Avoiding Sensitive Information in Bios

In the Help section of the site and in the Community Rules, you’ll find rules and guidelines that discourage adding sensitive information and information about living people to Find a Grave. We heard from some users that thought we could do a little more to help remind and encourage people about these guidelines when they are adding or editing the Bio section of memorials.

As part of a recent update to the site, we’ve added a few simple checks to the Bio editing process that we hope will help. We’ve received some good feedback about the changes already and will continue to make improvements.

A common example of a problem like this comes from adding information from an obituary to the Bio. While obituaries contain some great information about the deceased person that can be very helpful, they often include a section about living relatives. One option is just to remove that section from the obituary when you add it to the Bio. Another option that Find a Grave members have shared is to edit the “Survived by” section of the obituary to just include the number of living siblings, children, grand children, etc., rather than including their names.

We really appreciate all you do to contribute to Find a Grave and hope this update will serve as a helpful reminder.


  1. I received my first warning last night while entering an obituary on a memorial in which the deceased died peacefully in 1928. Please explain the sensitive nature of the obituary I posted on Memorial 3664075.

    Thank you.

    • Thanks for your question and for your contributions to the site. The checks aren’t too sophisticated. They are intended to be a reminder and to catch some obvious cases. If the Bio includes information about people who are described as surviving the deceased or as living, you will see the warning. If you evaluate those references in the bio and don’t feel they violate the terms and policies of the site, you can proceed and post the information.

    • Everyone has a story will be on my Tombstone along with all my children’s names, my 10 grandchildren’s names and all the surnames for 5 generations and my Patriots. I have been a FAG volunteer for over 20 years . I love Find A Grave!

  2. It’s nice to know you are finally addressing this issue. However, I would like to add that perhaps you would also address the problem of adding “causes of death” when they are provocative or demeaning to the deceased. When someone dies in a horrid accident, I don’t think that has to be added to the memorial in detail. Children may look up their grandparents. Should they see the details of their unfortunate and ugly death.

    Secondly, for those who lookup death records at a courthouse to enter on FindAGrave, they need to step back and ask themselves if this is necessary information. Death from cancer or a heart attack is one thing, violent death is another.

    As an example, I found the memorial of a relative who died in the early 1800s. It appears she died from an illegal operation which we can surmise was probably an abortion. The woman died as a consequence of this, and should now, in death for over 150 years, have this information made eternal on FindAGrave. I notified the person who entered “death by illegal abortion” on the memorial, and I actually had to explain why I thought this was a bad idea. He couldn’t understand why it was upsetting to me or damaging to the deceased. I then asked him what he thought about me finding every little secret or skeleton about his mother and entering it on her memorial. He had, maybe, a flicker of understanding, but he did finally remove it.

    • It is incredible that I cannot inform Ancestry about my living siblings who appear in the trees of others. I have informed Ancestry that I am alive, yet there I am–in another tree.
      Ancestry must provide for us, the family member working on Ancestry, to inform for our living siblings.
      What? They must buy a subscription to protect themselves?
      I advise and help others writing obituaries to focus on the life of the deceased and never include the names of family because of the abuse of information by Ancestry users.

    • Leaving out Cause of Death, while noble and etiquette conforming, could pose a health risk for follow on generations. Brief accident descriptions can be enlightening.

      • I imagine that such information would be passed down through the family. If Uncle Joe died of a heart attack, I imagine that would be known to the family members. I don’t see any need to make the cause of death public, whether they died in their sleep or were killed trying to commit a felony. Could you please tell me how it would be enlightening to know the details of an accident? What possible good would it do to know that someone fell off the roof, backed over a cliff, or stuck their finger in a light socket?

      • I agree on leaving in at least health risks. I have helped numerous people on their tree and they were very happy to find some kind of potential genetic problem (say chronic kidney disease) in their heritage.

      • I agree- too little knowledge doesn’t help my generation deal with health problems that are genetic (autoimmune, mental health, etc.) and if no one talks about them…I very much appreciate having this info added. It could save a life!

    • Death is a part of life. What may be horrid to one, may not be for another. Then there is the knowledge aspect of this- not every one can afford to travel or pay for the research on cause of death or other info. What If the cause of death helps save a life? Perhaps a better solution would be a “this contains info some users may find sensitive” warning and to blur out the sensitive info so a user must click to see.

  3. As my family historian and a person interested in family history, i think listing survivors and relation to the deceased is important. And listing predeceased often fills in gaps.

    • Thank you for your view. We understand that there are differing views on this sensitive subject. At Find a Grave, we want to protect the privacy of the living. In our Help section we ask that members refrain from adding information about the living due to these privacy concerns. Please reference Community Rules C and D for more information about obtaining permission from living people.

    • Cause of Death is public record. It is stated on the death certificate. I post the death certificates in ancestry.com on the decedent’s record.

      Family Oral History is often inaccurate and generalized, demonstrated by the proverbial facts discovered when actual records are obtained. Not surprisingly, the facts don’t match the family oral history. One example I found was Congestive Heart Failure that had been described as a sudden heart attack.

      When 4 generations of women in my family have had breast cancer, it matters! It provides facts, not my opinion, to convince my daughters to get tested and be cognizant.

      When the seafarers, soldiers and airmen in our family have died, we’d like to know what happened.

      I thought the goal of the website was to provide decedent and gravesite information with obituary information being optional.

  4. I strongly disagree with this policy. Obits are public and available online in many places including newspapers, funeral homes, etc. They do not contain dates/placesfor the living, only names. Bah humbug!

    • I agree. If the information was and is publicly available through an obituary or newspaper story, then posting should be allowed to include all information. I do agree that anything more than thar borders on invasion of privacy of the living.

    • I totally agree. Once the information is in the public domain by being published in a newspaper, the expectation of “privacy” is gone. If you are concerned about this, you should definitely discuss this within the family before the family submits the obituary.

      • Also your parents (birth certificate), marriage (license), if you’ve ever had or have a social media account, court records (divorce, traffic tickets, lawsuits), etc…all of these are public/have your info and make you easy to find. Listing your name in an obit should be the least of someone’s concerns.

      • When my parents passed away, I was told by the lawyer to be sure and file a death certificate with all the credit bureaus, Equifax, etc. He said that many obituaries are overly free with their information and the info can be used to open credit accounts, and mountains of death can accumulate. No executor wants to deal with that. That’s one reason we have deceased people voting in elections. But most people don’t get that advice, and it can get them into trouble.
        Back in the day, many people went to great lengths to hide marriage dates to keep people from realizing that a child was conceived out of wedlock, so some states will not release marriage certificates, etc., to anyone but the husband or wife. I don’t see why we would want to publish this anyway. And if anyone is just bent on doing it, wouldn’t that be better off on a genealogy site? At least people have to work a little bit harder to get the information since those things are so expensive.
        Some people are saying that everything is available on the internet anyway. That is probably true, but you do have to work and usually pay to get it, and certain things are only on the deep Web.
        I have personally requested that when I go, no obituary will appear. I think everyone ought to do this. It’s just nobody’s business outside the family. And the family can get a death certificate if they are concerned that they have a bad gene. This argument has really made me think hard about these things.
        Just my take on all this.

      • Your death is a legal and publicly disclosed event, hence Death Notices published daily.

        Banks check death notices daily to act on decedent accounts & assets.

        You don’t get to keep it secret.

      • Who said anything about getting to keep it secret? I was talking about legal advice I received when my parents died. It can still happen that accounts can be opened in the name of the deceased person if the death certificate is not filed with the credit bureaus. The furniture store on Main Street might know you’re gone, but if the right information is given to another company which then checks it through the credit bureaus, you can be in trouble unless you have sent them a copy of that death certificate.

      • Veronica, I’m afraid I must strongly disagree. Most of the obituaries I see do contain the towns the relatives live in. They do not give the street address, but can easily be looked up on Google.
        My question is this: Why do you want to include these things? What are your motives? Are you a genealogist? What is your personal ethical stance on publishing private information that has been put on the internet?

        I believe the only thing that will settle this is a definite mission statement from Find A Grave. The fact that something can be found on the internet does not mean it should be on the internet. It also doesn’t mean it is true. Even obituaries contain errors. I don’t understand why you are so strongly insistent on putting in all this unnecessary information. Please explain to me why. So far I have seen no convincing reasons to include the extraneous information.

        If this is a genealogy website, then so be it. If it is a memorial/tribute website, then that is a totally different thing and we need to have direction from Find A Grave as to which it is.

        Maybe we should just let the dead rest in peace.

  5. I honestly and completely disagree with this ruling. As the above contributor stated, names in obituaries are public record. In my case, being a small town area and the cemetery being funded by the church members, we often use names in obituaries to aid us in locating family members for a variety of reasons, such as contributions for upkeep. We have had 3 automobile accidents in the last 2-3 years where vehicles ended up in the cemetery and tombstones were destroyed and we used the obits to get names for contacting family members. In larger areas, you might have a problem, but not in our set of circumstances. Again, I totally disagree.

  6. I think I might approve of this rule in general. However, there should be a way for the living people in the records to give their permission to having greater details about surviving family, included in the record. I often use the information in the Find-A-Grave records in my searches. If the names were not included, then the connections to people gone before would be difficult to follow (maybe impossible). Find-A-Grave is a great repository of historical information. Also consider that in just a few years all of these living relatives will have deceased and the connectivity to their relatives and ancestors will greatly become relevant.

  7. I really don’t see that the listing of parents and siblings is an invasion of privacy if previously published in an obituary. That is a great help in genealogy. What I object to is when someone posts a memorial before someone has died.

    • I totally agree with the issue of posting memorials for people still living! It is “Find A Grave” after all. Not Find A memorial marker.! A grave is “occupied. ” This should NOT be allowed. I requested that those “memorials” be removed, to no avail.! I have three family members upset because they are listed individually on Find A Grave because they have installed their headstone while they are STILL LIVING!

      • Absolutely! I ran into the same thing with my own funeral planning. They went ahead and put the date of my birth on the headstone! Now you can find me on certain sites as being dead as a hammer. Not to mention the fact that your date of birth is so often used as an identifier. I appealed to all those sites to please take it down, but not one did!

        And I just thought of something else about privacy – that’s those family photos that some people put up that include living members. It sometimes pops up when people post their parents’ photos of a wedding anniversary.

      • But it is not called Find a Death, it is called Find a Grave. And these family members have their graves ready to go. Why should this be of any bother?

  8. I am voting with the rest of the folks who say obituaries are already public knowledge so why can’t the name be posted.

    I received a huge dump of names and addresses up to 2020 in Ancestry.com of everyone in my tree and we’re worried about obituaries on FindAGrave.com?

    Lastly I read through the discussions about cause of death information
    We need to stop sugar coating death in this country. We cannot say to another person How would you like it if… because that is a threat. The truth is the truth and it’s better than alternative facts.

    • I’m a very private person when it comes to matters like this. I do not plan on having an obituary when I die.My personal info is exactly that, personal.

    • People should also remember that obituary information is most often provided by a family member. If they include the names of living people, they have already made the decision for us. As for sensitive life and death information, I had a great grand uncle who was a highwayman, a robber and all-around ne’er-do-well who spent a decade in Auburn Prison in New York. He finally passed out drunk on railroad tracks and was killed by a train in the 1880s. The obituaries written on his life and demise make fascinating reading and I attached them to his memorial. He wasn’t a very good criminal so he never merited a “wanted” poster. I wish he had, then I’d have a picture of him!

      • I don’t believe that everything is public knowledge. I think we should respect the families of those whose memorials we upload. The names of the living should not be posted unless the person gives their permission. Often one person in a family writes the obituary and another family member will disagree with some of the information in it. We owe basic respect to the dead, as well. I think the type of material you are talking about is something that could go on ancestry.com, as that is sort of the wild wild west of personal information, but I don’t think it has a place on Find a Grave.
        Things can be misunderstood, as well. If a survivor is described in an obituary as a “close friend and partner”, in this modern world that could be taken two ways. So please leave it out!
        We need to decide if we are a genealogy mining site or a straightforward memorial / tribute page for the deceased individual. I hope we do the latter, because otherwise we have NO reason to exist as a separate entity. I have found many, many errors on ancestry.com, so I’m not interested in being part of it.

      • Sadly, I’m finding plenty of errors on FindAGrave also. It seems some folks are only interested in creating memorials for every obituary they run across. They can rack up their numbers that way but but accuracy suffers. I recently found that when I went to photograph a friend’s grave, that it was not at the GPS coordinates listed. It wasn’t even in that cemetery. Someone had created the memorial from the obituary alone. The widow had changed her mind and buried her husband at another cemetery. I take a lot of requested volunteer photos. There seems to be folks who create memorials for ancestors without knowing exact burial locations. They randomly pick a cemetery in the town of death, request a gravesite photo and expect the volunteer to hunt it down if the person is actually buried there or not (often not).

  9. I disagree with not allowing the names of the living relatives. I have used this information in locating old class mates about reunions and other things. Without this information they would not have been contacted and missed out on an event. It is also great help in genealogy.

  10. I’m just sharing my opinion on this change, not saying it’s right or wrong, obituaries are published online, in many areas, making them available to the public. I feel the purpose of Find a Grave is to honor and preserve those who have passed on and to help others seeking information on their ancestors. I find the pink warning screen to be very annoying as I’m trying to proof the obituary and edit it. I’ve been a member for many years, and have spent years of my time contributing information, and I’ve loved every minute of my labors, but now I’m not so sure I want to continue with this format. Of the thousands of memorials I have added, I have only ever had one person contact me to remove a memorial about 8 years ago. I was happy to honor their request, but left them know, someone else could possibly relist it. It’s clearly public information. If it isn’t available in Find a Grave, it’s available anywhere online. That being said, I strongly feel we need to look at the addition of death cetificates. To me this is even more of an invason of privacy, and I’m seeing it more recently. I feel it’s distracting to the memorial and not something that should be pictured. Find a Grave is not only a wonderful source of information, but also a tribute to those who have passed on. We need to honor their contributions to our lives, and that includes those who are connected to them. Thank you for the opportunity to work with Find a Grave and help those seeking their ancestors, but I hope you may revisit this decision. God bless you for the great things you have done.

  11. I disagree that all reference to living people is injurious, particularly where the survivors are published in funeral notices online and elsewhere. Listing the survivors aids in genealogy and in more specifically identifying someone who has a common name. What I do think is good practice is to remove any other identifiers of the living such as residence. A name alone doesn’t put anything more out there than already exists in other medium. I also would be in favor of enforcing the removal of a living person’s name at their request.

  12. If an obituary is published either in the newspaper or at a funeral home website and lists living family members then this information is no longer private! This is public information and should remain public information to include in Find A Grave memorials. The privacy issue is the responsibility of those who write the obituary! Find A Grave or FAG volunteers should not take this responsibility on themselves to determine the privacy issue if this information has been published and no longer private! If the family wants their living family member information to remain private then they should only list the number of siblings or children and not their names in an obituary. Let’s put the responsibility for this issue where it belongs – with funeral homes who should direct their clients to decide whether or not to list the names of living family members in an obituary thus making it public information.

    • Of course, the obituaries are public information. Ancestry makes it easy pickings for identity theft. My birthdate, birthplace, high school photos are readily available to people with bad intentions. As a community with a common interest in doing good, the details for the living should not be available to anyone. My sibs and I have experienced identity theft–a nightmare I would not wish upon anyone. Never have I ever shared my true birthdate with anyone, except Apple. Yet, someone got a card using my details to procure $50,000 for a home in Utah. Crazy, huh. Ancestry is a motherlode of information for LIVING people who should be protected even if they do not own an account. I am alive, contacted Ancestry and informed them I and my kids are living, yet we appear on trees of the maniacal people who want to build trees to the present, including the living. Further, Ancestry refused to protect my sibs bc they don’t have accounts. I have learned to write obits without the names of any family bc I know the obit will be abused by genealogists and FAG enthusiasts. Once I asked the local person who is jolly on the spot to post obits who posted my parents obits to please delete living family. NO RESPONSE. NO EXCUSE.
      Ancestry and people like you leave us open to identity theft and the unscrupulous, wannabe-the-best genealogists.

  13. Thank you. It is a helpful decision. It helps prevent identity theft, and protects widows who suddenly live alone. We did not put an obituary for my husband this year. The suggestion about putting the number of descendants in the survived by section is wise.

  14. I also disagree with this policy.
    The information in obituaries is public information printed in newspapers, posted on funeral home websites or a centralized obituary service. If the family did not want the names of living relatives listed, then that information should not be in the obituary in the first place. To list surviving members or not to list them was a decision the family made at the time they created the obituary.
    Newspapers.com shows the entire obituary and they do not edit out the surviving members.
    Ancestry.com also lists the names of all those mentioned in the obituary.
    Yet, with all the aforementioned public sources, it’s an invasion of privacy on Find-A-Grave?
    As the family historian I have found obituaries extremely useful in helping to clear up unclear family connections, or providing leads to other family members I’ve had difficulty finding. Having family members listed also helps to confirm I have the correct ancestor.
    Cause of death – now that’s an invasion of privacy. Any death certificates posted as confirmation of burial in a given cemetery should have cause of death blacked out. Social Security numbers as well. Provide the source of the death certificate and allow family researchers to order the death certificate themselves.

  15. I disagree with this policy. Some of us may be searching for missing relatives. Once it is in an obituary, IT IS PUBLIC INFORMATION!!!

    Also….DON’T censor cause of death. If an ancestor died in an accident or by suicide or after an abortion, it is part of their story and needs to be known. In the case of suicide, for example, it may provide insight into generational mental illness and provide treatment answers.

  16. If you look at some obituaries for a mortuary, sometimes they have a copyright. Saying that something is “in the public domain” does not mean you are free to use it — while an obit contains a lot of facts, most also include original writing by a family member or mortuary. So to me the bigger question is “When is it permissible to quote an obituary?

    • Hey, everybody! I found the most interesting thing on a website called legal genealogist dot com:
      “Fourth, just because the newspaper published the obituary doesn’t mean the newspaper owns the copyright. Here again remember that whoever actually contributed that creative spark, that original expression, is the author and it’s the author who owns the copyright unless the author signs a written agreement giving the copyright to somebody else.”
      It sounds like the family owns the copyright on the obituary. He or she goes into a lot of detail and really explains it.
      Wow! I think we all ought to read it because it really clears up a lot of the issues. It’s much more complicated than I thought. But it does tell us exactly what is and isn’t copyrighted and when that copyright expires.
      It’s under copyright-and-the-obit. I’m afraid to put in a link to it, because I don’t know if that’s permissible on this page.

  17. Many obituaries do not contain disposition information anymore, yet we are supposed to name the cemetery before we acknowledge a person’s death. How are we to honor those unless listing “unknown”. Contributors dictate they will not link to “burial unknowns” as they create their own rules. Well, some burials ARE unknown…family farm, rural places, etc. years ago. I am a cemetery walker, so I spot those stones that are already in place for living persons, yet when that soul passes, no burial information is given in the obituary. I wish there was a way to note that a stone is in place in a certain cemetery without including the dates, then people could create a current memorial when the person does pass. I know I have posted a few memorials without knowing for certain if a person is deceased, and I am trying to delete those. But there are people in my area who photograph stones, create memorials and post photos with LIVING person’s birth, marriage and family information for cyber thieves to collect if they come across this site. So when the person passes ten years AFTER his/her MEMORIAL was created, those of us who knew the person are unable to honor them with a memorial, and we do the work to send the edits. People get hung up on getting credit for memorials. I wish there was not a focus on the largest number of contributions. They only have birth and death year and no links unless others do the work to send them.

  18. IrelandNC is distressed that they see themselves (as “Living”? as [their name]?) in an Ancestry tree not their own, and I assume in this case that that info was collected through a FindAGrave obit. However the information is gathered, public Ancestry trees do not post the names or birthdays or genders of living people– the profile of that person simply says “Living ,” even in a public tree. (Owners of private Ancestry trees, like me, can invite friends or relatives to view their tree [for free btw] if they wish. And a tree owner can go to Tree Settings for their private tree after they’ve sent an invitation, and click on “can see living people.” Or not.] So I think that at the very least, IrelandNC’s post shows that FindaGrave entries done from obits might a) MISTAKENLY list living relatives as deceased along with relatives who are actually deceased; and b) if the decision is made to list living people from an obit in an Ancestry tree, their “name” can only show up as “Living.” So I sympathize with IrelandNC, but the answer isn’t to limit public information. Once a person dies, that info becomes public. Using living peoples’ names by mistake is not, as IrelandNC puts it, “the abuse of information by Ancestry users.”

  19. I have been a volunteer for 20 years and I am a National researcher involved with Ancestry, 23 and Me and I am a DAR. If there are individuals who do not want their name in an obituary which by the way is posted online and in every Newspapers .com plus refreshed by the Funeral establishment to remind you to post again a message to the family. It seems like making this rule for posters takes away from the documentation purpose of Find A Grave. I think you should say that if a family member requests removal then it should be removed but most people don’t know all the ways to access their connection through census and records because they are no genealogists. Thanks for listening.
    Bonnie Morris Conrad volunteer #46480766

  20. Good arguments on both sides. I understand that this information is given to the funeral home, but I am not sure, legally, if someone has the right to take that information and put it on FindAGrave. I think that your legal team should comment on that, and make the decision.

    Personally, I remove all names of the living and children from an obit. I don’t see FindAGrave as a genealogical resource for those who don’t want to do their own research. I thought it was a tribute and a remembrance to the deceased.

    I wonder, however, if all those who think adding the names of the living and children is OK on someone else’s memorial, also add the names of their living relatives and children, grandchildren, etc. on their own family memorials. It would be interesting to know if these contributors practice what they preach.

  21. I agree wholeheartedly that this is a good and necessary policy. Privacy today is hard enough to protect without Ancestry and Find-a-Grave contributing to the problem. Thank you for finally taking this small step.


    • Patricia A Greer Eunis
      Here is another reason to add names. Thank you. It can save lives and and the information is a available in other sources also. responding to the poster who wonders what those who post would do when it comes to their own family. I have added my children’s names and my grandchildren’s names to my tombstone as well as my patriots and the surnames of my family 5 generations past. I want to make sure my legacy cannot be changed by researchers who refuse to.cite their sources and prove through documentation.

      Thanks Find A Grave for considering other researchers ideas for your rules. Remember I have been doing this 20 years not sure how many other volunteers have been at this over 20 years.
      Bonnie Morris Conrad (46480766)

  23. I don’t think it is right to include the cause of death. That can be very personal and should be kept private. You don’t know if someone in life might have been a very private person or not – or maybe you do. In any case it is no one’s business.

  24. i disagree also, because i would not have found my 4th cousins that are still living with not adding their names and town, state where they lived, i also saw some people didn’t want to know cause of death. well i want as much information i can get and that is a fact of the history. also they don’t put obits in the newspaper that i get anymore, so yes i say keep obits the same and add them to findagrave. some people are not like everybody else and their obits are not found on the computer. people that don’t want all of the information on obits, that is your decison to take it out!

  25. Wanted to respond to a few thing said  in the above  replies

    1) Find a Grave  has never restricted  predeceased individual in an obit–nor have they ever restricted the surviving spouse or children of a person who died a long time ago– they are only saying that LIVING PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BE LISTED IN AN OBIT UNLESS YOU HAVE THE CONSENT OF THAT PERSON!!!– personally I have found a  tremendous amount of info on a family line  on find a grave even from OLD obits  ( notice the word OLD) and were glad they were posted BUT I  do NOT  EVER list anyone who MIGHT still be living..

    2 one person said  Obits  do not contain dates/places for the living, only names.
    Sorry to say that almost all   recent  obit  that listed surviving children gives the  name of the spouse  and / or   CITY THEY  LIVE IN ( even those going back  80 years )— ie  obit says  John Dinglebeery  wife Sarah (of) Baton Rouge, LA—just this little bit of info allows me to do a search of Dingleberry in Baton Rouge and if he is the only one there, I can find out not only his address present and previous but  also family members, occupation and age / month and year of  birth–I even did a  quick search of some of you that posted replies in  this article and found  one of you  that lives in New Mexico–their  previous address, month and year of birth and known associates as well as neighbors–all of this from just posting your opinion BUT yet you see no problem in listing the  names of LIVING people who you are NOT RELATED TO IN ANYWAY!!!!

    3)  a cemetery being funded by church members using obits for  a variety of reasons such as upkeep/ destroyed headstones–seems to me that a small cemetery like this should have a book/ card system that not only includes the info on the persons buried there but a contact number for  living relatives– I have dealt  with both  very large  and very small cemeteries that had additional info if you talked to the office or sexton– the only ones that did NOT were cemeteries no longer maintained by  a group….

    4 one person said   Also consider that in just a few years all of these living relatives will have deceased—Sorry to say BUT MAN ARE YOU WRONG ABT THIS!!!!  — my uncle died 47 years ago and all of his kids are still alive– my mother died 40 years after my  dad  in 1982 and all but 2 of his kids are still alive — There are a lot of people who die young  who have young kids/ grandkids whose names are listed in their obits— my brother’s obit on-line contains the names of not only his kids BUT his  grandkids  ranging in age from 10 year old to 2 months old–I  believe they  will be around for many many more years ( thankfully the person who posted the obit edited out the names) and I have a friend whose Dad died right aft she was born, so her name was listed in his obit over 60 years ago 

    5 one person said  If the family did not want the names of living relatives listed, then that information should not be in the obituary in the first place. To list surviving members or not to list them was a decision the family made at the time they created the obituary.  Again WRONG here–  The only time that my whole family has been asked to approve an obit was when my  Mom died-all of us from the eldest child to the newborn g-g-g grandbaby were there and asked to approve the obit– other than that, I have never been consulted on  any obit for any relative….

    I whole heartedly agree with Bruno that it is  easy pickings for identity theft– think abt it– credit card company still ask your mother’s maiden name as a way to confirm your identity–well can’t  use that as it is posted on find a grave ( BTW– believe  when  signing up  for social security benefits/ accounts, it also ask for  mother’s maiden name)— other ways to confirm your identity oldest/ youngest siblings 1st name/ where you lived as a child/ name of niece or nephew and on and on– all can’t be used  as the info was posted in an obit in find a grave because as I said above,  if you know where the person is living now, you can do a simple search and find all the above info if not in the obit– and yes the same obit is on-line ( for at least a few years  if recent) BUT as one of the top 4 places for genealogical info on a  family, find a grave is a much easier way to obtain the info then randomly looking at obits on-line

    and finally  I have to agree with Shirl– if all those who think adding the names of the living and children is OK on someone else’s memorial, also add the names of your own living relatives and children, grandchildren, etc. on your own family memorials. It would be interesting to know if these contributors practice what they preach.

    in fact why don’t you all just post your date of birth and where you live etc the next time you reply to any post!!!!

  26. Find a Grave literally means to me what it says, it honors the final resting place of our loved ones. I don’t feel everything detail should be told about that person. If you’re researching you can find other means. My uncle died in a terrible train accident. He was run over by a train. Every gory detail from a newspaper article was used as his profile photo here. Then every detail about his divorce from another newspaper article was listed on his page. Yes, these are public records, but have some consideration about what you place here.

  27. Public Information vs Right to Privacy– while obits are actually public information, that does NOT give you the right to disrespect a living person’s Right to Privacy for himself, his grandkids and great grandkids–to answer one person’s remarks, obits ARE actually copyrighted– either by the funeral home or newspaper if printed in one— copyright are for 100 years on newspapers BUT there is a fair use law on copyrights..

    and yes Ancestry and newspaper.com does NOT withhold the names of the living BUT you must have a paid subscription to these 2 sites to see current info on a deceased person…

    There are a lot of people who are NOT into genealogy and have no idea you just posted their info as well as their kids and grandkids who are minors– most might be quite upset—I’m sure a lot of you see no harm in posting such info–REALLY? all you need to know is a person name and city they currently live and you can find out their address both present and current, names of family members and their age/month and year of birth at the very least…

    if a child under age commits a crime, their name is NOT released–so why would it be okay for you to list their name on a site that is considered one of the top 4 best places for genealogy info?

    States restrict death certificate– the person has to be dead 50 year or more before it can be accessed online and for the few state that have birth certificates on-line, it is 100 years— census info is not released until 70 years later–Ancestry does have limitations saying anyone born after 1930 should be listed as LIVING but that can be changed by you and newspapers claim 100 year copyright on their public info BUT yet you all feel it’s okay to post the names of living people–what good does it do for a genealogist to know the names of my living siblings and nieces and nephews? As long as my mother’s obit list the names of her parents that is more than enough for you to figure out her ancestors BUT that MIGHT take a little researching on your part…

    one poster said that in just a few years all of these living relatives will have deceased– Really ??? my Mom died 30 years after my dad in 1982 and only 2 of his kids have passed away– my uncle died 47 years ago and all of his kids are still alive– my brother’s obit ( recent) listed not only his kids but his grandkids age 10 years old to 2 months and I have a friend whose Dad died shortly after she was born –so it’s been 65 years that her name was listed in his obit…

    While listing surviving family for a person who died long ago is A GREAT idea–listing the names of the LIVING without their permission is NOT–and BTW WHY ARE YOU EVEN POSTING AN OBIT/ CREATING A MEMORIAL FOR A RECENT DEATH UNLESS YOU ARE RELATED TO THAT PERSON????

  28. I do not like to post copies of published obituaries to my memorials because of copyright issues. However, if there is some noteworthy information in the obituary, I briefly paraphrase it in the BIO section.

    In rare cases where I copy & paste part of an obit, I try not to include names of the funeral home and church. Then I add a notation: “Excerpted from obituary.” Visitation and funeral information are also irrelevant after someone is buried.

    It is totally unnecessary to include obituaries that were published within the last 12 years or so because most of them can be found by googling. I say if someone really wants to see an obituary from a recent year, look for it online, not on Find-A-Grave.

  29. Not everyone posts an Obituary of their loved one on Find a Grave, but actually create the Memorial of their loved one upon their death,, and post their own ‘Biography’ of their loved one’s life. Which may or not include names of their Mother, Father, Spouse, Children; whether deceased or living, as a Tribute and to Honor their family member. It may just be the first names. It is more personal and a personal decision.

    Not every deceased has/had an Obituary at all. When a Find a Grave Memorial of a deceased individual is listed as a Source on Family Search, it states whether the Memorial has a Biography or not. Not Just names dates of birth and death. Family Search, Find a Grave, Billion Graves, Fold3, they work hand in hand. There may just be one living person of the family left, trying to Honor their loved one’s before some day they pass on. When their time comes, there will be nothing about them except perhaps a picture and dates. But at least they were able to flesh out the lives of where they came from.

    It is true there are obituaries out there, posted all over the place by places, newspapers, and others.
    Some people search for, find them and just post them on Find a Grave, and they aren’t even related. Sometimes before the deceased has even been buried. Or has a headstone. It seems like a numbers game. That’s sad.

    However, the Volunteers who don’t do this are greatly appreciated, and what they do is a gift, has helped loved ones with a virtual location for those who live far away.

    As far as names go, and whether or not to post an Obituary, it would seem a personal decision by the family who has lost their loved one.

  30. I believe Find A Grave can dictate it’s own rules. Why don’t people just list the newspaper name and date the obituary was published. That way genealogists can look up the details.

  31. Please help me…..I need to delete my info and transfer grave to someone as I am constantly hacked and have decided to end tech / wi-fi service. Done with all this. I cannot get into my act? Please give me a phone # to call and talk to someone. Thanks.

  32. I have been reading the new updates on this subject, and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about some of the responses…

    1) It’s important listing survivors. (In what way?)
    2) I use obits to find family members for a variety of reasons. (So I am supposed to do your research?)
    3) Great help in genealogy. (Yes, this is true, but you need to do the rest).
    4) The truth is the truth in regards to the cause of death. (OK. Give me your name and I will find every ugly
    thing in your family because the truth is the truth…right? Then I will publish it…OK?)
    5) Locating classmates for reunions. (Well, if they are on findagrave…they won’t be coming.)
    6) Suicide, abortions…needs to be known. It will provide insight into generational mental illness. (Yes,
    whenever I need to know what is wrong with my family, I will go to FindAGrave for medical help.)
    7) I can find out about inherited diseases. (Seriously? Maybe consider getting the death certificate and giving it
    to your medical provider).
    8) This is the right thing because I have been doing this for 20 years. (How does 20 years make this right?).
    9) I want as much info as I can get. (This is what genealogy is all about. You should be finding the info yourself,
    not copying it.)

    I found that some of the comments that were pro obit had nothing to do with genealogy. For them the information was a convenience related to something else entirely.

    Keep in mind that FindAGrave is riddled with errors. You see this in the family trees that people copy and the errors keep going on and on.

    FindAGrave is a site to honor the dead..not a phone book for uses unrelated to the conversation. It’s not meant to embarrass or shame them by the mistakes they made or turn their memorial into the “National Inquirer”. Do that for YOUR family if you need to. Don’t do it to other families without their approval.

  33. I agree about the Copy & Paste of a whole Obituary that may/might contain living individuals. If I were to do this myself, I just try Keeping the Obituary limited to the specific individuals life accomplishments, journey, etc… (if it’s in there).

    I also believe that nobody should be creating a Memorial for a living individual solely because a plot exists and a headstone has the name with a birth year and no death (basically a plot there and ready upon the passing of the individual). I don’t encounter this all the time (myself), but I have bumped into this on occasion. A great thought, but really unnecessary (in my opinion of course).

    ~Brian Kerr

  34. I have done a lot of thinking about this, and I don’t think the cause of death should be given. I know I did It for my great-uncle, but that was because there was controversy about how he died as a deputy sheriff – in pursuit or a heart attack. It was finally decided he had a heart attack. But I think the cause of death is private and should be left with the family. And that includes celebrities, too.
    As far as ancestry.com is concerned, this is not that website. I know they are supposedly owned by the same people, but still, we should not be a data mining source for them or anyone else. They are two separate websites and should have two separate reasons to exist. We are not a genealogy site, nor were we created for genealogists. I have seen the data I put up here very quickly appear on ancestry.com.
    Two members of my family died of malpractice. But I could be open to a lawsuit if I put that on a website!
    While it is true that names of the living may have been given in an obituary, we are not a collection of obituaries. I hope we can remain a respectable source and not get into the sensational, defamatory or invasion of privacy.
    I almost wish that the term “memorial” could be changed to “tribute”. Maybe that would more accurately reflect our mission. I’d like to know what anyone else thinks of this idea.

    • The key word here is “want”. What we “want” to do doesn’t matter. Doing the right thing is what matters. If we are going to be here on Find a Grave we need to follow the rules, otherwise we need to get off. We have not made the rules. We joined an already established entity that had guidelines and expectations for those posting. If we cannot meet those standards, we should get off of Find a Grave. A person who doesn’t “want” to follow the rules is not a good fit for this platform.

      • Although the site now provides “warnings” about possible “sensitive information”, the published Community Rules do not prohibit the inclusion of living relatives from an obituary, other records or personal knowledge.

        Cause of Death is addressed in the rules. A brief, factual entry is permitted.

        You appear to be interpreting the Community Guidelines as prohibiting this information. Please cite your references to the prohibitions, otherwise you’re claiming your opinion is the proverbial “right thing to do” when it clearly is simply your opinion..

        BTW, there is no legal prohibition to publishing a familial relationship, as long as it’s factual.

  35. I too am fully in disagreement with this policy. I am a long time researcher. I have never posted any of my research online until recently when I decided this site was the best place to add factual data about those that rest here.

    I say the vast majority users of this site are in fact millions of people now doing family research seeking to find more about their families. I would back this up with the assertion that the Ancestry acquisition in 2013 is an unarguable fact that this is true.

    Much Ado About Obituaries. An Obit is in fact a short Public Memorial / Tribute / remembrance to the life and family of the deceased, most times written by the family themselves or with the same goal and purpose with the help of a funeral director. They decide what is written and who is listed, in fact most times, careful not to leave out anyone that is living, all for the purpose of displaying this publicly to Honor their loved one. Otherwise why would they write one.


    “On September 30, 2013, Ancestry.com announced its acquisition of Find a Grave. Site editor Jim Tipton said of the purchase that Ancestry.com had “been linking and driving traffic to the site for several years. Burial information is a wonderful source for people researching their family history”
    — wikipedia.com. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancestry.com

    05 August 2020 Blackstone to Acquire Ancestry®, Leading Online Family History Business, for $4.7 Billion

    • Does it really matter what you think? I’m not trying to be mean, just pointing out that we joined this website and agreed to their policies. You don’t go to work for a company and then try to re-mold it into what you want. As long as ancestry.com and Find a Grave are not merged, then they serve two purposes.

      “At Find a Grave, we all work together to create a virtual cemetery where it’s easy to learn about the final resting place of millions of people from around the world.” – from the main page at Find a Grave.

      I think that is pretty clear. We link names of the people with the places they are buried. We can also link them to deceased family members. There is nothing said about adding causes of death, criminal records, living relatives, etc.

      As to the cause of death, that should be left out too. There was a controversy over one woman who died in a sanitarium in the late 1800s. It was assumed that she was mentally ill. Now the usage of the word “sanitarium” has changed over time to mean a place for those with mental problems. Back when she passed away, it was just another word for hospital.

      Why can’t we have a little respect for the dead?

      After working as a legal researcher and case analyst for many years, I can testify to how litigious this society is. It is very easy to get sued if you put up something that defames someone. And you never know what someone will find offensive. I’ve knew someone who discovered that their grandmother had two husbands that no one ever heard of (it turned out she was widowed twice). Back then divorce was a shameful thing, and to this day they don’t want it known because someone would assume she was divorced. But here it is on Find A Grave. There is often more behind deaths than we know. So let’s avoid the lawsuits and just play by the rules. There’s no need to remake this in our own image. It was an established entity long before ancestry.com acquired it. If ancestry.com wants to change the rules, then so be it.
      As long as ancestry.com and Find a Grave are separate entities, why would anybody not want to follow the Find a Grave rules? It is not our company. It is not our place to try to change Find A Grave.

      • Any reply starting with “Does it really matter what you think?” is insulting and should get you banned.

        It’s not OK to imply that all the unpaid volunteers should just shut up, reserve their opinions, and just keep working at grave data entry like good little drones.

        In my 4th decade of family research, I’ve seen many like you that want to conceal family & death information for various purposes.

      • You have your opinion. I have nothing to hide. I meant the collective you, not the personal “you”. Does it matter what any of us think if it goes against the policies of the website? My opinion, for instance, does not matter. I am trying to interpret and follow the guidelines of the website we are supposed to be working for. I love find a grave and would like it to be a good memorial to the people, not become sensationalist, etc. I think we should all be able to freely put up the deceased and the place of their grave.
        I apologize if I offended you by phrasing my reply awkwardly.

      • Why is it that you want LESS information shared? Less PUBLIC information? This is 2021, not Orwell’s 1984.

        Why do you want to make research harder? What are you trying to hide?

        Are you a shill ancestry.com trying to limit the decedent data so we have to buy the newspaper subscription to obtain the obituary?

        Your apology is declined. Even your apology reeks of righteousness.

      • Go ahead and call me names, accuse me of trying to make people spend money, etc, etc. I give up. I am not a shill for ancestry.com, it is too expensive for me. I am not trying to make research harder. But I know you will believe what you want to believe, the majority of people do. That’s how all we humans are.
        I hope you all get this straightened out and decide what you want to do and then convince Find a Grave to go along with it. I don’t wish you any ill will, and if that’s self-righteousness then so be it.
        I’m nothing but an old woman who wanted to tell the dignified true stories of my ancestors. I see this is not the place for me, so I will go.
        I have deleted my account and contributions. Best wishes.

  36. As far as using obits that have appeared in the local newspaper maybe YEARS ago, I have no problem putting in the entire obit just like it appeared in the local newspaper. It was published in the public domain so unless some family member contacts me requesting their info be deleted I’m posting it EXACTLY how it appeared. After all who am I to change one word of what the family wanted to say about the deceased and did so putting that info in a published obit??? Otherwise I’m not touching it other then to post it. And I’ve never had any complaints about the many obits I’ve posted in Memorials I’ve authored and some I haven’t…

    • It seems to me that if a obituary were published far enough back that we have a reasonable expectation that those “living” relatives are no longer living, then I don’t see any problem. You might even be able to find and connect those once-living relatives to the person you are working on, if they are on Find a Grave. What do you suppose a good cut-off date would be? 1920? 1930?
      But that’s just my opinion, which isn’t worth anything anymore since I have deleted my account and contributions and am no longer on Find A Grave.
      Best wishes – I hope you all get a resolution on this soon.

      • While looking for something else through Newspapers dot com, I recently “found” the obit in the L A Times of a well known “California industrialist” that passed a couple of years ago that included a picture and names of his close family, even the family business that he once owned/ran etc etc. The first thing, I was surprised nobody had yet authored a Memorial for him but once I was sure of that I posted the entire obit including his picture on to his new Memorial that I authored. Once someone else added the headstone picture the Memorial was complete and looked very good. But I specifically recall thinking about that obit (which was masterfully written) if it was OK in my heart (which it was), then it’s OK to post as well. That was a very well written celebration of that man’s life that the family paid for and placed trusting (I assume) it would be published as written. The newspaper did that on his published obit and I did the same thing using his obit added into a well done, respectful F.A.G. Memorial. Everyone’s pleased…And it doesn’t get much better then that.

      • That sounds like a win-win situation! I imagine the family would be very pleased. I think you made the right decision too.

  37. Hey Jill, the word is “sanitorium” not the breakfast cereal company “sanitarium”

    • “Sanitarium” with an “a” is the currently accepted North American usage. You can however use the word spelled with an “O” – they can be used interchangeably. The hospital where my father was born was named after the doctor and then used “Sanitarium” as I spelled it, with an “a”. I double-checked with the Merriam-Webster dictionary online, and they use both. I have been told – and I don’t know if this is true or not – that “sanatorium” with an “O” is preferred in England. But I can’t confirm that. I would really like to know the timeline on these words, when they were used and where. Now you have me interested in the word “asylum”. I’m curious as to when it was in use and if it always meant a mental institution. Oh well, off to the dictionary!
      I never heard of that breakfast cereal. Is it a brand name or the name of the cereal? Just curious because it’s a new one on me.
      Thanks for bringing that up. It’s an interesting word.

  38. As with many others, I am totally censorship of obituaries – which is exactly what is being done as described, when people freely “edit” any published obituary. I have been a family historian / genealogist since the 1970s as well as a member of Find a Grave and a long-time member of ancestry (since the 1990s, before the present format of ancestry was created). As the most informed re: relatives and family history, I have been the person selected within the family to write a number of obituaries … including the obits for both of my parents.

    So yes, I hold the copyright to said work. And I am still totally against censoring information on Find a Grave. When I wrote the obits for each of my parents, I sent draft copies to my siblings for their approval / suggestions before the obits went to the newspapers, so the very detailed family info contained in the obits was widely approved before it ever became public. And at that point, once printed, that information was precisely that: public information! We chose what to print and what should be withheld: parents names, dates, their parents etc. all applied in ways not detrimental and listed fully. Surviving children gave our first names & names of spouses, no birthdates or privileged info on living survivors.. Names of grandchildren and great-grandchildren gave only each child’s first name (no surname, no ages, no location or home town). The obits focused on each parent and what was important to them or individual in their lives… our dad’s of service, mom being the eldest of ten children and first child in her families to graduate from high school, because stories like those put people’s lives into perspective and honor their lives.

    If someone decided to come along and “edit” the obituaries as they were written and published, not only would I be very angry but so would all of my sibs. We made a choice as to what represented our parents and that is NO ONE ELSE’s place to second guess! You never knew our family, you have no right to judge what we chose to make public.

    As to the comments that feel ancestry is a better place for genealogical info… Find a Grave is free to all. Ancestry is not. And many people cannot afford to pay a long-term subscription (I’ve subscribed for nearly 30 years, but that is my choice and within my means to do so.) Find a Grave offers a way to set the record straight and share homage to people we knew and loved, not just to strangers. But I can tell you this: I have managed to post nearly 3000 pictures of stones from cemeteries in very isolated, rural areas that often take me several hours to drive to. And I have never walked past the stone or memorial to any Veteran of any branch of our military without taking a picture to add to Find a Grave. I honor our vets every time I set foot in a cemetery.

    Taking away their stories… casually censoring their lives by editing their obits… is like taking away part of their history. They deserve to have all of their story told, not just the selective portions someone who never met them thinks is “okay” to talk about.

    And while I would not actively look for a death record just to post it on Find a Grave, I also agree that we have no business sanitizing people’s lives. Suicide is sad, HIV was a scary thing in the ’70s and drunk driving is not winning any public awards… but I had a friend who committed suicide, a cousin who died of AIDS and an uncle who was killed in a snowmobile accident because he had been drinking and his judgment was impaired. Welcome to the real world.

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