I have been slowly acquiring birth, marriage and death certificates. Is there a best practice or accepted procedure for posting the United States certificates online, including to Geanealogy.se (to add necessary information to a question)? I would not post a certificate for any living person - however, how about a certificate for a deceased person whose children are still living? For instance, the marriage certificate might include living witnesses and the death certificate might include a living person.

  • This belongs on meta.genealogy.stackexchange.com, not here. (Also, in general certificates should not be posted here.)
    – RobertShaw
    Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 6:50
  • 1
    @RobertShaw, Jeni has already sought advice on meta about how to pose this question. Also, re your statement that certificates should not be posted here -- is that an answer to the question? In which case you need to explain why you believe that.
    – user104
    Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 10:02
  • @ColeValleyGirl, Besides the Meta advice, my comment did bring up a thought relevant to the original question. However, it is now irrelevant since the question has been radically edited, changing from asking about how to post certificates on StackExchange, to asking about how to post certificates online generally.
    – RobertShaw
    Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 19:04
  • @RobertShaw Do you think the guidance would be different about posting certificates to SE and posting them elsewhere? If so, roll the edit back.
    – user104
    Commented Mar 17, 2013 at 19:37
  • @ColeValleyGirl, It's now evident the question is about general considerations for posting certificates online, and as such, it applies to genealogy.SE as much as to any site. The original question appeared to be about how to post (images of) certificates on this site specifically, and I thought such things were appropriate for Meta.
    – RobertShaw
    Commented Mar 19, 2013 at 16:57

1 Answer 1


There are three elements to consider when publishing certificates online:

(1) Copyright, i.e. do you have the right to publish the certificate. This will depend on how you acquired it and the constraints imposed by the provider of the certificate, and will vary from country to country.

(2) Privacy, i.e. what does the certificate reveal about living people. I would process the image to redact any information about living people before publishing it.

(3) Sensitivity, i.e. understanding the concerns of living individuals about publishing facts that the certificate reveals, e.g. suicide as a cause of death, illegitimacy or other details that some relatives might feel were best kept private. Certificates are records of facts that are often public and discoverable by other means, but each researcher must make their own assessment of how much weight they give to the sensitivities of others.

The above applies whether you publish an image of the certificate or an abstract or transcription of the information (although copyright concerns are different for transcriptions, as facts cannot be copyrighted).

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