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Thomas MacEntee
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Anne, I disagree with you on the basics of "privacy," at least from my perspective here in the United States and what I know of its history. The concept of "privacy" is really a modern construct - I would say a 20th century perception and sensitivity as to personal information coming out of a post-Cold War and post-Watergate world. My Puritan ancestors didn't believe in privacy - why would you need privacy? Only if you were up to no good and doing the Devil's work. I've seen my ancestors' houses progress from one "great room" around a hearth where children were made and raised to homes with bedrooms which had locking doors and were placed upstairs away from where you received visitors. The fact is that for many of our ancestors, anything you did outside of the house - the minute to set foot outside was public. Look at some of the records we have as genealogists: letters waiting at the post office, the shipping news, newspaper columns listing hotel visitors expected that week, even listings of those admitted to the hospital that week. And then there are the marital discord ads that husbands would place in the newspaper . . . The fact is that many of the basic US records to which we have access are already public - you simply have to go to the repository and get them. Here in Chicago, we have access to mortgage and property tax information. It is the "perception" of less privacy that has evolved because you can now find out my mortgage and tax info at 2:00 am while enjoying a hot cocoa whilst in your pyjamas. Basically genealogy has simply "gamified" Big Data. Companies like Ancestry are no different than Google. Ancestry has made it "fun" to use that data and turn it into trees, charts and ways to share with family. My belief is that basic vital records are a matter of record and are not "surveillance" similar to the NSA debacle we are seeing here in the States.
Just an FYI - Genealogy Roadshow is casting for a second season and anyone can apply:
I highly recommend a separate genealogy blog. This doesn't mean your regular readers should be deprived of your research and your finds - you could always include a link to your genealogy blog here from time to time and give a summary. If you set up a separate blog please let me know - I manage a group of over 900 genealogy bloggers at GeneaBloggers ( and we'd love to have your new blog listed on our blog roll. Cheers
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Feb 25, 2010