My dear friend and I had a talk about family and reinvention. Most notably that you aren’t your biggest mistake and that each day is a new chance to try again. We talked about how you can literally leave your past behind, then grow in a completely different direction away from those situations and people that might have hurt or otherwise handicapped you before. She later stumbled across an article about a website called http://www.familytreenow.com where all of our previous held beliefs quickly disbanded.
By typing in my name followed by my year of birth (and if I had wanted to narrow the search, my city or state) then hitting submit on this website, every address I have every paid a bill from showed up, along with the addresses both past and present of my siblings, my parents, my parents’ ex-spouses, the ex-spouses current spouses and their family’s information as well. The experience was slightly disturbing to say the least. Seeing my in-laws’ siblings’ ex-spouses addresses and information seemed like a gross invasion of privacy and I hadn’t even looked into them. Yet, there was a record of information at my fingertips with only my name and year of birth.
I tend to be a pretty open book but I am also married to a private person and we have two children who deserve security and privacy as well. There is something very unsettling about thinking that an ex-step-parent of mine would be able to get information about my family from a simple and free computer search. There is an “opt out” option on the site, which I immediately selected, erasing myself from the other Mrs. Takeayear’s in the US (there are six of us!) but it had me thinking about safety for the past three days now.
Overwhelmingly, in cases of child abuse and abduction and all the other worse-than-your-worst-nightmare-scenarios, we have learned that it is overwhelmingly not a stranger, not the boogey man in a dark alley that intends to do harm to our family. It is statistically someone you know, someone who is familiar and flies under the radar. That is not to say your long lost Uncle Earl is out to look you up online to reestablish a connection so that he can kidnap your children, but foreseeably, if he wanted to, there is almost a roadmap to do so.
As far as that small percentage of strangers out to do harm, I wonder how easily my own kids, who are versed in safety and stranger danger might be swayed if someone told them she knew not only the girls’ parents’ names, but grandparents’ and aunts’ and uncles’ names. As a cautious adult, even I would be intrigued (and have my guard down) if someone approached me by stating they were from the old neighborhood (because your prior addresses are listed) and was in the same graduating class as either of my parents.
I am sure there are tender, beautiful stories of reunions that have taken place due in a large part to reconnecting by way of sites and companies like the one listed – there are two sides to every coin, of course. However, there are plenty of people who, like me I am willing to bet, would like to leave particular pieces of the past firmly in their rearview mirror. In a time of unlimited information at the click of a mouse (or, let’s be honest, a double tap of your finger tip) it’s amazing what you can find – but that is not always a good thing.