Film Examines the Motivations Behind the Genealogy Business and Its Effects on Families & Privacy

August 22, 2017 — Saint George, UT — DOCUTAH screens Data Mining the Deceased: Ancestry and the Business of Family. This thought-provoking film prods the industry behind the exponential growth of interest in genealogy. It is arguably the largest historical enterprise in the world, and one of the largest data mining operations, driven by big religion, big business and big technology. What are the motivations of the key players and how are their ambitions affecting the millions of North Americans who are searching for answers?

In its review York University remarks, “The family history business is booming. English Professor Julia Creet explores the bigger picture behind the ancestry industry in her new documentary.”

“More than half of North Americans are fascinated by genealogy and invested in their family histories. The emotional impact is profound. Some gain a sense of identity by uncovering their ancestors, their culture, and their country of origin. Others find it devastating and disorienting when they discover that their history differs from what they have always believed.”

Data Mining the Deceased, takes fascinating turns as it traverses the world of mapping ancestry, including the Mormon Church’s role in amassing the largest database on the planet. In her documentary, Director, Julia Creet interviews representative stakeholders—amateur genealogists, industry representatives (including the founders of Ancestry.com), experts (including Harvard’s Steven Pinker and Columbia sociologist Alondra Nelson), Iceland genealogists, and officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (including the CEO and Marketing Director of FamilySearch, the LDS online database), and examines the motivations of individuals and industry with respect to the collection and use of genealogical information. Privacy and ownership concerns arise from the domestic and international flow and aggregation of vast quantities of vital information about the living and the dead. And, integral to the question of family history, Data Mining the Deceased asks: What is family?

“The idea for Data Mining the Deceased came from a previous documentary called Mum, which was a story about a family secret,’” says Creet. When she finished producing that documentary and digging into her family history, she asked herself “was I a part of a larger zeitgeist?”

The answer is yes. Yet, the reason to why people feel the need to discover their ancestry beyond that of their parents, and perhaps their grandparents, depends on where they’re from, their ethnicity and how much their family has migrated.

“The value in the data is in the braiding of genetic and genealogical information, which is hugely helpful for medical purposes,” says Creet. Yet, “a lot of people don’t realize that when you give information or DNA to a genealogical database, you’re giving away all of your proprietary rights to that information. In other words, the company now owns the right to do with that information what they want. They can buy, sell and distribute it in any form they want.”

More information about all the films included in this year’s DOCUTAH Festival, special events, scheduling and ticketing may be found at docutah.com.

About DOCUTAH
DOCUTAH celebrates the art of documentary filmmaking, connecting Dixie State University and the community to the world. DOCUTAH offers a unique, entertaining International Documentary Film Festival and year-round programs providing creative, cultural, and educational engagement. (read more)