Privacy and the Genealogist Part 1
Have you ever Googled yourself? If not, take a moment and do so. If you have, then you know how much information about you is readily available at the click of a few keystrokes.
I understand why many people are greatly concerned that their personal information is "out there." In the uncertainty of today's world, we've all heard horror stories of identify theft and Craig's list murders. It makes us more cautious and fearful.
Recently, I took an interactive webinar by Thomas MacEntee about finding living persons. Why would you want to find the living? It's the best way to make contact with folks you are related to that may just have the information you are seeking. I though it very interesting and I totally agree with Thomas that using snail mail is the most effective way to make initial contact. People are more apt to respond to you if they have the time to process the contents. Additionally, the distance between you and them provides a sense of security. Think about it! If you telephone the individual you have caught them off guard and no one likes to feel that way. Emailing can work but may go to spam. I never tried texting someone I don't know but if I received a text from a stranger I certainly wouldn't respond.
When I write a letter to an individual I do not type it. I typically print as cursive can be difficult for older eyes (and though I haven't written to anyone under 20, if I did they most likely wouldn't be able to read it since it isn't taught in school any longer.) Printing also sends the message that you took the time to be personal. I keep it short which is often difficult for me to do! In the first paragraph I introduce myself and explain my connection. The second paragraph explains what I'm seeking - a Bible record or a photograph, for example. The third paragraph gives ways to contact me that are more expedient than mail, such as my phone and email address. I also offer to pay for the cost of copying and mailing. I always end with "looking forward to hearing from you soon."
Does this always work? No, but it might and has so give it a try! I've been successful in many cases. I can only think of once where I didn't get a response and possibly, the individual did not have the information and being in his 90's, was not able to let me know that. In two other situations I did make contact but the individuals were "too busy" to get the information to me. Both emailed me that they would but after a few reminders over the course of a year it didn't occur. I haven't given up hope yet as last fall, I connected with the son of one of my deceased's mother's friends. The friend had recently died and the son, while cleaning, found my name and contact information as I had sent a Christmas card 15 years ago right before she moved from our area. The son had newspaper clippings of my wedding and events my mom had attended with his mother. So you never know who has your personal information! In my next blog I'll continue discussing privacy and share some examples of why I believe, like Thomas, that we have more privacy today than in the past.