Today, thousands of people now have the benefit of uncovering their family history through ancestral research. I’ve been involved in genealogical research for quite some time and have had some really amazing experiences in finding my roots in the United States and abroad. While the beauty of such technology cannot be overstated, we often find shadow intentions engulfing each stage of progress made in modern-day society.
Another benefit of ancestral research and memberships to sites like Ancestry.com, 23andMe, and MyHeritage.com among others, is that it can protect your family against identity theft. The Washington Post recently published an article, written by Katie Mettler, about a woman who discovered that one of her relative’s identity had been stolen by someone, though the said family member had been deceased for nearly four decades. The article made the following observation:
“This type of identity theft is called “ghosting.” While obituaries, rather than tombstones, are usually the source of information for ghosters, the IRS reports that some 2.5 million deceased individuals have their identities stolen each year.”
We can only imagine that this crime would have only continued had the family member not been involved in genealogical research. There are definitely some benefits of having at least one family member involved in ancestral research. Here are a few things for genealogical researchers to keep in mind in order to protect their identity and those of deceased relatives.
- It’s safer to share information with DNA matches than relatives that are discovered through documentation. Anybody can fit themselves into the schemes of a paper trail given a computer, Photoshop, and a bit of background information. Old documents, like death certificates, may possess errors as much of this information relied upon the informant’s knowledge and may not be 100% factual. Use discretion.
- Avoid suspicious emails. I remember receiving an email where I was asked about the history of a specific relative. The person didn’t even introduce themselves or provide any information revealing their connection with the said relative in question. So I simply ignored the email. Ancestral research is an exciting event for those involved. A lot of times the “vibe” reveals a lot.
- Learn family history from family members. Although we have better tools for communication, it is unfortunate that many families do not maintain close ties as previous generations. The elders in our family are often a great source of wisdom and their life experience is certainly a treasure beyond words. Building a relationship with older family members is a great part of researching our family trees and helps us to avoid information that is fraudulent.
- It is better to build an ancestral research team with known friends and relatives than an unprofessional genealogist.
Best of luck in your research and endeavors. If anything, do not let the negativity of others discourage you in discovering your family’s past. Cheers!