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Be careful what you publish - web sites are archived forever

The other day I was teaching my 6-year-old how to "Google." He needed information for a homework assignment. Out of curiosity, we did a search for his full name. I was shocked with Google's findings.

Google found one exact match for his full name. We clicked on the link and got the "page is no longer available" message. Knowing that Google archives most web sites, I backed up to the results page, and instead of clicking on the link, I clicked on the link entitled "Cached". The resulting page was a Family Group Record that contained all of my family's personal information - our birth dates, marriage date, and complete names of each member of our family.

Whoever originally published my family's information hopefully realized that they should not have, and it appears that they removed our information from their website. What they may not have realized, is that Google, and other services, takes snapshots of each page examined as it "crawls" the web, and caches (archives) these as a backup in case the original page is not available.

Most of the time, for genealogists this archiving of information is good. How many of us have returned to a web site where we once located valuable information on our ancestors, only to find that the web site no longer exists? In these situations, clicking on the "Cached" link in Google's search results will often pull up the missing page.

Just be careful when you are sharing or publishing information that you do not compromise the privacy of your family. Fortunately, Legacy Family Tree makes this easy to do. If you plan to share a Family Group Record, a book report, or even a GEDCOM file, be sure that you turn off the display of living information. For example, if you are creating a Family Group Record to share, and you want to exclude the living information, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Reports icon in the main toolbar and select the Family tab.
  2. Click on the Report Options button and click on the Format tab.
  3. In the top right, click on the option to "Suppress details for living people". You can even choose its sub-option, "Change name to "Living"."

When is the last time you Googled your name? Give it a try - you might be surprised what you find.


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This was a VERY interesting story.

I learned something good that I did not know before (about the cache option).

I also learned something bad I did not know before (about the cache option).

Thank you for pointing this out. It kind of reinforces that we review our reviewed information before we post it for review.

Genuinely, thank you for sharing this with the community.

While it's a good practice not to inlcude important dates, this information is generally public information. Therefore, you should not get so worked up about finding your birth date on Google.

For example, the Texas Department of Public Health and Vital Records makes all births and marriages public. The US Public Records lists your address and age. The US Federal Census lists those in your household. The US World War II Army Enlistment Records information is public as well.

Also, a simple search on AT&T's will yield your name, city and age; and all of these public records are consolidated into for anyone who is willing to pay for the information.

So this "private information" may or may not be as private as you think.

My recommendation is if you plan to build a website with geneaology information on it, a) protect your website with userids, passwords and SSL encryption; b) only include as much information that has already been made available to the public; and c) if in doubt about whether certain information is public or private, don't publish it.

As the earlier posts - it is public information and the other person had a legal, perfectly legal right to publish it on the web. Every few minutes US, the USSR and China are taking photos of your house. Some of the published photos recently have shown a woman in panties cleaning her car. The truth is, there is nothing about you are your life that is "yours" - it belongs to the world and that is just a hard fact of life. The only answer is to turn off the electricity and go back to the stone age.

If you want your children's details kept private then don't tell anyone their names or birthdays.

Very surprising and interesting to find that you can access cached sites. Little bit shocking to find so much individual information is available on the web.

Thats interesting to know tnanks very much indeed

VERY true... very good advice. Plus, websites are archived EVEN LONGER on - try searching for an old version of a familiar website (like Yahoo or eBay) and you will see what I mean. Long after Google's cache has expired, people can still find things on It's useful but scary at the same time.

Another thing to watch out for is sites that create a CD disc of family tree info. I submitted my tree to one of those, and by the time I realized that I shouldn't have, it had already been copied onto CD and made available to genealogists everywhere.


I am deceased on a couple of family histories copied by others who do not check that what they publish is correct. So always double check

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