Over this past week, Randy Seaver and Lee Anders have blogged about whether or not to help other people search for living people, and I thought that I would add my two cents to this debate.
To be honest, I really haven't searched for living people at the request of strangers. The closest I have come to looking for a living person is when I looked up the phone number of cousin for one of my cousins. Of course, I also knew why my distant cousin wanted to contact this other cousin; we were both hoping that this cousin might know more about our family's history. Outside of that situation, I have not been asked to search for living people.
Would I search for living people? Probably not. Personally, I don't like searching for living people as I feel that would be an invasion of a person's privacy. I truly believe that people have a right to their privacy, and I don't like the idea of intruding into people's lives. As I have stated before, I really haven't had to deal with this issue, and I really don't have any experience in searching for living people.
The only genealogy research that I engage in at the moment is my own genealogy. I have never been asked to help anyone do any genealogical research. When I have contacted people that I did not know on a line, I have either contacted that person through e-mail or on a message board, and even then, I clearly state that I believe we share a connection with the explanation as to how. Again, when I do contact strangers, I am only contacting that person or persons in the hope that maybe he or she has some information that would help me make a connection with an ancestor.
I won't go into detail about the ethical and legal issues of this problem as the issues have already been covered and to write about them would be redundant. But I can't help putting myself into the shoes of the person who is being searched for. If I knew that someone was searching for me, would I like that? Probably not. I mean, would I really want a classmate from elementary school searching for me? Probably not. Sometimes people don't want to be contacted by someone from their past for various reasons. If this person had not been a friend, I'm not sure if I would want to be contacted by someone who I haven't seen for the past forty years. Of course, some people would not have a problem. Maybe it is just me who has the problem. I honestly don't know.