Volume II Issue 6

August - November 1997


Privacy and Electronic Genealogy -- Please Read

WHAT IS PRIVACY? -- If you have spent much time at this site or in correspondence with me, you know that the privacy of our living relatives is extremely important to me. I would like to use this space to explain how I feel and to hopefully convince you to think accordingly.

A definition is probably in order. According to Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary, privacy is, "a place of seclusion or retreat". Most people consider privacy important, I consider it paramount to freedom. I would go as far as to say that it is the foundation for nearly every other personal freedom that we hold as dear. Perhaps the simplest definition are the words of Louis Brandeis of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1890, "the right to be left alone."

INTRODUCTION -- In this complex, interconnected, computer age, fragments of our lives circulate throughout a nearly infinite number of databases and computer networks. An electronic record of our purchases, medical and legal history, career experiences, and educational achievements. With the right software tools, access privileges and inclination, an electronic shadow can be created. There are legitimate business uses for this information, but there is also a criminal element that can use the same information to assume ones identity for any number of illegal purposes.

Have you unknowingly infringed on your cousin's right to privacy? Have you compromised their foundational rights? Perhaps you never thought of this but how many times have you submitted a GEDCOM file somewhere that contained the personal information of a living person without their permission?

WHAT TO DO -- First, start thinking! Electronic genealogy is a powerful tool. This web site is an example. Since the creation of this site, many cousins have discovered more about their roots. It has been used to establish communication between newly connected relatives. And I can speak from personal experience when I say that friendships have been formed. I don't want this to cease, however, we should all have a "personal privacy statement" that guarantees a respect for the privacy of others.

If you have submitted a GEDCOM file to me and felt comfortable with including your personal data, I have given you my word that I would not distribute the information. This Dunton Web project is attempting to be a comprehensive study -- a linking together of the various lines. There is a place for this, just be careful who you share information with and have a prior understanding with the person or organization so that it doesn't end up somewhere else.

1.) Periodically, scan the Internet. Look for your data on the common sites like GenDex. [see the "Library Page" for other sites] If you find your personal data, ask the site webmaster to remove it. Hopefully you will not have to be too forceful.

2.) If you have a personal web site, do not post the personal data of others. Names are usually acceptable, but dates and other information regarding the living is not. This can be a tedious task if you have a large database. Utility software is available to help. Try downloading a copy of GEDClean.

I hope that this has shed some light on this complex subject. It was not meant to be anything but a catalyst to thinking. A good reference book is "Who Knows: Safeguarding Your Privacy In A Networked World" by Ann Cavoukian, Ph.D. and Don Tapscott, McGraw-Hill, 1997. Please email me with your comments.

Genealogy Mailing Lists As A Research Tool

Communicating with other family researchers is key to any genealogical quest. Electronic mail and the Internet have sped this process. One of the tools available to researchers of single name searches are electronic mail lists. They incorporate a service host that receives, stores, and forwards messages as well as a person that acts as the administrator / mediator. When you subscribe to the list, you join a group of people that share a similar interest. When you mail a message to the list, all members receive it. It is generally not a place to discuss anything but the list topic and not a place to get personal. Standard email is better for that. A couple of new lists are available for you to subscribe to. They are the DUTTON-L list and the DUNTON-L list. RootsWeb is the service that is providing the resources and I am presently acting as the listowner. The Dunton list, like this site, is to be used to discuss all variations of the Dunton name -- Dutton, Dunten and Dunton. The Dutton list is reserved for Dutton name research.

You can join the DUTTON-L list by sending a mail message to DUTTON-L-request@rootsweb.com and putting the word subscribe in the body of the message. That's it. Do the same thing for the Dunton list. Happy Hunting!

"Announcements" - Submit obituaries, marriage, military service, special events, and birth announcements to keep us all up to date!

Jessica Rene Dunton will be 1 year old on August 13, 1997. Send her a greeting by clicking here.

Life On The Farm

Well, we finally got some summer weather out her in Oregon. In all of the years that I have been here, this is the latest we have put up our hay. The man that we hire to cut and bale (he has done it for 53 years!) said that one time they couldn't get it done until August. Well, I can tell you that it is a good feeling to have it off of the fields and in the barn. Everything is slow this year. We still have not gotten much out of the garden. Looks like September will be a busy canning and freezing month but the current emphasis is on getting the winter supply of wood cut, as well as the various construction and maintenance projects completed. I will probably be taking a couple of weeks of vacation to "catch up" on the home projects. It is sometimes pretty overwhelming to have a professional career and have the responsibilities associated with a small farm. I know that selling the farm is not an option so that means that I can either keep going down both paths or figure out how to make an acceptable living off of the farm. I can tell you that I am looking forward to short days, cool weather, and a cup of tea in front of my computer terminal this winter!

If you have an interesting story that you'd like to share, PLEASE submit them.

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Last Updated July 30, 1997