This subject sounds kind of click-baity, but since it was being reported on by The Washington Post AND Snopes, I was intrigued.

It's a genealogy website called FamilyTreeNow and, frankly, I was a little disturbed by the amount of detail I could look up about myself for free.

There are other websites that aggregate a bunch of public records type stuff about people but those aren't typically free. In fact, they can often be prohibitively expensive. FamilyTreeNow doesn't charge a fee. You don't even have to create an account. You can bring it up, enter a name and within seconds you'll have a trove of personal information about the target of your search. It might be the kind of thing that a stalker would find useful. But DON'T go there if you ARE a stalker! In fact, get some help, weirdo.

So, by entering my own name I was able to see the last several addresses I've had. "Last several" as in "going back over 25 freakin' years."  I didn't remember most of those addresses so, in a sense, this site knew more about me "than I did about myself."

Oh, but the creepiness is just beginning.

I also got a list of "possible relatives" that included my mom and dad, my brother, and my cousin Donna that I haven't talked to since I was 12. It also included my ex-wife. I've been divorced since 1996. That is some next-level creepy shit right there.

Under "possible associates" it lists 10 or 12 ex-in-laws. I haven't stayed in touch with these folks but if we ever bumped into each other I would be happy to see them and I like to think they'd feel the same way. But not every broken relationship is so cordial. It's kind of chilling when you think about what someone with ill-will or bad intentions could do with this information, literally, at their fingertips.

I decided to really put the creep factor of this site to the test. I entered the name of a girl I had a crush on in high school. Actually, I haven't seen her since high school.  If I were a crazy person, here's what I would have gotten:

  • Her married name
  • The fact that she was married once before
  • Her husband's name
  • Her ex-husband's name
  • Her last six addresses including her current address

Oh, and what's this? Next to her current address a link to Google Maps so I can see exactly how to get there and the layout of the place.

I know I just looked up a girl that I haven't seen in 30 year but, despite that, I'm not actually a creep. I'm not going to show up on her doorstep with a bouquet of black roses and a cattle-prod. But I could if I wanted to!

Could a truly determined maniac have gotten all this information in the pre-internet era? Yeah, probably. But they would have had to hire a private investigator to do it.

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