It is unethical for a professional genealogist to identify their client’s personal family tree. While Celebrity Genealogy is very popular, no reputable practitioner does this kind of work. When genealogy is produced without working through the family in question and consulting the professional genealogist currently serving them, it is considered unethical and is regarded as the professional genealogy equivalent of “paparazzi”.

In a day and age where client privacy is protected and considered the pinnacle of customer care by such professions as medicine, law, and accounting, and when identity theft is rampant by the underbelly of society, I call upon my fellow practitioners of Professional Genealogy Research Services to demand the institution of ethical codes of behavior and standards of performance to prevent Paparazzi Genealogy. This is Celebrity genealogy or expose´ family history unauthorized by an individual in the public limelight. This kind of research smacks of slimy voyeurism that is an anathema to all that we hold dear in our profession, customer rights to respect, identity protection, truth, and quality of discovery, service, and production.

Consumers know it is unethical for medical personnel to give out unauthorized medical information to the press or to the inquiring public about anyone in their care, including a celebrity or famous person. When you go to the hospital, what happens there stays there. The public knows that ethically, the legal profession has strict rules of conduct regarding the sanctity of client information. Both of these professions have strong sanctions against unethical behaviors that jeopardize the privacy and personal nature of client activities or patient care. Consumers should demand the same for Paparazzi Genealogy or unauthorized celebrity genealogy.

Because this kind of genealogy is not client-authorized, there is an unavoidable assault on the family being researched. This unsolicited search of family vital records can result in identity theft or loss of privacy in the most personal way as well as unavoidable “mudslinging” from the results of such uncontrolled research. In such cases, because no reputable professional would expose their clients to this demeaning kind of exposure, the paparazzi genealogists, whose standards of performance or concern for the client-provider relationship are not professionally qualified or regulated, are the producers of celebrity genealogy. Consumers should be aware that because of this lack of standards and ethics, the results can be questionable. Remember, the incentive here is money, not the truth.

In professional genealogy research services, the integrity of the client family tree, the professional reputation, and the sanctity of the client-provider relationship are the hallmarks of the profession. Paparazzi Genealogy is an embarrassment for the professional genealogy community and paints members of the profession as carnivores, seeking personal acclaim at the expense of others. It is unethical and should be prohibited.

Professional thoughts by James W. Petty, AG, CG – Climbing the Family Tree Professionally, Since 1969

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