The dark side of genealogy

I have written several times about how genealogy brings people together.

But genealogy, like anything else, has a dark side, too.

This month I learned about both sides of that coin.

One of my goals for this blog is to locate other descendants of Franz Adam KNAPP – wherever they are on the planet.

Through researching the TRARES side, we have all learned that the KNAPP clan is like any other U.S. family – many KNAPP descendants migrated west as the country expanded.

Back in the frontier days, people lost touch with each other. They weren’t blessed with all the ways we have now to communicate with each other.

I know it’s hard for your children and grandchildren to understand what life was like before Facebook and Twitter – but most of us over the age of 50 remember when you had only two choices on how to communicate: snail mail or telephone.

The descendants of Franz Adam KNAPP who chose to go west to seek their fortunes did so knowing there was a very good chance they wouldn’t see their family members back in Ohio again. Sometimes families wrote letters to stay in touch, but many people lost contact with each other.

So when I was contacted by Nancy KNAPP SHEPARD from Lakewood, Colorado, I got pretty excited!

Nancy is also a descendant of our immigrant ancestor, Franz Adam KNAPP. Nancy is the daughter of Stanley Richard KNAPP. Here is how she descends from Franz Adam KNAPP:

Franz Adam KNAPP


John Adam (?) KNAPP – Nancy and I are comparing notes on John’s middle name. We’ll keep you posted!


John F. KNAPP, Jr.


William Bernard KNAPP


Stanley Richard KNAPP



Now – Nancy contacted me to discuss some discrepancies she noticed in the research on Knapp Notes. We are in the process now of comparing notes and trying to figure out where we differ and how we can verify the facts.

She has been very generous about sharing her research with us – she has already provided some information about one side of the family in Germany that I didn’t have any information on.

My big hope is that she can attend a reunion with us and we can meet face-to-face. I am so thrilled that we have found at least one more member of the far-flung KNAPP clan!

I will be posting more about Nancy’s research in the Our Heritage section and in the other password-protected parts of this blog during the coming weeks. So watch for some new stuff to appear!

Nancy’s only stipulation about sharing her research was that we restrict access due to security concerns. And I understand and agree with those thoughts.

This brings me to a discussion of the “dark side” of genealogy.

I recently read a news article about the latest scam concerning genealogy called the Grandparent Scam. It seems scammers learn enough personal and family information to phone older adults and pretend to be a member of the family who is in trouble and needs money.

A lot of older people have hearing difficulties or memory problems – and may not realize that the caller is not their grandchild, cousin or other family member.

Now, genealogy sites are just one way these scammers latch onto information. Any genealogist knows you can find enough information in an obituary printed in the newspaper to do the same thing. So genealogy  sites are just one source of information.

Bottom line folks – don’t assume that a caller is who they say they are…and don’t be embarrassed to quiz them and ask them to PROVE who they are. Never give out personal information over the phone, no matter what they say.

There are people who prey on older adults. You can read more about the Grandparent Scam – and other genealogy-based scams – at Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter.

And speaking of the darker side of genealogy – I found this article that I just had to share with everyone. It’s pretty bizarre, if you ask me, but I guess it is possible for even a genealogist to get obsessed with the hobby.

But you have to draw the line at invading someone else’s privacy.

Apparently, some of these researchers are willing to violate someone else’s privacy to get what they want. And that’s too bad – it gives the hobby of genealogy a black eye, as far as I am concerned.

But you read the article – and you be the judge. I invite your comments on whether you think it’s appropriate or not to grab someone else’s DNA to further your genealogy research – even after they have refused to participate in testing.

So weigh in on what YOU think.

Here is the link to the article in the New York Times called “Stalking Strangers DNA to Fill in the Family Tree.

This entry was posted in DNA Testing, Family History, Genealogy News, Genealogy Scams and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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