Genealogy privacy for living people has been a hot topic lately. My family received a text from my brother the other day with news that his local radio station had been talking about a new genealogy website. He warned us that the site had information about living people which would be open to everyone for free unless we “opted out.” The information (ostensibly) was derived from public records, but it made my family extremely nervous. “My paranoia alarms are going off,” my mom said. “Can you log in and opt out for me?” “Me too,” my dad added. “And the dog.” While our dog probably does not care about his privacy one way or the other, many people (like my parents!) are very sensitive about having so much information about our family available online…even if it’s for genealogy.

I want to be very respectful their privacy concerns. This is why at RootsFinder, you will not find information about living people unless you’ve been invited to their tree. If you have been invited to a tree, please be considerate and don’t re-post information about living people to other websites. We don’t rent, sell, or otherwise share information about our users or their data. Even on the support team, we can’t see anything aside from the username and email address on your account. (Here’s our official privacy policy.)

Genealogy Privacy at RootsFinder

If you haven’t been invited to a tree, when you look for information about a living person you won’t find anything about them, or their family. As far as you’re concerned, it simply doesn’t exist. This is the same for public and private trees. Whether your tree is public or private, no information about living people is visible to people who haven’t been invited. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. It’s just not there. If you’re not logged in and/or you haven’t been invited you will see a blank screen if anyone in the family is still living.

In my case, for example, if my siblings want to see the pictures of my parents I’ve added to our tree, they need to make sure I’ve invited them (which I have) and they’ve logged in using the email address I invited them with. Then they can see the cute pictures of mom when she was 5 years old. Otherwise, all they can see is my grandparents and other people who have passed away. This is because my tree is public. I don’t mind if people see my research; actually, I want people to find it and connect with me.

Private trees vs. Public trees

Genealogy privacy options at RootsFinder (public or private tree)
You can change your tree privacy settings in the “Global Tree Settings” section of the settings menu

Not everyone feels the same way about genealogy privacy. Some people prefer to keep even their deceased ancestors’ information private. For this, RootsFinder offers private trees. With private trees, not only are living people hidden from un-invited eyes, but there’s also nothing available about their ancestors unless you receive (and accept) an invitation from the tree owner.

Public trees: information about deceased people is visible. Living people are hidden.
Private trees: no information is available without an invitation. Living people and deceased people are hidden.

Celebrity trees

There is one slight exception. From time to time, we may post articles and/or demo trees using celebrities to demonstrate how the system works using real data, or to highlight something interesting or notable in the news about them or their ancestors. In this case, we only use information from sites such as Wikipedia, etc. which is either considered “common knowledge,” came from factual sources and serves an educational purpose, or has been published by the celebrities (or their agents) themselves.

Although some people feel there is little or no privacy in the future and public records about living people should be readily available, at RootsFinder we feel it’s important to respect privacy. Call us old fashioned, but we’d rather err on the side of caution and let you decide who can see your information.

Do you agree? Please let us know in the comments.



Heather is part of the RootsFinder team. Her love of family history has taken her to some pretty interesting places with many adventures since about 1991, as a professional since 2000. She's also passionate about the earth, startup businesses, and the triple bottom line. Pretty pictures & occasional fun at