for.

I realize this is an important issue. One possible solution is to allow people to create private wikis with links back and forth to the main wiki. You would then upload your GEDCOM into the private wiki and copy or move non-living people into the main wiki. I've been thinking about this and have an idea how it could be accomplished, but realistically I plan to start on it later this year which means it won't be ready until next year.--Dallan 09:33, 7 April 2009 (EDT)


To answer your question: Because we are using this website to construct our Gedcom. We have 5,000 people in our Gedcom at this time, and when you delete 50 of them (10%) because they are "Living" (Even though this may not be true in my case...), that does 10% damage to my Gedcom. I wonder why people aren't more concerned about loss of data... Yes, there is a certain threat of Identity theft, but doesn't it seem to you guys that losing 10% of your Gedcoms outweighs the .05% chance someone will come in here and find your personal information and use it against you?

I strongly feel this is a phantom menace... the truth is, if they want my mother's maiden name or my birthdate, there are many locations where they could have gotten it that is the property of the US Government... and far easier to parse than this website. That's why I never use my birthdate or mother's maiden name as a passcode, and when I am forced to use it, I don't enter real data (I use a special codeword for most of those challenges), as we all should. People have been posting their Genealogical data on the web for years.

My question is: is this the place where I can work on my Gedcom and build my Genealogical tree or is this simply a repository for data so other people can use it? If it's the latter, then I will reupload my Gedcom for you guys to use every year or so and no spend so much time here.

(That sounded more "I'll go play in my own Sandbox" than I meant, but you can get the idea... I didn't SAY it that bitterly in my head :D )

Aabh 15:17, 6 October 2009 (EDT)

Aabh, I understand that this interferes with how you've chosen to do your research, but I still don't understand the value in having that information on a public website. Aren't these pages pretty much by definition empty? And if they aren't empty, aren't there a bizillion other places online that you can share your personal information? That's what I don't understand. If someone told me that they would do me the favor of deleting the most empty and useless 1% (or 10%) of my gedcom, I would say thank you, but clearly you place some value on these pages that I do not understand.
While you are apparently careful to get permission, there are probably 100 people for everyone one of you. I put a lot of information out there on myself, but I find it really creepy when people I was so unwise as to share my more personal details with 10 years ago share them online, and it's happened multiple times. Maybe it's not the greatest risk of ID theft, but it does upset people to find their information online when they didn't put it there. When I can't see any upside to doing it, I am inclined to err on the side of protecting people.
Your dichotomy is interesting, as I would consider working on people collaboratively to be building a tree -- and I've only ever pondered doing that with deceased people -- and that the only thing that comes out of posting information on living people is to allow voyeuristic name collectors to use it. That does not appear to be what you meant.--Amelia 01:02, 7 October 2009 (EDT)

Amelia, thank you for not reading that last post as bitter :D To answer your question, that 10% that has been emptied by the bots: Yes, you might as well, as the files have been destroyed. The data is now lost, there is no point in keeping them. Those aren't the ones I'm worried about, in 1998 when my sister started this Gedcom file, she placed the words "Living" in the death date of some of them (this isn't consistent as this is a 12 year old Gedcom and I had different protocols as did my father and mother). Those are the files I worry about; I don't want people deleting them outright (with them assuming they are all living people) because in the last 12 years, a lot of them have passed on. I don't want those files to be assumed "living" and deleted... sometimes it takes a lot of effort to recover the data when we lost a family member and weren't too sure when (Case in point: I lost a great Aunt in 2002... it was in the tree, but since she had no "Death Date" on the tree, it was pruned here... ironically, her younger sister, whom was still alive, had escaped the pruning because my sister had put "Living" in her death date...I didn't have my sister's Gedcom available because MyFamily was down, so I couldn't complete the record... even though I had almost completed it once before!)
You asked why putting people's information up in a public place is so important to me... That took me completely by surprise... I guess I see Werelate differently than you; This isn't Facebook to me (I'm not saying it is to you, but that sort of where you are coming from): This is a Geneology research site. I've been seeing it as the answer to many of my problems: 1) I can't research from one computer, my sister is in Maryland, my father in Houston and my Aunt in Louisiana. We spent the last 10 years doing nothing really except constantly updating disparate, separate Gedcoms. Not really researching much at all. 2) MyFamily is an outdated, difficult program to work with which has a great deal of problems which they are unwilling to rectify (Cousins can't marry cousins, for instance... we're Texans... that happened a lot...) and finally for the first time ever, I can let you guys work on parts of my tree as well! Certainly not something that can be accomplished by a password-protected, locked down site.
How do I feel about personal data on the web? I think the data that is here is already compromised on many far juicier targets on the web. So the only thing I can think of is that we are worried that someone might come on here, look up their coworker Suzie Smith and find out she's turning 40 this year and taunt her for it... Which I admit is an issue.
However, I weigh that with the other side: maintaining a singular data source. When you have 5 or more researchers on a single database (I.e. Gedcom), you really want only one copy of that database to work on, otherwise every record changed on DB1 must be immediately updated on DB2 and DB3... if you don't, then when it comes time to merge the data, you have a mess, a real nightmare. you have to figure out how to merge those three databases into one, sometimes this means manually searching each record on each database and merging them. When I did it last time with my sisters and my Gedcoms, it took me three weekends, 6 days, about 4 to 8 hours a day depending, to go through all of our records... this isn't something I want to do every three weeks... Now, since she won't come here (Mostly because she freaked out when she heard 10% of the Gedcom was destroyed), I'm going to have to do it again, and again and again with her MyFamily GedCom and my Werelate Gedcom... This time, though, I have to add my Aunts' which was done somewhere else (She simply sent me a Gedcom).
So we all have had to make choices as to where that singular source is. You all have had it easy, I guess, because your source is at your house... my sister and I, however, share the ownership of this GedCom, and we live 1,500 miles apart (Further when I was in Japan). Since we added my father and Aunt, this one source is now split 4 ways... I was talking to another member of my family and discussing her working here as well... this would be a branch of the family that we don't have at all; my father was adopted when he was five, this is his biological family that we just discovered about ten years ago... we don't really know any of these people, certainly we didn't grow up with them; deleting them from our tree pretty much takes them off the tree permanently for us (We wouldn't know they ever existed), since the Great Aunt in question lives far away and will be transcribing data from her notes and from her memory.
I just think some people really use Werelate to its fullest, and some don't... maybe right now those that do are in the minority... it's okay for people whom don't to express opinions that limit those of us that do; I just don't know if I agree with implementing them lock-step. Or worse, making decisions that really cripple us without even weighing in the consequences.
I think people have been viewing Werelate as a supplement to their family tree. We are using it to (finally) put an end to the hundreds of hours spent coordinating multiple Gedcoms (And the millions of errors that have popped up because of that). Just so you guys are aware, Since Dallan put the Gedcom download in (Thank you for that one, too, sir! :D) I backup this tree to a Gedcom every month and work on my tree, right here. I do not work on this tree on my home computer at all, when I research, I leave Werelate open in a second window and type the new information into the Werelate page directly. When you guys destroy 10% of my Gedcom, you are destroying 10% of my Gedcom.
Yes, I know "If you are worried about people changing things, then stop using a Wiki!" If you guys discover that my GGGGGgrandfather was a Chicken Farmer and not the president of the Republic of Whereveria and change that; it's in the interest of unified work; I'm okay with that. I believe firmly in Wiki and Cloud Computing (I trust that for the most part, there are only Genealogists at work here, and you are all interested in helping); When you guys prune my tree out of fear, however, it's like putting fig leaves on Renaissance paintings; it doesn't help, it just hurts.
I propose another solution; Make pages that are Web Searchable, and pages that aren't. Living people can't be searchable from the search engines. Then, you have to come here and look for a person if you want personal information. And you'd have to know the person's family researcher's name in order to do it (Since my dad was adopted, only three of us have the name "Davis"... you'd be very hard pressed to guess that we were related to the Stephens, whom were only one generation removed.). If you make it so living people aren't even searchable internally (Using Werelate's search engine), then you could ONLY find them by using the FTE or coming down from "above" in the tree. Thus, really, only family could find you. Then we could have our cake and eat it too... Genealogists destroying records is like Environmentalists driving SUVs Aabh 14:30, 7 October 2009 (EDT)
I don't understand what is is you think I do here, but it's not all that far from what you're doing. I just don't work anywhere near living people. (And I have no idea what you mean by the facebook crack.) I have no need for collaboration with close relatives because none of them care, and I've done pretty much as much work as possible without traveling, anyway. So I haven't looked for a place to do such a thing. It floors me that this is the best option, but given my limited exposure to other collaborative trees, I suppose it shouldn't surprise me. I would be sorry if you lost 10% of your gedcom, but surely you don't mean it's actually gone? You still have the file don't you?
But anyway, I really don't want to turn this into an analysis of your research choices, that's not fair. You've made it clear we're talking about two different problems. There is the 'linking' problem that would be solved by the public/private wiki or your proposal. Then there's the lousy researcher problem, where people upload all the names they've collected because they think it's cool. Information about people is posted without their consent. That's why we purge, which fixes most of the risk, but what's left is junk that's still somewhat of a risk. You might have noticed a pattern with what gets me irritated, and useless junk in the databases is pretty high on the list. It would be nice if we could attribute the existing living pages in the system to the latter category, but it sounds like we can't. Unless and until we get a way to mark the "useful" pages, it sounds like there's not much to be done.--Amelia 00:44, 8 October 2009 (EDT)

Amelia, that "Facebook crack" was that I don't perceive this as a place where "Public information can hurt you at your job like posting pictures of you being drunk last night---re:Facebook", not that you perceive it as Facebook. I wasn't trying to hurt your feelings, I was saying that I always thought of this place as... um... well... like a medical research facility, where we are all professionals working on a big project. When you brought up your argument, I thought "Well, this isn't really Facebook, no one is going to find pictures of my father drunk at a party here... so we really don't need to suffer the same problems and responses as Facebook." It probably wasn't the best choice of words, I grant. It certainly wasn't meant to offend, simply contrast.
Though I think you and I are doing mostly the same thing, I'm noting that we aren't doing exactly the same thing. And that difference is at the heart of this discussion. I am working from my tree here, online... if you were doing the same thing, then you'd be worried about losing data too; as the people you are working on would be lost forever when the Gedcoms are pruned.
I'm still trying to figure out how you are doing this, though... Are you simply not researching your cousins or aunts/uncles? That's why I lost 10% of my tree; My sister put all of our 1st and 2nd cousins and aunts/uncles into the tree (Because, down here, we visit with these people all the time... so it's nice to know where they are in our family ;) ), which meant our tree goes horizontal as well... which is also why deleting living people would make a mess of my world, it wouldn't just force me to have 5 trees, it would force me to have something like 20 trees... because even as it stands now, I'm not at the center of my tree... (I just found out last night after we talked here that she researched our step-mother's tree back to the 1850s... my dad has only been remarried for 3 years!)--Aabh 08:26, 8 October 2009 (EDT)


No, I don't "research" my cousins and aunts and uncles. I've known them my entire life, what would I "research"? My grand total of 17 1st and 2nd cousins are in my database offline, and I update them when something happens. They don't get married or have kids all that often. I would find it kind of rude to put their information online without their permission, personally. As I said, I spend my time on people who have been dead for 200 years because that's where I can be some benefit to the community.--Amelia 11:14, 8 October 2009 (EDT)
I understand, but since my Gedcom (And, I believe, Metasj as well) also doubles as a sort of "Primer" on our family... (As I said, before my father found his biological family, From my birth until I was 31 years old, I had 1 cousin and 1 uncle -My mother was an only child- now I have 5 aunts, 2 uncles and 23 cousins and 5 second cousins... I think...) I didn't grow up with them, I discovered them 6 years ago, so I'm still a little behind the curve. Yes, I guess I could keep an address book or something (And, actually, I do to some degree) but my address book doesn't tell me who "John Smith" is, just that he's related to me. Though I agree: it would be rude to put them online without their knowledge (And that's why I haven't put up too much of a stink that they are now all "Living"), there is still the problem of replicated database errors. If I make here my primary location then when the data is lost, it's lost. I will have to go around and ask who all of these people are again next time. And I'll have all of these trees that don't make any sense at all. They help you guys a whole lot and confuse me a whole lot. Which means that if I'm going to spend hours working on a database, then our MyFamily database is where I should be working.
I guess what I'm saying is; we all (Genealogists) only have a finite amount of time to do this work; Some of us (Many of us) will probably become part of the tree before we finish the work, passing it on to generations after us. Every minute spent duplicating our work is one less minute spent looking for ancestors. If Werelate destroys my family tree -regardless of whether you use the tree in this manner or not- then I should really not be putting my efforts here, because this is only here for duplication, I should be concentrating on whichever location is my priary location. Aabh 09:46, 11 October 2009 (EDT)
Here's the thing. You have a special need that is not dealt with by this site. You acknowledge that when you say the community will benefit and it will irritate you. I'm happy you want to work here, but you chose a site that is really not suited to your needs. And while I now understand why you want what you do, I'm not convinced that it's something WeRelate should go after. And even if we do, I'm not convinced that deleting people who are clearly entered in violation of policies here is a bad thing overall.( Given the pushback, I'm not going to do much about it, however.)--Amelia 13:46, 11 October 2009 (EDT)
Yeah... I'm starting to agree with that assessment. Like you, I simply had no idea people weren't doing what I was doing. I'll check back every 6 months or so, but I think you are right; Werelate isn't going to be able to help me out here in the mean time. Please wait a day or so for me to back up my Gedcom again then consider my tree fair-game. It was great working with you guys! You have a great idea here, and a very useful resource! I think there will be a time when we will be able to work with you guys again! :) Aabh 21:25, 11 October 2009 (EDT)

Wait a second, I don't think it is a "special need" that [[User:Aabh|Aabh] has. It is fundamentally this feature - the ability to collaborate with others on ONE tree (not many duplicate trees) that is why I signed up. I don't want to have to maintain all my info elsewhere as well as here - I want to be able to share updating ONE tree with others. I acknowledge that his particular need for living people to be a part of the mix is more pressing than it is for me, and for most of us, but I think that the current WeRelate exclusion policy (vs the workaround policy that most sites have of "Living" people with limited info) may simplify managing privacy concerns but at the cost of making WeRelate more difficult to use for collaboration than it needs to be (see my discussion of the multiple trees in FTE below).

I think ultimately we will have to come up with some kind of technological way to resolve this dilemma; I think it is essential that WeRelate be able to accommodate not just collaboration with others in general but collaboration in particular between a group of people on a particular (set of) family tree(s). One of the ways to do that efficiently is to find a way to reflect how each of these collaborators are related to the people they are working on. The only way I can think of to accomplish that is to hold somewhere in WeRelate's user data a "living" family tree that connects each researcher to Pando tree (of dead people) we are all working on.

Ideally, this would have some kind of switch to allow me to share this info with my collaborative partners. Rather than showing blank "living" pages for my parents, for example, such a solution would allow me to look at my Great-grandfather's John Henry Blaisdell's page and see 1) he's my father's mother's father (my greatgrandfather) and, if it has been shared with me, 2) that he is my collaborator's father's father (her grandfather). When I look at John Errold Blaisdell, I should be able to see he is my father's uncle, and that he is Virginia's father.

And, to get at some of what Aabh needs, this type of solution would also have the capacity to show how Virginia (another user) and I are related.

I think this is somewhat what Dallan is hoping to accomplish in the future. I hope so.

Maybe only a private wiki (and I think Dallan suggested some above) can accomplish what Aabh needs. And I have seen some very nice family/surname wikis in going through some of the website sources. But I'd like to see WeRelate move at least a bit more in this direction in the future. --Brenda (kennebec1) 21:42, 11 October 2009 (EDT)


One side of my family uses Geni to keep track of who's who. There are perhaps 1000 of us across 5 generations tracked that way so far. This can be valuable in a number of ways. If I want to find information about a Klein ancestor in Riga, I can check to see if there are any Kleins in my family alive today who have published their location and who live there, and ask them - if they don't know directly, they are in a position to look it up. I would love to be able to do this sort of collaborative research in a more open fashion. Each individual could opt in to this system, sharing their personal information only if they want to... I can't tell whether you are advocating prevented people from sharing their own information if they want to do so. Metasj 06:59, 9 October 2009 (EDT)
Mestasj, welcome. I'm not opposed to the sharing you're suggesting, which can be accomplished by using the 'watch' function on pages you're interested in, among many other ways. Someone does not need to have a person page on this site in order to offer research assistence - those are the pages we want to get rid of.--Amelia 00:23, 10 October 2009 (EDT)

In the intersts of maintaining 'trees' on WR and on your own PC, would it be a simple change to have the WR 'name' exported too (maybe as a note). I'm meaning the firstname lastname (X) format then if we are also maintaining stuff elsewhere, we can get back to the WR person page more easily--Dsrodgers34 23:13, 9 October 2009 (EDT)

BTW, the page title (WR 'name') is included in the text of a source citation that is added to every person and family in GEDCOM's that are exported from WR. You can use this to get back to the WR person, and once we get GEDCOM re-upload working, the system will use it to match people in your new upload to previously-created wiki pages.

I agree. I like thousands of others are not going to use this web site because they do not allow living people.--Tedjwilson 08:56, 8 March 2013 (EST)


Showing living people [11 September 2007]


Include them as blanks for linking

I read somewhere on WeRelate that we are not supposed to add living people. To be honest, this is fair enough, privacy law and all. However, it would be nice, when GEDCOM import is released, to be able to have the living people in your GEDCOM converted to blank pages called Living, just to let other people know they are there and to link ancestors of these people to each other. This is similar to what familysearch does in its database. Would you do this Dallan? --Bjwebb 13:41, 20 November 2006 (MST)

WorldConnect displays them in much the same way; see "my" pedigree, for example (though the underlying GEDCOM loaded by the contributor remains intact and can be downloaded by that contributor - a handy backup in case of home computer failure). Robin Patterson 23:05, 20 November 2006 (MST)
Laws regarding the collection and dissemination of information on living people without their consent are pretty complex, especially in Europe. I'd prefer to stay away from this issue. I do think that during gedcom upload we can add living children to Family pages as "Living (Surname)" in the child field. My question is, is it worthwhile to create Person pages for living people and Family pages consisting entirely of living people, as I see in Robin's WorldConnect example, or should we stop at having "Living (Surname)" for living children of families but not create Person pages for them?--Dallan 00:01, 21 November 2006 (MST)

Creating your own tree with living people

Also, will the family tree creator/viewer/GEDCOM importer/GEDCOM exporter allow you to create a tree from scratch, including living people - I think people should be able to do that. What do you say Dallan?--Bjwebb 13:41, 20 November 2006 (MST)

I don't anticipate the family tree explorer letting you create living people. I don't think we'll ever have a great solution to this problem that works solely on-line. Long term, I believe the best solution is to create a desktop application that sync's dead people with the corresponding wiki pages WeRelate, and keeps living people on the desktop. Or partner with a private pedigree hosting service like PedigreeSoft. A desktop application also solves the problem of people wanting to enter information when they are not connected to the Internet. A desktop app is on the roadmap, but not until late next year.--Dallan 00:01, 21 November 2006 (MST)
Yes, perhaps it would be more suited for a desktop application. We can strive to make one of these, and in the mean time, point people towards others with GEDCOM export, so they can add to WeRelate.--Bjwebb 09:04, 21 November 2006 (MST)

Is there no possible way to have the living people in a restricted user Group? --Tobiaseisentraeger 09:39, 09 March 2007 (GMT-1)


Hey guys...

Since the format change, I've sorta lost my plot on this topic, but I still have a problem.

I understand the reasoning behind not including living people (It's the same reasoning behind not including SS#'s on the "Genealogy.com" site), but I have a major problem with it.

1) there are 70 records in our GEDCOM with living people in it, and another 40 records with no birth-date and no death date. All 100+ of these records were "Destroyed" when we uploaded our GEDCOM into the database here. Because of that, this place is not the place to store our data (It becomes yet another spot where my sister and I must constantly update over time) When looking at our trees, there are a whole mess of the "Living..." people scattered about, and since all data has been removed from them, we can't tell who they are to update them later when that individual (Inevitably) passess on. Therefore, really, all "Living" people must be pruned, because they clutter up the database, and they don't have enough information on them to figure out who they are.

Worse than that, there are children of these living people whom have died, therefore (In a bizzare twist) they become "Orphans" in the family tree.

Worse, research is impossible from that individual on. Therefore, if the person wants to see if they are related via the same "Living Smith" there is no possible way, no data exists.

I have had this same argument with Genealogy.com (No SS#'s... which my sister uses to find people in the Census or recover military records - We don't put living people's SS#'s in, of course. We can still ask living people for information... :D). It's making the research difficult... Which leads me back to MyFamily (Ugh) to continue the work.

And if we use MyFamily (So we can maintain the living links) and try to reupload it again here from time to time, we will only generate thousands upon thousands of duplicates... So we will have to leave werelate as our data becomes obsolete here.

My sister is in Maryland, and I'm in Ibaraki, Japan... we can't work on our GEDCOM together anywhere else but on the internet... I'm sure we aren't the only researchers that are on opposite sides of the globe. We have to find some alternative...

Aabh 02:17, 11 September 2007 (EDT)


between living and non-living [26 January 2008]

What's the protocol for people if we don't know whether they're living or not? (On Rootsweb Worldconnect, each user sets their own date after which people of unknown status are considered to be living. Will WeRelate codify a given date, say 90 years before the current date, for all?)--Hh219 17:08, 13 April 2007 (MDT)

If someone has a birth or christening date less than 110 years ago and doesn't have anything for death or burial, then we assume they are living. Pages created for living people should contain just a surname and gender, possibly along with links to families they are a member of; e.g., Person:Living Smith (1).--Dallan 23:51, 13 April 2007 (MDT)

I have been searching for the proper procedure for changing a "Living" person to a person I can create a page for. I tried it with Person:Minnie Hodson (2) and obviously did something wrong. Although her name now appears at the top of pages for her and her family, on the left side she is still listed as "Living" instead of her name. An example of this is Family:Archie Wilson and Minnie Wilson (1). Any help with this situation would be greatly appreciated. Thanks Walt 13:09, 26 January 2008 (EST)


Living people - sex, birth date and place [5 October 2009]

I need some clarification on living people. On WeRelate I know that people are considered living if they were born 110 years ago unless one can establish a death date; but what information may be entered? I have chosen not to name the person Living Jones; I usually enter the sex, birth date and place in the text section on the family page - no name. Is this okay?--Beth 09:48, 9 November 2008 (EST)


I think that's ok.--Dallan 21:36, 18 November 2008 (EST)

I know this is late to add this here, but for the record, under our policy of not allowing information about living people because it exposes them to identify theft, you should not enter the birthdate in a record that links to the parents. If someone knows anything about that family, they can easily identify who it is.--Amelia 18:02, 4 October 2009 (EDT)
Yes, it is very late and do you know how I can find them without looking at every page I have entered?--Beth 23:43, 5 October 2009 (EDT)
Since I don't have any idea what you actually did or how you chose who to do this to or how you have the information offline, and since you've presumably made far too many edits to find them in a general search or contribution list, I really have no way of offering suggestions.--Amelia 23:51, 5 October 2009 (EDT)
OK, Amelia don't worry about it. I will find them eventually and delete. I am sure that most of them would be 100 years old or so and just couldn't locate the death record.--Beth 00:56, 6 October 2009 (EDT)

Protocol for living people named in documents [14 July 2009]

Living people are very often named in documents pertaining to the deceased i.e. wills, obits and death certificates. On a death certificate the informant may be a living relative of the deceased. Should one upload the death certificate image?

What about obits? Should one upload an image of an obituary that includes living descendants of the deceased? --Beth 09:52, 9 November 2008 (EST)


I don't know. If you get permission of the living person than certainly. The reason for the rule is we don't want living people to be surprised to find information about themselves that was entered here without their knowledge.--Dallan 21:36, 18 November 2008 (EST)


An obituary is considered a public notice, published in a newspaper and/or on-line. I feel that the direct posting of that obituary is no more an infringement of the WR privacy policy than the inclusion of that living offspring's name in their parent's obituary. While I probably would not add that obituary notice (or the information contained therein) to any living person's data page here at WR (due to the WR privacy policy and the tertiary nature of the document), I would have no reservation in making it available in whole as part of the deceased person's page (as a valid primary or secondary source). The same with a will and a death certificate. --BobC 09:34, 12 July 2009 (EDT)


What to do with living people pages [18 October 2009]

I've come across several records lately for, say, grandchildren of people born in the 1930s. Full names listed. No birthdates, usually, since the system would have kicked them out. These people are clearly alive, and if we're going to have any teeth in our policy against living people, they need to be deleted. But before I go doing that, I'd like to make sure that's established as policy. Before anyone gets all involved in the rest of my post, please comment on this part first!

On a related note, why do we allow pages that are Living Jones? It's silly -- they are by definition empty, and yet they still provide valuable hints for identity theft. I understand that there's some notion that it's nice to be able to point someone to "their" page, but I think that's insufficient justification. It's far more likely that someone is going to find the fact that there is an empty page that's supposed to correspond to them creepy and amateurish than it is that they are going to find it useful. Just point that person to their (presumably dead) grandfather instead. And to the extent that these "empty" pages hook deceased children into a family tree, do we need these (relatively) recently deceased people here so badly? I vote no. There's not a lot of collaboration necessary in such a situation.

I know I'm going to get shouted down, but I propose that we delete all the Living _____ pages.--Amelia 18:11, 4 October 2009 (EDT)

Amen, Amen, Amen. I am really distressed over the fact that we have so many pages named "Living Jones". I delete them when I encounter them, for example when doing merges. I alsoI d refuse to upload a gedcom before checking that the living people are excluded. Knowing that Living Smith is married to Living Jones with full parent info given for both is all I would need to steal an identity. It wouldn't take five minutes to fill in the blanks. So I vote with Amelia for a policy with teeth! Catering to someone's whim does not justify the exposure problem. --Judy (jlanoux) 18:44, 4 October 2009 (EDT)
Dallan plans to delete all Living ______ pages; just has not had time to do that yet.--Beth 23:26, 5 October 2009 (EDT)
And related, there are people who are trying to get around the no-living people rule by putting in a false death date. See the spouses of this family: Family:James_Britt_and_Shirley_Acker_(1).
I deleted these pages.--Beth 23:26, 5 October 2009 (EDT)
I'm not admin but I sure don't know why Amelia's suggestion would be shouted down! I vote to delete any living people. And anyone who would deliberately falsify a date of death causes their whole chart to be suspect! --Janiejac 22:11, 4 October 2009 (EDT)
This all came up many months ago when Judy and I were new here. I inquired why there were so many living people in the database and was told "We exclude living people -- EXCEPT...." No -- there should be no exceptions. I've been waiting for someone, whose info has been uploaded in a recognizable form, to complain to WeRelate about our lax policy. The James Britt & Shirley Acker page could have been caught by a "sanity check" line of code in the GEDCOM import -- or by a similar check if it was added manually. (Is there such a check in the GEDCOM import?) IAC, all "Living" pages should be deleted, for both legal and ethical reasons, period. That's the general policy in every genealogical endeavor I know of -- that isn't run entirely within and for a family -- and I mentioned that before, too. --Mike (mksmith) 09:32, 5 October 2009 (EDT)
Well, for the record, I think I'm responsible for the "WIkipedia" exception. The only people it's been applied to that I know of are the last 4 living presidents and their wives, and Prince Charles and his sons. It's kind of silly to pretend that anything's going to come out of posting their vital information for the 1,000,001st time, and most of them are related to a good many early American immigrants that provide entertaining links. This is not an exception that should swallow the rule. It's not responsible for the lax enforcement you point out, which is what I'm asking that we be given authority to delete on sight.--Amelia 10:12, 5 October 2009 (EDT)

One suggestion:

If a note of descendants is needed perhaps a simple note can be added to the most recent deceased person:

No names , genders or birthdates to be entered at all

EG 3 children and 6 Grand children - contact (werelateusername) for information.


110 years is currently 1900 (ancestry lists 140+ million births in england wales alone 1916-2005) so thers lots of scope to find and record deaths.

Perhaps there should be a voluntary 70 year rule (born after 1940) where we do not even enter deceased people unless there is a good reason, or they are direct ancestors. There's a distinct need for courtesy to peoples close relatives from that pointy on, and if relatives they died young at much less than a normal lifetime then maybe even more so.


Perhaps in future when we can adapt the site allow 'private' pages to be added to a public 'person' page then private notes can be entered and shared on request.

PS I will check my pages too - not sure I completely comply with this either--Dsrodgers34 00:27, 6 October 2009 (EDT)


Okay... I agree with this being the policy... but deleting all pages with impunity is a little overboard. My page is in here (And as of now, I'm still alive), it is by my permission that it is in here. My sisters' page is in here, she gave me permission, my father's page is in here, he gave me permission. If you deleted those pages outright, I would be a little more than ticked (Not the least of which would be that it would unravel my tree... since I'm the connector between my mother's family and my fathers, and my father, being adopted twice, means he's the connector to 4 distinct family lines). I've been spreading the word of Werelate because I think all of us should be here, the more the marrier (And the better data)... but people going into my tree and destroying my data will not make me feel like this is a legitimate place for me to work on my tree. My sister, in an earlier incarnation of the tree, placed the word "Living" in the death date (Not here, on our MyFamily site), this managed to allow many of the members of my tree to escape the culling. This was advantagous as many of those people have passed on since this tree was started in 1997... I am still reconstructing data from some of the ones where she didn't put the word "Living" in there. I am not on board with this particular legislation (I think folks can find out far more information than my mother's maiden name elsewhere), but I was outvoted (And that's cool)... Please don't rub this in for me. I have been trying to get my sister to work here instead of MyFamily and this is the SOLE reason she won't move over, and that means we are constantly reupdating the two master trees (Here and MyFamily), back and forth. This one rule alone adds about 2-5 hours of work a month to the two of us, please don't make it worse. There are always more gray areas in situations like this; not everything can fit in a perfect black and white rule. Yes, it is policy, but the spirit of the policy is that it doesn't surprise anyone. None of my living people are unaware that they are here (In fact, they are also researchers). Fortunately for Werelate (Unfortunately for me), most of my family is dead. No one here uses their mothers' maiden name as a password anywhere, and we don't put social security numbers up for anyone alive. This is all done with great care, please respect that.

To Summarize; please don't delete EVERY entry with a living date, and don't assume that anyone whom put information in the Death Date renders their entire tree suspect. Aabh 08:57, 6 October 2009 (EDT)

I'm going to side with Aabh on this issue and call for levelheadedness and thoughtfulness when perusing namespaces, rather than taking a radical witch-hunt approach to forcing compliance. When you view such a living-person record, it would be more judicious and perspicacious to bring the policy to the importer and writer's attention with a polite reminder and let them correct or modify the record themselves than for the activist pedant to delete it outright. While the Pando for genealogy concept may be the end game or aspiration for WeRelate, we are no where near there yet, and people still assume a certain degree of ownership in their uploads and their family data. As Aabh pointed out, an arbitrary Speedy Delete can play havoc with a family tree and we're just as likely to do the same with that user who will move somewhere else with a negative attitude of their experience with WeRelate. --BobC 11:06, 6 October 2009 (EDT)



I'm aware that some people are going to be upset, which is why I assumed there would be even more negative response than there is. But I don't think just warning people works, because most of the offenders aren't active researchers and the warning will just sit there. Unless it's possible to issue a blanket warning 48 hours before the automated deletion or something. This is one of those things where it may well hurt/piss off some people, but if the policy is going to exist for the greater good of the community, then we can't be individually evaluating each researcher to decide if they're subject to it. And if we're going to do something widespread to rein in abuses, better now than later.

Although I understand Aabh's particular problem, what I'd really like to understand is WHY it matters to have your own record here (or your sister's, etc.). I really do not understand what possible use it has, beyond the barest matter of convenience of navigation. I understand why you might want to track these people offline or somewhere else, but the point of putting it here when there are so many downsides escapes me.--Amelia 11:30, 6 October 2009 (EDT)

Perhaps I was misunderstood. Personally, I think the policy is appropriate and should be enforced. The method of enforcement is what I wanted to highlight as being in question. We should think of enforcement as a process, not a hatchet or guillotine. Take a look at how Wikipedia enforces it's rules, standards of conduct, and notification of inappropriate usage (e.g. Articles for Deletion, Deletion process, Criteria for Deletion, etc.) and you'll see a very deliberate, measured, judicious process of enforcement.
Per Wikipedia policy, "Before nominating an article for speedy deletion, consider whether it could be improved, reduced to a stub, merged or redirected elsewhere, reverted to a better previous revision, or handled in some other way. Users nominating a page for speedy deletion should specify which criteria the page meets, and should consider notifying the article creator and any major contributors. There is strong consensus that the creators and major contributors of pages and media files should be warned of a speedy deletion nomination. All speedy deletion templates thus contain in their body a pre-formatted, suggested warning template to notify the relevant parties of the nomination for speedy deletion under the criterion used." I'm sure WeRelate has some similar policy statement; I just didn't take the time to look for it.
It doesn't hurt to apply the Golden Rule when dealing with these situation. --BobC 15:30, 6 October 2009 (EDT)
IF someone could explain to me the value of these pages, then I would sympathize with your approach, Bob. But I haven't seen any redeeming feature of a page on a random living person that overrides the best practice of not allowing living people established by every other public genealogy website. There isn't a way to "fix" these pages. Warning people takes longer and is unlikely to result in any change, and such warnings are hard to track and follow up on. We don't have the infrastructure of WP to do that. Frankly, I'm not going to bother on my own. But I'm happy to hit delete when I see these pages. But that's the point of bringing this up. Which is the greater risk, offending people by enforcing the rules that they violated in the first place, including in what I admit is the random manner of an Admin seeing the page on an edits review; or keeping these pages around and essentially giving up on this rule? Those appear to be the only choices right now.--Amelia 01:13, 7 October 2009 (EDT)
Amelia, these pages are not valuable to the wiki as a whole; they are, as you say, empty pages with no apparent purpose. BUT to a given individual family tree, especially a complex one like Aabh's tree, one purpose they serve is as the essential connectors that tie lines together. Particularly if you are researching multiple sibling ancestral lines, it gets really hard to keep in your head how your Norton tree connects to your Blaisdell tree to your Cummings tree...And when there are multiple overlaps in current generations, it gets even more complex.
I have 5 or so Family Tree Explorer trees for my family tree, and I haven't even added several of the lineages. Presumable, some WeRelate researchers will have to have at least 4 trees (one for each grandparent) of each "central living individual" they wish to research, as if you have living parents, you'll need to start with your grandparents. If you have living grandparents, god help you, you'll need 8 family trees in family tree explorer just to get started on your own genealogy! And if you are an ambitious researcher who wants to explore the lineages of your spouse, that's another 4 trees, and if you want to explore your cousins' lines, you'll need another two (at least) for each cousin. Never mind the complications of adoption and step-parents. (Ancestry may not respect my privacy, but at least I can set up only one family tree!)
Since one of the benefits of WeRelate is the prospect of working together as cousins (or siblings), the multitude of family trees means sorting out in your head the "yours mine and ours" of which trees you share and how to find people in a tree you don't directly share, but are connected to via a living second researcher. Plus the shared research elements of the Family Tree Explorer aren't yet completely worked out, as I recall?
It seems to me that a partial solution to this aspect is to work on the thread we have discussed elsewhere (I know I remember it somewhere?) of how we can get WeRelate/Family Tree Explorer to interact in such a way that you can sign in and have the person/family pages you visit (or have Family Tree Explorer) show how you are related to the person you are looking at. That would certainly help. It would also be helpful to be able to change the "home" person to another (possibly living) person, so you can see how cousin Jane relates to a section of a tree.
Fundamentally, this issue gets at the tension between WeRelate as a Pando tree and its usefulness to specific individual users. As a Pando Tree, living people aren't especially relevent. But for individual family researchers, they are very helpful - they provide sources, they link your tree together, and they provide clues to additional research on additional lines/connections. Plus, they provide a place to store data as you get it (live data) rather than waiting to research someone after they are dead. I know that under WeRelate policies, the last value is not applicable (since we can't have data on living people, WeRelate isn't a very good storage place!).
Anyway, I understand your frustration, Amelia, and I understand *why* WeRelate, as a wiki, has the policies it does regarding living people, but I'm not sure ruthless enforcement is all that useful. I know I have some people on my trees who I *know* are dead, but that are showing up as living people just because I don't have a death date. I'd be really grumpy if you deleted them without querying as to their status... --Brenda (kennebec1) 11:14, 7 October 2009 (EDT)


Thank you Brenda for explaining that. I frankly hadn't contemplated using WR that way, since, as you say, it's not very well suited for it (and I gave up keeping track of whose ancestors I was working on in frustration about 12 years ago, but then my offline program has a button that will tell me when I want to know). This sounds like fundamentally a programming issue. There is a need for FTE to keep track of the links between people, and the only way that currently happens is to have an actual live page to do that. (I'm not sure why you're saying you need so many trees, though -- people in a tree don't have to be related (as far as the system is concerned - I assume just for tracking purposes?) I don't think this is how most living people are used in the db, but it sounds like these are the entries that will cause a fair amount of "grumpiness" if we mass delete.
I know that in WeRelate, a tree doesn't have to be related persons, but in Family Tree Explorer, navigation is directly correlated to ancestors and descendants. Frankly, I rarely use Family Tree Explorer anymore, because 1) it seems to use up system resources? (everything goes slower in moving around the web) and 2) it doesn't seem necessary for what I want to be doing, which right now is mostly trying to source people and family who are otherwised unsourced. But Family Tree Explorer is the WeRelate vehicle for moving up, down and sidewise within a particular lineage, where you can see more than one parent/child generation at a time.
Now that I think it through, I suppose I could import all people into one tree, and then by selecting a start person in Family Tree Explorer see that particular grandparents lineage (and not the others). But that doesn't really help with the fundamental problem -- that I don't have an obvious way to indicate how each line is connected to the others (in my research) when the connection is a living person. In complex genealogies, these connections aren't always obvious, and there are can be a LOT of names/surname/connections to memorize if you are working in collaboration with other living cousins.
I acknowledge that most living people in the database are an accident of poor Gedcom import management. And I don't know how we distinguish the good/bad and ugly of the "Living Jones" placeholders.
Ultimately, Dallan's plan to set up a way to link private and public wikis within the WeRelate rubric is probably the best solution. --Brenda (kennebec1) 14:56, 7 October 2009 (EDT)
As for your people who are dead but you don't have a death date, the rule is that we can't have living people, not that all entries must have a death date. You can rename them, put "before <whatever>" in the death, and explain how you know they're dead.--Amelia 12:10, 7 October 2009 (EDT)



It may be advisable for people who are using "living" pages in the ways described above, that they place "do not delete this page" on the talk page with a reason for keeping it. jillaine 12:13, 7 October 2009 (EDT)

Can anyone tell me how to search for names in a tree that have a blank death date? Or maybe I should search for "living" as the first name? or any other suggestions? So I can maybe change some to an estimated death date, remove others, and generally do my own tree management? I'm not sure of what syntax to use in the search fields. Thanks, --Brenda (kennebec1) 15:05, 7 October 2009 (EDT)
Searching for "living" first name people in pages I'm watching seems to do it. Thanks - --Brenda (kennebec1) 15:07, 7 October 2009 (EDT)

What's so strange is that I'm exactly opposite of Amelia: I didn't know there was anyone other than researchers here... People who were using Werelate to be their source for storing the information in data process... I'm getting my eyes opened, too! :D
So we seem to have two types of folks here: The folks that are adding to Pando (Pando-ites) for the sake of Pando and the folks who are working their own trees (Does that make us "Aspen-ites"? :D). Certainly both camps are working in some degree to help the other camp (It's not a case of "Us vs Them). The question is: how do we make this work for both camps?
As I observed above: is it possible to make a page "Non-searchable"? I mean, isn't there instruction pages that do not get searched by the bots or the Werelate search engine? (When I type in "Smith" I don't get a tutorial in which someone used "Smith" as an example). Certainly when I type "Smith" in on Google, I don't see Wikipedia's help pages (Written by mr. Smith) pop up in the search results. The Living Pages would still be here, but could only be found from the trees themselves, then. You'd have to know my father's mother's mother's name in order to find me... Certainly typing my name would prove fruitless. Aabh 15:19, 7 October 2009 (EDT)
I certainly feel like I straddle both worlds (Pando and Aspen) here. I'm enjoying more and more the connection of my tree to the Pando tree, and adding sources and stories to long-dead names and dates. Plus I confess to really enjoying the source review project... lots of fun to learn about different sources and materials!
But that is kind of what I do while I'm waiting for WeRelate to work as an active collaborative tree between living people... until my father's cousin is online and involved and sharing updating and researching our family lines. We share one of my lines (out of four grandparent lines; I share two of her grandparent lines). But since early New Englanders routinely married cousins (this is not limited to Texas!), her Park lineage ultimately weaves back into our shared Blaisdell line. Living people aren't as essential to our research as they are to Aabh, but I can definitely see that when we later get yet a third cousin involved, it is going to get complicated to show how the trees connect if, say, we tried to export our data to share with other family members.
and, I too have found that I'm leaning on WeRelate to be my primary database -- BECAUSE it is public and collaborative, and once updated, it doesn't have to be merged and massaged again in order to be shared with someone else. I have made some effort to periodically try to bring my offline database up to date with the WeRelate info, and to update my Ancestry trees, but they are kind of out of date at this point. I suppose it is important that I start downloading a gedcom from WeRelate regularly, just in case...
I think that users like Aabh and I are an interesting phenomenom for WeRelate... Our dependence on WeRelate for primary data collection and storage (proximate to collaboration) are a sign, I think, of WeRelate's maturity (despite occasional frustrations at what isn't quite here yet...). I suppose one could see us as representing the "Ancestry-i-zation" of WeRelate - i.e. a perhaps more sophisticated researcher, but still working on "my family tree" albeit in a wiki environment. I'm not sure if that is entirely a good thing or not... but it is interesting.--Brenda (kennebec1) 10:49, 8 October 2009 (EDT)


Earlier this year Dallan indicated (above) that he was working on the private website code to let users have the ability to allow limited or private access (permissions) to living people and still tie them to dead people on the public WeRelate site. That would clear up a lot of this debate. That is why I say, let's not over-react at this point about living people being there. Maybe Dallan can step in a say a word about his timeline on that project -- not that he hasn't had anything else to do these past few months :-} --BobC 16:30, 7 October 2009 (EDT)

I understand Aabh point of view more now. Unless and until Dallan can come up with a way to password protect pages for living people it sounds like a combination of werelate and a desktop program would best meet his needs. He could keep only the living folks and their parents on the desktop for his immediate knowledge of the family, but for collaboration with all the family, they all could work on deceased ancestors. The problem with password protected pages is, who is going to remove the password from my page when I'm gone? --Janiejac 11:05, 11 October 2009 (EDT)
I think that would be too cumbersome for Aabh. What we need is something like Ancestry.com uses to privatize or make public (or degrees of each option) a person's family tree (or the living people therein). An Ancestry.com tree can be totally public or totally private, and if you as a user elect the privacy option, you can at any time offer some other family member permission to view your tree without making it public and without threatening an innocent living third party's right to privacy. As Brenda said, without this ability or function, WeRelate will never be my primary database. And as I get older and see no close family members have yet matched my passion for genealogy and family history, I am looking for such a on-line collaborative site and genealogy database that will hopefully last beyond my lifetime. --BobC 23:49, 11 October 2009 (EDT)
To argue the other side for a minute - the problem with Ancestry is that it perpetuates the "my tree" ownership philosophy that is not a wiki and IMHO does not benefit genealogy research either for the individual or as a whole. We really don't want "private trees" on WeRelate, at least not as the primary way people interact with WeRelate. But we do need some kind of private "link" to the public Pando tree - the living people connectors that allow us to see how we are related to others (in part because that's a great "fun" marketing feature - see how I'm related to famous people!).
But mostly we need this feature for more effective collaboration and data collection among specific groups of collaborators, so that people can share the work of documenting their collective and individual genealogies. I don't know how this private/public tree meshes... I can envision it, but I can't figure out how to program it. I don't even think it has to be related people - maybe this is more of a "group" user (as opposed to an individual user) function. i.e. if I set up a group (like a discussion group, only a research group instead), it has a specific user identity that each (verified) member can log into and see/have access to shared living people connectors that represent how the group members relate to the larger WeRelate database.
And I'm not sure all the details have be shared - it may well be enough to have labels that are place holders for the "private" links to the WeRelate database. What if my Dad was Kennebec1'sFather, rather than Bob Cummings? For many purposes that would still suffice to represent my connection to Emma Blaisdell Cummings, the first dead person in WeRelate that I connect to. Distinguishing my father's five siblings (Kennebec1'sAunt1, Kennebec1'sAunt2, Kennebec1'sAunt3...) is a bit more problematic, as is clarifying that Kennebec1'sAunt is the same person as Margery'sMother... but you see what I'm going with this.
I hope this brainstorming and discussion are useful to Dallan in thinking about programming this in the future! Otherwise, we are beating a dead horse here, as I think we have consensus that 1) living people aren't really usable on WeRelate now, and 2) that is a good (or OK) thing in the context of a public wiki and responsible management of privacy concerns, and 3) at least some WeRelate users would like to have a method to add some living people for use within a particular collaboration effort.--Brenda (kennebec1) 10:58, 12 October 2009 (EDT)
I concur with almost everything you write, Brenda. But let me clarify a bit more and comment on one of your points. I used the Ancestry.com site in my comments above as an example only for its technical ability to provide privacy for the user's tree but allow the user the means to provide someone else selective access to their tree(s). I certainly don't want WeRelate to become the mini-wiki version of Ancestry.
Regarding your number (1) point that "living people aren't really usable on WeRelate now", I think Aabh's point was that living people are useful (and, at least in his tree, as absolutely necessary) as the link between his family's multiple ancestral trees, especially in collaboration with other family members. I think you meant that "information on living people really isn't usable on WeRelate," but the links they provide can be helpful and useful (which basically leads to your third observation). I'm still hoping Dallan will weigh in on this issue and give us an update. --BobC 09:58, 13 October 2009 (EDT)

Possible alternatives for integrating a personal database with WeRelate [18 October 2009]

I agree that the issue that User:Aabh and others raise about not having living people on WeRelate is a problem. It makes it impossible for many genealogists to use WeRelate as their primary genealogy database, and makes it less convenient for many others to use it to collaborate among close family members with whom they want to share information about living relatives as well as deceased ones. I view WeRelate as a collaboration tool add-on to your personal genealogy database (see WeRelate talk:Vision) but I know that a number of people would like to use it as their primary database. I agree that this is a problem, and it's something that I would like to address. Due to privacy concerns, I don't think we should make pages about living people publicly accessible. And due to technical reasons, we can't password-protect individual pages at WeRelate. This leaves us with several possible options. I've spent some time thinking about them but haven't started down any one path yet. I would like to make one of these alternatives available in 2010:

1. When you upload a GEDCOM, the living people would be stored in a "mini-tree" that would be accessible via a Facebook application. You would choose people from your Facebook friend list to give access to this tree. You would view and edit the living people in this tree using a different interface from the WR interface. The interface would be significantly scaled down from the WeRelate interface. History would not be kept for living people, wiki formatting wouldn't work, and you might not get notified of changes to living people for example. When you navigated to a deceased person from the Facebook application you would be taken to their wiki page in WR. This approach is probably a medium amount of effort programming-wise.

2. We allow people to create private family wikis. The interface would be the same as WeRelate, but you control who gets to create accounts to view and update the pages. Furthermore, you could "publish" certain pages (all or some of the deceased people in your tree) from your private wiki to the WeRelate public wiki, and you could automatically or selectively copy changes from the public wiki back into your private wiki. If I were to provide this, I would probably want to make it available to people who have donated a modest amount (say $10-20) to cover the costs of hosting a separate database. This approach has the benefit that as new features are added to the public WeRelate site, they would also be added to the private sites. This approach is also a medium amount of effort programming-wise.

3. We create a new genealogy program (possibly using a http://wave.google.com extension -- wave is a rather unique combination of wiki, email, and IM technology) with sharing and publish/subscribe capabilities. The goal would be that this program would replace your desktop genealogy program. It would run online so you could access it from your iPhone or Mac or Netbook or Windows machine, but it would be your private database. You could use this program to share your complete genealogy with your close family members, publish certain people in your tree to WR or Geni or Ancestry or where-ever, and automatically or selectively copy changes from those other websites back into your program. If I were to provide this, I would probably want to charge say $20-30 so that I could hire another programmer and a support person, so the program could be developed to have the same capabilities as the desktop programs it would be competing with. This approach entails the most effort programming-wise, but may have the capacity to result in the nicest solution ultimately.

4. We modify the open-source PhpGedView and add publish-subscribe capabilities to it, so that you could publish people from your PhpGedView database to WeRelate. If I did this, I would also add PhpGedView hosting for people who don't want to set up their own PhpGedView server for say $20/year. This approach entails the least amount of effort programming-wise, but you have to be comfortable with using the PhpGedView interface.

BTW, I don't plan to remove living pages from WeRelate until we have a better solution for living people in place. Once we do, I would like to remove them. Whether we remove all of them or allow exceptions I don't know. I don't think we'll be in a position to decide that until after we have a good alternative in place. That's my current thinking anyway.--Dallan 13:43, 16 October 2009 (EDT)


Hi Dallan,

All are very exciting possibilities. My first preference would be the wave; but I am not yet familiar. Second would be the php; but is it harder or easier to learn than this Wiki?. I don't support a private wiki. There are several sites already available for invitation only family sites. In my opinion, the notion of a private Wiki violates one of the basic tenets of WeRelate which is collaboration on public pages and the one page per person rule. --Beth 19:01, 16 October 2009 (EDT)

Like you, I know very little about the Wave thing. Except that it's so new, posters on other sites seem mostly to be scratching their heads and saying "Neat! Now what do I do with it?" I guess I'll have to research it. (But then, I don't even use IM, twitter, or cellphone texting.) I'm curious to know whether people in a private room someplace would be able to change stuff in the public pages -- especially if we couldn't change info on their pages, which we presumably wouldn't be able to see. I'm not in favor of executive dining rooms that are closed to the hoi-polloi. --Mike 15:53, 18 October 2009 (EDT)

Having watched some of the Wave video, and read some of Daniel's Blog, and thought about some of the Wave possibilities, I agree with Beth. It will be instructive/interesting/fun to try to collaborate on a small tree on Wave when we get access. --Dquass 01:47, 17 October 2009 (EDT)



Some Collected Comments [26 October 2009]

I'm not sure I'm commenting at the best point in this conversation, but: Perhaps because I'm a journal editor, I have strong feelings about publishing any sort of info on living people. Like most paper publications -- and since long before the Internet -- we follow the "Hundred Year Rule." The fact that every genealogist with more than six months' experience knows what that rule is is good evidence that it's accepted as nearly universal in our field. But to summarize: You don't publish details of family events that were recorded less than 100 years ago, and you don't publish anything about any person born less than 100 years ago. The most common exception to this is cemetery transcriptions, which are already public (literally). (And journals, including mine, are regularly making an exception for WWI draft registration cards, mostly because they were created more than 80 years ago and all those registered were born 100+ years ago.) This Rule -- arrived at by very broad consensus among researchers over time, not by some genealogical legislature -- seems entirely sensible and defensible to me. Since the explosive rise in identity theft engendered by the Internet Revolution, most of the states have also limited public access to vital records, and for the same reasons. Yes, that limitation can be a hassle to those of us with innocent motives. And yes, it can certainly be taken too far by the bureaucrats. But the policy and the reasons for it are entirely correct.

Personally, I would like to see a public set of "Settled WeRelate Policies," a combination of whatever Dallan thinks needs to be included for legal and other "external" reasons and those for which there is a strong consensus among WeRelate users. Those policies need to be inserted as a sort of "Terms & Conditions" for each GEDCOM upload -- "Click here to continue if you agree with these policies, otherwise don't upload your GEDCOM." I've seen older pages (GEDCOMed in, I suppose, when the site was very new) that include the personal emails of whomever the importer got the info from, Social Security numbers of people who died last year (I'm surprised those are even available on SSDI, frankly), and similar personal information on the living or the very recently deceased. At the very, very least, this sort of non-public information needs to be deleted (and be made somehow not revertable). Pages previously created for living people -- especially people who are not former presidents or Hollywood stars -- need flatly to be deleted. No grandfather clause. Personally, if someone other than myself posted my personal information on a website, I would be tempted to consider that actionable. Nor do I know of a single commercial website whose administrators don't have a policy of excluding or deleting such information when it's called to their attention. They're quite aware of both the feelings of most people in this regard and of the potential legal consequences. As for people posting their own personal information -- well, to be blunt, that's extremely stupid and naive on their part -- as much so as sending one's bank account information to some Nigerian who asks for it. And WeRelate certainly doesn't need to be an enabler in that.

Moreover, even if you're using WeRelate as your sole genealogical presence on the Web, there's still no justification for posting living people. Seriously -- why do you have to have a Person page for yourself? Why do your children and your siblings "need" to have them? First point: I have no one posted online more recent than my great-grandparents, either here or on Ancestry or on my own website. I have eight separate lineages posted, one beginning with each of those great-grandparents. It works just fine. I've already made several contacts with distant cousins researching some of those lineages -- because the people we had in common were born more than 100 years ago. I frankly don't understand this idea that there needs to be a "root person" in a tree on WeRelate. What's the problem? Do you really think your brothers and sisters won't know who your common grandparents are? And as for making those pages private: No. If that's what you're after, I recommend Genie, where you can control who has access to what you post and who doesn't. WeRelate is a wiki. Private pages are contrary to the whole essential philosophy behind this site. Second point: I also have several "trees" on WeRelate made up of people to whom I am no blood or affilial relation at all, like the "First Families of Louisiana" project and the "Old Red River County, Texas" project. This is just stuff I'm interested in, quite beyond my own genetic family. There are numerous similar projects growing on WeRelate and they take full advantage of the cooperative wiki model. The point is, there is no reason everybody in the GEDCOM you post to this site must be related, much less that there be a "root" to whom everyone else is connected. Who cares? Other people can't even see the "trees" into which you've organized people. Again, if you consider that your posted pages belong only to you, that no one else has the right to question their existence, and that all the linkages connecting each of your ancestors directly to you have to be explicitly stated, and that it's all somehow invalid unless YOU, personally, have a page, . . . then you haven't grasped the wiki concept.

I can't think of anything further to say here -- except to agree with some of those above who believe the displeasure of the occasional person disgruntled by excluding living persons entirely from WeRelate is worth the larger goal of making the site more useful -- and safer -- for the other 99.9% of family researchers. --Mike 15:41, 18 October 2009 (EDT)

I really like the idea of getting policies settled somewhere, and I hope this gets somewhere in that direction. I'll just point out that the reason for posting SSN's on recently deceased is explicitly to prevent identity theft. Companies dealing with SSN's are encouraged to use the SSDI to check an SSN they think is suspicious to make sure it isn't from someone deceased.--Amelia 16:31, 18 October 2009 (EDT)
Mike, I don't think anyone here is questioning the wiki concept. Nor do I think my desire for a method that allows me to communicate my work on WeRelate to other family members -- and to collaborate with them more effectively -- means that I think I "own" any pages on WeRelate. I too work on a large community genealogy project where how someone is related to *me* is irrelevent. But one of the reasons I was excited about WeRelate was that I want to work more closely with some near and far cousins on our shared and not-shared genealogy.
I understand why there are not living people on weRelate; I don't want to change that. I would like to find a way to structure information in my user profile somewhere (hopefully privately) where I can at least insert placeholders into the roles of the living people that tie me (and my cousins, actually, my father's cousins) together and to the dead people we are working on. I don't think the fact that I, kennebec1, am the granddaughter of Person:Emma Blaisdell (2) needs to be on the "community" person page for everyone to see, nor do I think that just because I am related to her I "own" her page. In fact, I want to share her page... with all of WeRelate, and with a particular group of people who are working on our shared genealogy.
Of the options Dallan is exploring, I would prefer as much as possible the least intrusive and least duplicative method, even if it involved a cost. I don't want to see us launching private trees that parallel public trees. I just want some way to be able to export, explain, and explore the data I am working on in collaboration with others, and often the convenient way to do that (for genealogy) is by being able to show relationships (i.e. this is my grandmother and your aunt). In some of my research, if I had to option to show relationships, I'd choose the long-dead progenitor as the root. I don't think there has to be "Person Pages" for the living people between me and my grandmother - I'm just hoping for a way to show, even just as a placeholder, the various relationships. Among other things, I think this would make it easier for me to explain how to use WeRelate -- and why it is valuable -- to my cousins.
In my family's case, the relationships are relatively straightforward - I can get along without tracking these relationships. But I think it vastly increases WeRelates usefulness to ordinary family genealogists if we can come up with some kind of integrated tool that allows either individuals or groups (a meta-user) to overlay a root person selection(s) to a group of person and family pages for the purposes of a particular joint collaboration project.
In theory, this tool is something like (maybe a great deal like) the Family Tree Explorer, with a few more refinements that allow for actual (continued) shared trees, and a dynamic choice of what relationships are shown.
Maybe I'm asking too much of WeRelate - that it be too much of a hybrid animal (that it serve as both wiki and "personal genealogy software.") Maybe doing both things will be too destructive to the wiki. If so, I'd definitely vote for keeping the wiki over the "personal genealogy software" features. --Brenda (kennebec1) 22:10, 18 October 2009 (EDT)

We have a start on WeRelate policies at WeRelate:Policy. How about if you augment it? I don't disagree with anything you've said except that some people (not everyone, but some) do want to see a root person , and so until I come up with a better way to handle living people I think we need to allow living roots.

The least-intrusive way to handle living people would be the facebook application. That would allow you to store living people in a way that only people you invited (they would need to have a facebook account) could see and edit them. The challenge would be that it would be like having two separate trees: a living tree on facebook, and a deceased tree on WeRelate. You could list the members of, or search, just one tree at a time. Links from the living tree on Facebook would take you to the deceased tree on WeRelate, but the Person pages on WeRelate wouldn't contain links to take you back to the living tree on Facebook of course.

The other possible solutions for living people (private wikis, wave, phpGedView) are intended to be replacements for your desktop application. Just like today where people store information on their desktop but others can't see it, both living and deceased information would be stored in the private wiki/wave/phpGedView, but only deceased information would be copied to WeRelate. I'm thinking that as more genealogy websites become available, people will need a way to easily publish their trees and subscribe to changes in return (not just to WeRelate, but Geni, Ancestry, etc.). That would be the goal of these other approaches -- to make it easier to synchronize your information with WeRelate and eventually other websites.--Dallan 12:16, 20 October 2009 (EDT)

If we used one of these options (and I like the wave, but that may be just because it looks cool and groundbreaking - something more tried and tested like private wiki or phpGedView might be better), would the updating of the public WeRelate pages happen automatically (i.e. a bit like a simulcast on the private and public channels)? I think synchronicity is really valuable, but that's because I'm so tired of trying to update a variety of different versions of my database. Would it work like my Google calendar updater? checking the public WeRelate and my private tree back and forth to reconcile?
Yes, that would be the idea.
I think the Facebook option would provide a temporary fix but not something long term. I don't know if any of you ever used Family Tree Legends but I could enter data in the genie program and the data was automatically entered on the corresponding web page. The program has been moved to heritage but that is not a Wiki and fees are on the increase.
My concern about the private tree model is not dissimilar to Mike's - that weRelate ceases being a wiki and becomes another place for private trees of greater or often lesser quality, like One World Tree/WorldConnect etc. Somehow the WeRelate wiki has to be the default place for updating/storing data on dead people, or the syncing of data must be automatic (unless the user specifically opts out for a particular person and/or a particular tree). I can imagine that managing multiple intertwined systems (the public and the private) might be a bit complicated.
I am totally opposed to allowing a private tree on WeRelate which I previously stated. I agree with you and Mike.--Beth 21:08, 20 October 2009 (EDT)
Most people will continue to have "private" trees containing their "master" database. I don't think we can change this. Most private trees are managed by desktop genealogy programs (for example, I believe Mike's private tree is managed by TMG). The questions are: (a) how easy it is to share your private tree with "trusted" family members (who can see living people), and (b) how easy it is to synchronize between your private and public trees. To share your desktop tree with trusted family members you have to email gedcoms back and forth, and to synchronize your desktop tree with the wiki you have to create a gedcom to copy changes from your desktop to the wiki and then copy changes from the wiki back to your desktop by hand. I think eventually people will want an easier way to share and synchronize their trees. Some of the solutions for living people (not the facebook one, but the others) may also be solutions for sharing and synchronizing your private tree, which is why I brought it up.
However, this idea may provide a solution for "Adam and Eve" genealogy, as well. Perhaps names before a particular date could/would be limited to a non-public database as well.
I agree that the facebook option is least intrusive, as you've explained, and I did say that characteristic was valuable to me. It certainly retains the "purity" of We Relate and the wiki, but at the expense of a certain amount of inconvenience. Could the facebook "tree" contain unrelated people (as WeRelate does), so that, for example, I could work with other Phippsburg people who may or may not be related to me, but we could all agree to use a Facebook page (tree application) as our interface for living people in our research project? Or would each activation of the "family tree" WeRelate application on Facebook be limited to a particular living person's lineage?
Yes - the facebook tree would contain the living people from your gedcom - related or not. Although there is some inconvenience with this approach, as I think more about it, I think that it's the best 2010 solution. The other approaches are most useful if you are willing to give up your desktop genealogy application and use the online application instead. In this case, the online application must have everything that your desktop has in addition to easy synchronization. Long-term I think this is a better solution, but it will take awhile to get there.--Dallan 16:51, 26 October 2009 (EDT)
Well, sign me up as someone who would LOVE to give up my desktop genealogy application and enter the "cloud," whenever you are ready to take me there. I don't worry nearly as much about security and privacy as I do about my own abilities to coordinate and update so many versions of data. And importing/exporting GEDCOMs stinks, even when it goes "well."
But I would happily also adopt an interim solution, and my Dad's cousin and my mom are already Facebook users, so I know I can train them! Actually, I found facebook very frightening, when I joined and suddenly had gazillions of friends from my (very small) high school- but for you, Dallan, I'll face the crowds and link my WeRelate tree to a Facebook application!--Brenda (kennebec1) 17:04, 26 October 2009 (EDT)
I would imagine that if you chose this approach, the more flexible the Facebook application was, the better, just because, as we've seen, there are SO MANY different kinds of researchers out there. I have been reviewing WeRelate webpage sources that are family trees for the last little while, and I am amazed by the wide variety of pages there are out there -- from individual 2-3 generation trees or "seeking info" sites, to worldwide surname studies/genealogies. When I come across a particularly good one, I often want to let the person know about WeRelate, tho I'm not sure what the right way to do that is (the right netiquette...). I don't want to be seen as just another "spam" email, nor do I want to contribute to a deluge of GEDCOM uploads that cause issues! --Brenda (kennebec1) 15:30, 20 October 2009 (EDT)
For a time I entered this trailer on all of my messages but somehow my trailer was abandoned.
http://www.werelate.org/wiki/User:Beth

--Beth 21:08, 20 October 2009 (EDT)


"Time Capsule" idea - for future consideration [12 January 2010]

It struck me that one of the unfortunate by-products of having Public trees exclude living people generaly(and even parents of living people if you take identity fraud protection an extra level) that there is probably lots of good stuff which is in 'living memory' or in private trees and databases which would be great to have in werelate - but not right now for various reasons.

Whenwe look at the 'living people' issue within weRelate it might be useful to have a 'time capsule' functionality where info could be lodged in a secure electronic 'vault' - to be added to werealate proper after a certain amount of time. Obviously talking decades in some cases so we'd want to be sure werelate endures in some form

Examples: I (or someone) could define key parts of my life which could be released after my death (or with descendants approval)

I might have info on events, but for some reason I dont want this released till a certain time passes for ethical and other reasons.

One area this might benefit family historians well into the future would be to define how relationships have evolved in the late 1900s early 200s - with more mobility, divorce, blended families etc I'm sure family structures from these times will be much harder to deduce than those from 100 years ago.

Lets face it the records left in the period 1850-1950 are much more comprehensive than those left 1750-1850. The ones we leave should be magnitudes better than 100 years ago.--Dsrodgers34 21:19, 5 January 2010 (EST)


I think the "Time Capsule" idea is a fascinating one, whether here or at another site. I raised a similar thought a couple years ago at a Ancestry.com community board, where I proposed the conception of instituting a profile assignment of converting private sites into public sites after a specific time period or notification of a specific event. There ended up being no responses to my idea -- but that's typical for Ancestry (i.e. no incentive or motivation to think out of the box unless it's corporately initiated with a profit motive).
The WeRelate longevity issue would be my primary concern here relating to a "Time Capsule," something I raised last month at the WeRelate talk:Support page relaying my concern for what happens to WeRelate data if it is no longer supported or maintained. Mike's response was basically that since nothing can be considered permenant on the Internet it wasn't really worth serious consideration or discussion (my interpretation).--BobC 10:30, 6 January 2010 (EST)

Talking about "Time Capsules," here is a neat little Time Capsule application to incorporate into the story of your personal family history.--BobC 18:42, 6 January 2010 (EST)
It's an interesting idea -- "make this page public in 2060" :-) Dallan 19:13, 12 January 2010 (EST)

Identity Theft from Genealogy: Real Threat or Real Myth? [28 February 2010]

Reading once again through this page and others here at WeRelate citing the reasons why WR doesn't accept data on living individuals, the primary reasons seem to be Respect for Privacy and Fear of Identity Theft. I'm not going to argue against the privacy issue, especially where others are concerned, because I agree that living individuals should be consulted and permission granted prior to publishing information and data about them. But I do want to address and challenge the constant refrain of possible identity theft originating from published genealogical data. I'd like to ask the question: Is that in fact a real threat or just an urban myth?

Let me refer readers to the BirchyWiki genealogy site where the topic is addressed by way of several FAQs on the subject. The page refers to a recent survey reported on the Better Business Bureau website which indicates that the vast majority of so-called "identity theft" cases involve "paper" theft -- not Internet theft. Even the cases that do involve the Internet are the result of computer viruses, spyware, stolen passwords, and "phishing" scams and are not due to information found on genealogy websites. Genealogy websites do not even represent a blip on the radar of this problem.

Regarding family data on genealogy websites, thieves need more than just names and dates to get into your bank account. As long as you don't use easily found information for identifiers or passwords for your bank, credit card or other financial accounts (like your mother's maiden name or your birthdate -- which in reality may be publicly accessible in various other places anyway), your real exposure is limited to a great extent. Safeguarding all data which actually is "personal" -- such as your Social Security number, bank accounts and credit card numbers and passwords -- may be the best and surest cost-free way to protect your identity. The obvious common-sense recommendation would be not to include this type of private information in any of your genealogical records -- on or off the Internet.

Relating to social security numbers, contrary to imaginative and unwarranted speculation, the SSDI (Social Security Death Index) does not put deceased relatives at risk of having their identities stolen. On the contrary, the publishing of the social security numbers and names of deceased individuals enables businesses and other interested parties to verify whether or not a Social Security number is active or whether the account holder is deceased. This actually serves to prevent identity theft by publicly posting a list of deceased individuals.

Richard Pence, [1] a newspaperman, long-time genealogist, [2] and one of the pioneers of computer genealogy[3] challenged various genealogy newsgroups and mailing lists to provide him with authenticated information showing that genealogical information was the underlying cause of an identity theft. In 2005, Pence reported, "So, although I have made repeated challenges it is now approaching 20 years and no one has provided a documented case ("documented" meaning verifiable by police or court records) yet."

In a Suite101.com article published on the subject in 2007, Darlene Vaillancourt agreed and wrote, "[As genealogists], technically, yes we are offering up somewhat valuable information up for the taking. But the reality is that this seldom happens." She adds, "Another fact to consider, is that most vital record information is available online anyway, or at least available with minimal cost or effort through the mail. In many cases, you are posting information that could easily be acquired through other means."

In a 2006 RootsWeb Review article, "Identity Theft and Genealogy," the question is asked, "Does your genealogical information on the Internet pose a security risk for the so-called identify theft problem?" The answer, "No. While we all need to be cautious about revealing too much personal information about ourselves and our living family members on the Internet (and elsewhere) the most common sources of identity theft are those we encounter in our daily lives."

The article continues, "Some genealogists mistakenly believe that if thieves learn their birth date and their mother's maiden name it poses a risk. It does not. The ID thieves need such key pieces of information as your Social Security and driver's license numbers to obtain credit, merchandise and services in your name or to gain access to your bank account, credit accounts, utilities records and other sources of personal information."

I’m sure many have noticed reduced or restricted access to public domain vital records at courthouses all around the country. Our right to access to public records, such as birth, marriage, and death information, is being threatened constantly under the guise of "preventing identity theft." The author of the article, “So Why Lock Up the Birth Records?” at Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter cites some hard facts to counter that argument.

According to a Javelin Strategy & Research study of 4,000 consumers (about 500 of whom were identity theft victims), here are the eight most common sources of identity theft (according to the people who were actual victims of identity theft):

  1. Lost or stolen wallet: 29%
  2. Fraud that occurs during an in-store or telephone transaction: 12.9%
  3. Corrupt employees: 9%
  4. Stolen mail: 8%
  5. Spyware on the computer: 5%
  6. Sifting through garbage: 2.6%
  7. Computer viruses: 2.2%
  8. "Phishing" through fraudulent e-mail: 1.7%

Note that the phrases "Theft of a record from the county vital records department" or "Thief copied information from online genealogy site" were not listed.

So, taking the above facts into account, are we here at WeRelate being too cautious about prohibiting information on living people here? If the reason remains a concern for the privacy of others, I will respect that. Then we can start talking about personal releases and permissions and restrictions in the absence of releases to determine what information on living individuals may or may not be appropriate to post. But if you claim the reason is identity theft, then where's the proof? How many other genealogy sites that allow information on living individuals have experienced any forms of identity theft?

That being said, can the topic of "Living People" be opened again and discussed rationally, or are we locked into an irrational fear-based approach to the subject of an oft-repeated, virtually non-existent problem within our community?--BobC 01:45, 27 February 2010 (EST)


Thank you, Bob. That was a very thoughtful and well-organized assessment on the risks associated with identity theft. I too believe that we are being too spooked by this specter and would like to weigh in with BobC on this as well. Aabh 02:29, 27 February 2010 (EST)


That's an impressive collection of information. I'm glad to know that no one has knowingly been taken advantage of this way (although I don't actually think the reporting mechanisms above would capture, in part because I'm not sure you'll know). These crimes are about low-hanging fruit, and I have no interest in adding to that. (And since every other organization I know of has a similar policy, I suppose they don't either.)

But even if it's true, that doesn't solve the other half of the equation that we shouldn't be posting personal information of others without their consent, and that's exactly what's happening in the vast majority of cases. And similarly in the vast majority of cases (yes, I remember our conversation, Aabh), there is no countervailing advantage to the practice. But as I remember the conversation above, there wasn't actually a resolution because we need programming alternatives to deal with the exceptions, and in lieu of that, there's no action being taken on the currently living people. I'm therefore not sure what it is you want to "reopen." --Amelia 23:03, 27 February 2010 (EST)


Even if identity theft using information on genealogy websites is a myth (which I'm inclined to agree with), I don't think we want to open WeRelate up to the possibility of someone claiming that information on WeRelate caused their identity to be stolen. True or not, I just don't think we want to expose WeRelate to that risk.

A big goal for 2010 is to come up with a way for people to store information about living people in a non-public but shareable space. As Amelia says though, it's going to require a fair amount of programming.--Dallan 00:51, 28 February 2010 (EST)


Why use Werelate for your sole database? [27 June 2011]

I wanted to add something to this argument: I don't know what software folks are using, but once I decided that Werelate -not being able to maintain living people- was no longer going to support my needs, I downloaded my Werelate GedCom and put it into a personal program... I then merged my sisters Ancestry GedCom in as well... since they were 75% identical (She had added notes, I had added notes, you guys added a TON of people), it didn't merge cleanly...making duplicates everywhere (5,000 of them to be exact) it took me 'months' to clean that mess up (And that was dreadfully boring work). Now, I have a clean GedCom... but uploading it here would generate 7,500 dupes here, meaning months of work for all of us, merging them all back together. Am I missing a step? Do we have a "Load Gedcom and check for dupes automatically without propting 7,500 times" mode? (I really wouldn't be surprised; Dallan is pretty cool! :D)-Anyway, this precludes multiple uploads as impractical; we don't want to have to re-merge everyone's gedcoms... especially on larger trees like mine... And re-downloading and merging in a personal program (As I have just discovered), will take months to do every time...

So to gain the latest data from or give to Werelate becomes, frankly, prohibitive. This kinda cripples the Wiki concept, does it not?

Anyway, that seems to me that there is no good way to syncronize data sources (My personal program has no "Syncronize with Werelate" function), which means if you have a database on Ancestry.com a database here and a database on your home computer, you will spend 'years' of your life simply syncronizing Gedcoms. A serious waste of time when you could be researching. So... it seems to me that to save a ton of time, the best option would be to make Werelate your sole database, edit here, let others work on other parts of your tree, work like a true Wiki, and backup your Gedcom every so often to keep it safe (And give you some "backup" modes). Maybe someday everyone who every lived and had a record on them would exist as a page on this site! (Wouldn't THAT be kinda scary? :D) This really IS the best website I have found for Geneology, it truly 'is' genius! If we can just find a way not to compromise our data when it is here on this site, it would be perfect (And I could stop using that dense program that I'm using to parse my tree on my PC!)Aabh 03:18, 27 February 2010 (EST)

Well, we're supposed to have this capability, I swore, or at least it's in progress, but when I try to test it, I get "your gedcom overlaps, please delete your old one and try again." So have you actually tried the new upload process to see what happens? You should have the opportunity to pretty much match everyone at once, if you can get past that error. (I think that error is actually in error, but I'm not sure where the process is right now.) --Amelia 22:37, 27 February 2010 (EST)
"Gedcom re-upload" has been talked about for awhile and is in the works, but not yet. Should be later this year. At that time the system will compare your new upload to your previous uploads and automatically-determine matches for most of the people in your new gedcom based upon your previous matches. So if you haven't changed information on previously-uploaded people, you won't have to re-match or update them.
Until re-upload is working, if you upload a new gedcom that overlaps a previous upload, your new gedcom gets kicked out, because uploading it requires doing all of the merging that you mention. If you're willing to do the merging, you can send me an email and I'll override it and push it through.
By the way, I completely agree with the sentiment that WeRelate needs to be able to store living people. We just need to store them in a non-public area.--Dallan 01:16, 28 February 2010 (EST)

Just adding my $.02. I would never use WeRelate as my primary database for my work. I use it as a place to contribute my work to a broader community for collaborative research. As changes/updates are made on these pages-- which is not very often-- I simply make those changes to my offline database. (And vice versa.) -- Jillaine 11:05, 28 February 2010 (EST)


I wonder if, over time, a set of tools could be developed to enable more advances werelaters to move and subsequently update large Family History databases. I sense that many spend time in ancestry to harvest from there using their quite good tools, and because it is the primary place to find contacts. We realise ancestry it is not a medium for serious publication of findings so turn to something like WeRelate.

But unless we want to do this on a individual by individual basis, we need a tool to manupulate data in between the two places. Currently I use Family Tree maker 10, but its inconsistencies, even just with Ancestry member trees. are frustrating to say the least.

The main functionality I am looking for is this:

After creating a 'tree' on ancestry, with its in-built sourcing standards, I need a tool to merge people and families where ancestry has created dulicates. I also want to manipulate sourcing data over multiple people (hundreds or thousands) so that when I upload to WeRelate, the data looks clean and I dont have to then go through each page to correct it. Synchonisation would be nice, but I realise that this could be hard to implement

Like the person above said, you want to make your work as correct as possible, its just that doing it 2-3 times over makes it hard to do that as much as you'd like.

I realise I sound like a 'name gatherer' type but really I'm a one-place person trying to use werelates principles to do a blenket coverage of my chosen place (parish). I dont regard the gedcom sourced database as the end of it, but see it simply a framework on top of which which historical information can be placed, building up a resource for that geographical area.

I would be willing to adopt any 'go-between' desktop program in the hope that if several werelaters did the same, we could build up a collection of tools together which enabled all of us to work more efficiently.--Dsrodgers34 22:01, 28 February 2010 (EST)


I think I figured it out! Most of the researchers here are single-person researchers doing single-person research on their trees! So when you find information on Joe Smith and change his death date, you can come here and do the same thing. I, of course, do my work in conjunction with my sister in Maryland. She will spend hours updating 30 records on the family tree... her options are to rewrite everything in an email and send it to me to rewrite the data on my local copy of the tree, or (As really happens), she updates an online tree (Ancestry.com) so we can both access it. Of course, the last obvious option is that I stop working on the Geneology and let my sister do it. Of course, I'd rather not do option 3, and Option 1 is really silly (Case in point: My sister got in touch with the Royal Stewarts, they have a book which chronicles the Stewarts from the Peerage through to my GGGgrandfather. Our tree was 90% correct, but my sister corrected some small errors all throughout the tree, fixing little problems...and adding whole stories about people). It took her 5 hours to do that, it would take me 5 hours as well, which is 10 hours worth of work for 5 hours worth of data.

So what we do is work on Ancestry, which doesn't Pando at all (Though you can use their new "Link to other sources" thing which will look up an individual based on the connections in their sources or other trees... but it's on an individual basis: you have to do this for every single one), and then update here. But then you guys found a whole bunch of connections which extended our tree even further! So now I have to take that data (Being extremely careful performing the merge as any record that didn't have a death date on them (if we didn't know the death date, we didn't enter one in) have been badly damaged by Werelate) and merge it back to the Ancestry tree.

Okay, so here's the problem: I think as we move forward into the 21st century, we may find that I am no longer the exception: More and more family members will link up to collaborate on the same tree, realizing (As my sister and I did) that working on seperate trees and getting together every five years to sort through the data is really ineffecient. My sister and I, being siblings, decided to do this while both visiting mom 11 years ago and hooked into MyFamily, but there will be others who are simply close cousins, meet online, and decide to collaborate (Maybe not even directly related at all!). At this time, the best tools out there are Ancestry and MyHeritage-type sites, which only let selected people edit. I simply see that Werelate is better... because I can let people whom I don't know edit the tree (A scary prospect, but to be honest, I don't know the Stewarts whom wrote that book, either... but I trust their information). This isn't supposed to sway anyone toward any type of thought process-I simply felt that many people didn't understand where I was coming from when I pushed real hard for us to go toward being a sole location. :) Aabh 10:49, 1 March 2010 (EST)

Well, I'm glad you feel like you understand better. And it's interesting to see how other people work. I don't disagree with you on the benefits or likelihood of collaboration either. But I feel compelled to point out that I don't see why anything you just said has anything to do with having actual live people (not people lacking a death date) have pages on WeRelate that are publicly accessible.--Amelia 22:37, 1 March 2010 (EST)

I can see that, I wasn't really that clear. If this is your sole source (As it would have to be with my sister and I), you'd need to put living people into the tree (What's a family tree without a root person?), or risk permanently removing them from your GEDCOM. This is not as big of a problem with, say, myself, my father and my sister, all of whom I could easily add in whenever I want to pull the data offline, but it's more of an issue with my various cousins, uncles, aunts, great uncles, etc... which you can't just store off-site until the day they pass away and add them back in... Mostly because you may or may not remember where Gramma Jane goes if you know for a fact she isn't YOUR grandmother (So... whose grandmother is she? We just all called her "Gramma Jane" And knowing she was Jane Smith doesn't help any). Besides, if you were using this as your constantly updated tree, this does mean that all of your data would never be entered, and thus, should you ever pass on, someone would end up having to reconstruct YOU, the primary researcher, because, in a seriously ironic twist, there is no data on you at all on your tree... not even your name.
There are three issues I feel need to be addressed here: One, not everyone puts "Death Date Unknown" or similar notation in the death date, so many people who are indeed very much dead were removed from my tree upon upload here simply because we hadn't quite yet learned, or were unsure of, their death date (Because I uploaded before Dallan put in the 100-year thing, I have many people in 1850-1890 who were lost-some with extensive notation that had to be recovered... and I never learned that they were pruned until I tried to re-merge it last month...that really sucked). Two: I'm concerned about keeping my database as ONE database, if you remove all of the living people from a tree, you prune the trunk off, and you are left with a whole bunch of branches, which may mean you have to remember what your great grandmother's maiden name was in order to research that branch and find it in the FTE (I know a person whose great-great-great grandmother is still alive... can you remember what your mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's maiden name was? I just tried to do it off-hand and-even though I'm the researcher-I couldn't get past my GGrandmother's maiden name without going to my FTE). and three: extended family, which may be many (In our tree it is 30 people), which may be cousins simply because your father just remarried (As mine did in 2006) and now you have all these new people whom you don't know by heart who they are in relation to you.
I've said this before: I guess you sorta need to be a database admin in order to see the train wreck which happens when you duplicate a database and let two people work on it in tandem (Including removing random files and adding random files to both databases) and then try to merge the databases back together later: you always lose data... I've been a database admin for many years and there is no words more terrifying than hearing "Well, keep some data in one place and the rest in a seperate place" because you know something is going to go very wrong.
The problem with Geneological records (GEDCOM) is that it stores the data as units referenced by name, so when you go to merge the GEDCOMS together it looks for a unit named Joe Smith and tries to find a match with the second file named Joe Smith, after that it looks for birthdate for a match... if Werelate has renamed Joe Smith to Living Smith, and deleted the birthdate, then the computer, which isn't bright enough to figure this out, will find no match, because the files are linked via the "Family file", having "Living Smith" not be found effectively "unzips" that entire line. When it tries to find Living Smith and Living Jones, it will find a ton of matches and try to introduce links that shouldn't exist. You will end up having to manually merge your tree every time.
Anyway, None of this is meant to be confrontational, I know many of us use Werelate for very different purposes, I'm simply rooting here for my purpose (Obviously), knowing that it isn't the only way others use this awesome resource. :) Aabh 00:13, 2 March 2010 (EST)

I was SO excited to find werelate.org. I watched all the videos and I loved almost everything about it until I learned that there is no way to properly handle living people. Now I don't see how I could really consider using this site. I understand that pure wiki does not support private content, but for this purpose, the current situation is not acceptable. It is really a very sad loss, because otherwise, this would be a FANTASTIC site.--Hoffmantnt 19:05, 25 June 2011 (EDT)

The solution is to have private family wikis that synchronize with WeRelate. It's on the roadmap...--Dallan 11:03, 27 June 2011 (EDT)

For Now - How about just using wikitree? [11 November 2012]

I'ld love to see a nice answer for private/living people on werelate, but it's going to take work and be a while.

I've created a small template to reference corresponding profile pages on wikitree. For example, on the page for Dorothy Arris. Using it here (forgive the "Living People" below - it would normally be the person page name):

For more information on "Living people", possibly including living descendants, see the WikiTree Profile.


I might make it slightly larger - into a small banner - or perhaps include the wikitree logo if I can get permission and no one around here objects.

--jrm03063 14:36, 20 October 2012 (EDT)

I certainly don't object -- it's a nice way to handle it for cases where the living person doesn't mind.--Dallan 06:59, 11 November 2012 (EST)
FYI, I've been spending a bit of time checking out wikitree. They don't make information about living people public; one has to join the "Trusted List" to see information about living people, if it's there. So you may be frustrating readers by including a link to wikitree. Jillaine 09:41, 11 November 2012 (EST)
There is always Rodovid if you want to share public information about living people. Metasj 10:42, 11 November 2012 (EST)
I see that now! (the limitations of wikitree). Not only that - they've got a serious problem with unresponsive people squatting on profiles. I just tried to get an account on Rodovid, but the login/create page didn't present an option. I guess I'll check back on that later. --jrm03063 12:10, 11 November 2012 (EST)