May 2023

Ethical Dilemmas in Italian Genealogy

I’m a nice person. ‘I’m just compiling our family tree, what possible problems could there be? Researching a family tree traditionally involved asking grandparents and relatives about their lives, drawing a tree and undertaking a paper trail, but it now involves finding new records and dealing with strangers on the internet. What information should and shouldn’t you include on your tree? Ethical dilemmas came to the forefront since law enforcement utilised information from GEDMatch to apprehend a suspected serial killer, which created a division in the genealogy field about invasion of privacy. Ethical dilemmas unfolding include discovering other people’s secrets, lies, enslavement, unexpected ethnicities, indigenous cultures, convict ancestors, criminality, new DNA relatives, and finding that some relatives aren’t now related. People can study accredited courses and join professional bodies which have Codes of Ethics and Conduct, responsibilities and accountability. Attendees will benefit from reflecting on their own ethical dilemmas and considering ethical issues with empathy, sensitivity and diplomacy. What ethical dilemmas have you found in your Italian genealogy research?

Dr. Penny Walters has been a University lecturer for 35 years, currently teaching Masters’ Business studies at Bristol and Bath Spa Universities, England; and previously undergraduate Psychology and Ethics. Penny’s interest in genealogy started after having her first baby and then wondering about her biological parents, as she was adopted. Penny has six mixed race children, who have all enjoyed discovering their roots through DNA ethnicity results. Penny lectures internationally in-person, writes articles, and is sought after for a wide range of webinar topics. Penny has authored the books: ‘Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy’ (2019) and ‘The Psychology of Searching’ (2020), available on Amazon in paperback or on kindle

Dr. Penny Walters