May 12, 2014
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I count genealogy among my hobbies. One crucial element of this hobby is the collection and study of government records: census, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses/registers, land ownership records, social security death indexes, etc. As a person who studies my own ancestry and even recent (by genealogy standards) family history, these records are invaluable to the effort. There is a strange happy/victorious feeling when you’ve found a record you’ve never seen before for an ancestor. As a person with strong libertarian leanings, these same records are a reminder that the government is always interested in many details of your life, often to a disturbing degree. I suppose I have rationalized this in two ways: 1) the records can give you knowledge about your forebearers, and 2) the records can show some of the unpleasant realities that existed for them.
I wonder if in a hundred years one of my descendants will be surfing through long-since-declassified NSA databases on ancestry.com in search of something interesting about me. What types of government data collection that today I view as oppressive and outrageous will my descendants be grateful for? I wonder what other libertarian genealogists think about using these types of records in their own research? Perhaps at some point, the government will have cataloged the full genetic information of the entire human race and have worked out our ancestry in detail. Get your entire family history just by filling out three confusing forms and paying a modest extortionate fee.
Sometimes my brain throws weird thoughts at me.