Sunday, August 7, 2011

Privatize Your Gedcom – How to share safely

Now that the Internet has created so many armchair genealogists; sharing your family tree on a website like,,, or many others, can improve your research and help others. It’s important, though, that you don’t share too much information inadvertently. Your family won’t appreciate it if they get a call from some consulate in Nigeria saying that they’d just won a lottery and only have to send $500 to collect on the prize.

So this is where privatizing your file when you export it comes into play. I use Family Tree Maker 2011 but the concept works in other programs, also. The idea is that you do not want to share private information or birth dates with the world for people that are still living. You want to prevent this information from becoming a gold mine for identity thieves.

When I was at the National Genealogical Society annual conference in Charleston, SC this year there were a lot of privacy discussions with presenters and software manufacturers. The Family Tree Maker software considers anyone without a death date in the past 100 years to be living. When you export the file for sharing on an online site, make sure you are privatizing the file. This will not change any of your information on your own computer: it only changes the information on the exported GEDCOM file (a standard type of export file for genealogy data) without media files: it just has the facts.

To do this in Family Tree Maker 2011 (and many prior versions):

            Go to the File menu
                        Select “export” 
Select “entire file” (some people prefer to select specific branches for export – starting with grandparents – for more privacy)
                        Chose “GEDCOM 5.5” for the file type
                         Check “Privatize” file
                         Uncheck “include private facts”
                         Uncheck “include private notes”

Now your file is ready for upload to the Internet.
You will want to edit it once it’s there, though. I change the names of living people to just say “living” instead of including their names at all.
So – that’s a brief discussion about privatizing your shared family trees. This way you can reap the benefits of shared trees while protecting the living relatives.
Remember, there could be someone out there with the solution to your brick wall, as well – happy searching.

No comments:

Post a Comment