Ancestry and GDPR

One of the perennially interesting discussions at Druid Camp is ancestry and the ancestors. Druidry largely concerns itself with relationships of all kinds, with human people and non-human people, with awareness of landscape and season and cycle, but there is a tripartite feature on ancestors that inspires and embraces those relationships.

Within (at least, modern) Druidry, ancestor refers to three essential aspects. I use the phrase “mud, blood and tradition”. The mud is the geographical landscape one inhabits, which makes Druidry in the West of England different to but deeply analogous with Druidry in, say, Queensland Australia, or Ontario Canada. They have their characteristics, and their histories, their ancestries of how they came to be, and relating to them is key to living wakefully within them and every part of them.

The tradition(s) refer to the heritage of Druid teaching as we know it, from the modern day animist, back through the fraternal and the romantic, the medieval and the prehistoric. Each element of that heritage offers something to the Druidries [sic] we each manifest. And the blood is of course our human parental lineage, born of both the male and the female lines (although far easier to track down on the patriarchal lines because of naming protocol, obvs.).

It’s that last that raised a conversation at Druid Camp this year, because I have an extensive database of my main family name (Rosher), and GDPR went live on May 25th this year. Caveat: I’m not a GDPR expert, and this is a wandering waffle blog post. E&EO! May contain nuts.

GDPR is quite a strong piece of legislation that has caused not only headaches for anyone with lists of names and other personal stuff, but a flurry of unexpected opt-in emails from companies that one may have had minor dealings with twenty years ago but who held on to your details, only now understanding that was problematic! It empowers people to have their details removed from lists, and to ensure those lists are securely held, and there are significant financial penalties if one gets it badly wrong.

How does that impact genealogists? GDPR only applies to living people, so in as far as most of the database will be of dead and presumed dead folk, it’s not a thing to panic greatly over. But we add living folk to our lists; mothers, brothers, daughters, nephews, perhaps many times removed, of people we barely know apart form the odd Yuletide blessing and Christmas card. And we may add text and other media information to our databases. Maybe interesting family gossip, maybe even speculation. Or, dare I say it, inaccuracies.

It seems only to apply to companies, too. It’s quite a happy circumstance that I’ve never uploaded my database to an online genealogy resource. If I were to do that now, I would need to remove living data. And then, not knowing when some folk pass into mystery, when would I add them back? And if someone asked me to remove their living data (which I would of course do), would I ever monitor their passing, and add them back in?

There’s a potential disconnect in the flow of information that could make genealogy in the future very difficult. How will the birth, marriage, death certificates be treated down the line, or census details if we ever have another one? Too difficult pile?

I doubt any genealogist is going to be in the GDPR firing line, nor even online genealogy resources like ancestry.com. But some law, like that for some breeds of dog, come with unintended consequences. My Druidry isn’t my genealogy database, but where we fit into our bloodline is a part of understanding ourselves. So, if you are a Rosher, or related to one, let me know, and I’ll send you an opt-in email! 🙂

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