How To Make Sure Your Honest to God Actual Home Address Isn’t Easily Available Online

This week, I stumbled across this thread on Twitter. And I was stunned. In it, a (rightly) concerned citizen of the internet made a public service announcement about a horrid website called Family Tree Now. It might sound like an innocuous clone of Ancestry.com, but it’s not, because among the records it makes public is your complete address and a list of all your family members! According to the thread, all it needs is your name and your city to make that happen. For me, it didn’t even need my city! LALALALALA that’s not creepy at all! I actually shouted “aw hell no” when I searched for myself!

We’re moving into a time where white nationalists, misogynists, TERFs and other tire-fire groups are emboldened by the current political climate to wreak further havoc on marginalized communities. It’s already happening, but if the uptick we’ve seen so far is any indication, it’ll just keep getting worse! And likely, dear readers, you are targets too as LGBT people on the internet, if you haven’t been already. So here are some low-hanging fruit steps you can take to protect your address from those that would do you harm as the white nationalist administration moves into place. This is by no means a complete doxxing prevention guide, but this CAN help you sort out some of the easier first steps.

Well First, Let’s Opt Out of Family Tree Now

Luckily, it’s fairly easy. Just hit up this link and follow the steps listed. Search for yourself, click the record and there will be a big red opt-out button at the top of the page. Do this. Do it now. Some people report getting error messages when they select opt-out. Mine went through fine, but if you’re getting error messages, be persistent! Contact a customer service representative at Family Tree Now and ask that you be removed from the public database. Done? Good! Now wait 48 hours for your record to be removed and hope no one threatens you before then! I swear, what asshole thought this was a good idea? I can hear the clacking of a million abusive stalkers’ keyboards as they search for their exes. What the fresh hell.

While you’re opting out of this one, there are a few searches that are both less accurate and harder to opt out of that you may want to take a look at. Zabasearch and White Pages, for example, are likely to have information about you on them as well. Both require verifying your identity before taking your ACTUAL REAL ADDRESS off the internet, which is total poppycock, that’s something you should be able to just, like, ask politely about.

There’s a very old Reddit post that provides some links to people search opt-out pages. Even though it’s old, it’s a pretty good jumping off point. This is much newer.

Give Yourself a Google

Sounds like I’m answering a sex advice question when I say that, but I’m not. Google your name and your nicknames to see what comes up. A helpful hint: put your name in quotation marks. So instead of searching for Jane Smith, search for “Jane Smith.” This way, you’ll find out what sorts of information is written about you online. Goddess willing, you find only innocuous results. If you do not, I recommend looking at the steps outlined by Crash Override.

Now the next step: set up a Google alert for your name and nicknames. While topics I’m interested in come to me in a daily digest, I have my name and nicknames set to “as-it-happens” to get a blow-by-blow picture of me on the internet. If something starts to bubble up, you’ll know as soon as you check your email. And knowing is valuable.

Search For Your Name On Reddit

Ah, Reddit. Sometimes I think they’re trying not to be a cesspool over there, sometimes I think they’re romantically clinging to the notion that we are free to be our worst selves at the expense of their other users. Regardless, I highly recommend searching your name on Reddit specifically, mostly because that’s how I found my Reddit hate thread. That’s a thing to know, and a thing to watch. If you find people posting your private information or attempting to incite violence against you or harass you, that is actually against Reddit’s rules and you can send them a message about it if you have an account, or an email if you don’t.

For mental health reasons, if you find yourself being discussed on Reddit, I recommend appointing a safety captain from your very closest friends to watch and make sure it doesn’t escalate past bile. That way, you do not PERSONALLY have to stare into the asshole of the internet just to ensure you do not come to bodily harm.

Want to Go Further?

This is just the low-hanging fruit. Remember, Crash Override has a guide not only for what to do after being doxxed, but what to do beforehand as well for prevention purposes. Feminist Frequency also has a guide that’s really rad! Now is the time! Do the thing!


Are you following us on Facebook?

Profile gravatar of Ali

Geekery Editor for Autostraddle, Part-time Faculty at The New School (teaching digital storytelling), Managing Editor for Scholar & Feminist Online at Barnard Center for Research On Women. Follow me on Twitter @AEOsworth or on Instagram, also @AEOsworth.

Ali has written 481 articles for us.

62 Comments

  1. 0

    My name isn’t on Family Tree, thank Lunala(especially since my mom-for very understandable reasons-broke off contact with all but a select few members of her family shortly after I was born).
    I have one of the whitest names ever, so the Google search yielded a number of people who were not me(yay?). My favorite was a lady who owns a cannibis store. 😺

  2. 0

    Oh my god, I had no idea such a thing existed, and my previous addresses (thank goodness not current!) as well as family members were there and accurate and that is fucking horrifying. Thanks so much for the heads-up. Here’s hoping the opt-out feature really works. (Though if this information was so easy for them to collect, I fear it’s maybe inevitable that it shows up elsewhere?…)

    • 0

      Ugh CREEPY thanks for pointing this one out; I was on there too. I opted out using a disposable email address from Mailinator.com, since I didn’t want to give them a real one. All it asked me to do was click a confirmation link in the email, so I think there’s no harm done using a public mailbox to do so.

  3. 0

    Incidentally, my sister-in-law saw the Tumblr thread about Family Tree Now and while she didn’t find much of concern for herself, her brother and I had quite a few past addresses and “associates” posted, so she notified us immediately. I scrubbed my name and his without any trouble, and then, just to see how bad it could get, I searched a few of my friends’ names, including friends who would have reason to be careful with their info.

    Good lord, folks. In addition to the “addresses” part, the “associates” part is extra-creepy. Most of the entries for me were random cousins I barely know, but one of them was a good friend from college and I thought, “Why the hell is she on here, in particular?” That was when I remembered we rented a place together after college…one of the addresses on my list, in fact. So basically, anyone you have ever shared an address with (officially – they missed my addresses where I was just renting a room informally from the homeowner) will be listed as your “associate” now.

    I’m contacting my friends about this individually and privately. I don’t want to scream it out over FB or other social media because I’m worried that stalkers, scammers, or financial thieves will visit the site first and scramble to get all the info they can before people become aware and scrub. Normally I’m all for signal-boosting, but in this case, I think it’s worthwhile not to announce the existence of these sites to the bad folks who don’t know about them yet.

  4. 0

    Yeah, I googled my name a couple years ago and discovered a white pages link or something that had my parents, their ages, and their address listed, as well as all of their children who were over 18 and links to “possible relatives”. I thought it was very creepy but my parents were unconcerned. Glad to know there’s a way to opt out of these things. I’ll have to check that out.

    I am disappointed, however, that a lot of websites like reverse phone number lookup require an account to use them. That used to be really useful for identifying spam calls.

    I’m also wondering if you all would also have objected to having your phone number and address listed in a phone book? The kind where they hand out the info to everyone in your town. Are you always that private about your information or are you drawing the line with your information being accessible online for everyone in the world to see?

      • 0

        Yeah, that’s part of what I’m wondering. Would the people on this thread eager to scrub their address from the internet also have requested to be unlisted in a hard copy phone book or is this different because of the nature of the internet?

        • 0

          The difference, I think, is that phonebooks are more local in reach and also predate Twitter death threats. :\

          There’s also the matter of the aggregate past information and people that these services pull, where phonebooks only list name, number, and current address. Past addresses and names of family members are common pieces of information used to verify identity for things like opening new credit cards or retrieving lost passwords online, basically making this site a one-stop-shop for identity theft.

          That aside, I think some people are predisposed to be more freaked out by this because we have unique names. I’m pretty positive I’m the only person in the United States with my name, which already makes me uncomfortably easy to Google. When I searched for myself on Family Tree Now, I came up instantly, even having to enter a state. There’s just nobody to confuse me with.

    • 0

      My family didn’t seem to care either, and they asked me what’s different about this than a phone book? But the fact that we have a really common last name and someone would have to know what they were looking for to find us in a phonebook makes it seem less creepy…this was way too easy.

  5. 0

    Went through and also informed my family and some friends, thank you! Spokeo also had quite a bit of aggregated date from me as well.

    I’ve sort of given up on making myself truly anonymous as my name is so unique and I go to a state university so even if you google just my first name and my state, I show up on the first page of results. But, no harm in making it a bit more difficult for the stalkers.

  6. 0

    If you google my name, you get my voter registration from high school and where I lived at the time, which is my parents’ current address. I work with people convicted of crimes – not saying all such people are inherently dangerous, etc, but there are people who have my name that I absolutely do not want having my parents address.

    It’s not even an active registration anymore – I have no idea what to do about it.

  7. 0

    i actually just looked myself up on there last night and couldn’t find a listing for me, but i did find ones for my parents and one of my sisters.

    the creepiest to me was googling myself one time back in the day and finding a site that had lifted my info and pics from my myspace account. ever since then, i’ve not used actual photos of myself for profile pics, and i’ve been a lot more careful about what info about myself i put out there.

    • 0

      This is truely scary! A lot of the information listed on me was accurate and I want it taken down. However, I’m worried that the opt-out feature is a phishing scam. This site is as low and shady as they come. I don’t trust it and since the story made the news people with ill-intent have more reasons to look up our personal information.

  8. 0

    Search Family Tree Now carefully friends: My student loan company misspelled my name when I applied for a loan way back when (combining by first name and middle initial…I’ve since corrected it, obviously), and there’s a listing for me with that same typo. There’s also a listing for my dad with his childhood nickname, that I can’t imagine would be on any official record anywhere. Yikes.

  9. 0

    Only one listing for me and my sister, but my mother hand 4(including her maiden name, and a misspelling of her name), and my father had two(first name and English name). Also creepy was it had relative on there who lives out of the country.

    I didn’t find my self on reddit at least i a search didn’t bring anything up about me. But, did find 3 other people with my name on facebook, including a guy in Indonesia who may have gotten in trouble for a traffic violation and another one who asked where the weed at, but in another post mention don’t hit the mother of your child no matter how angry she makes you, mostly using emojis. Thank you for this post, it was intersting and scary.

  10. 0

    Angers! Few things make me irate or few things I apparently allow to make me feel irate but whatever-this kind of practice is one of them. I had a stalker years back. Like she dug through the trashcans of my sublessee to find where I moved kinda stalker. I abstain, in part, from social media b/c of this–where it is a choice to share.

    However, thanks to the reminder-y nature of this article I just learned in my state of Ohio, I cannot-and have no apparent recourse-to remove my addy from their state site-which comes up in searches-b/c it’s public record.

    Because I vote

    I therefore cannot expect this information to be secure-b/c anyone could petition to see it and they could sooo–this is their logic. In early November I removed a ton of info and address from another state site that displayed who I voted for in the 2008 election. I’m no lawyer but can someone explain to me when did our ballots stop being secret? This is okay??

    And guys, I worry for all the very lovely old people who don’t know this is happening, we need to help them take their info down too. 🙁

    Is this going on in anyone else’s state? European, Canadian folks, etc.–is this happening where you’re at?

      • 0

        Aw thanks. It was scary in the during and y’know it sucked moving twice but parts of it are hilarious in retrospect. Blaring music outside at 2am, and I’m like, huh, is that…? ‘Sometimes I feel like somebody’s watchin’ meee’. Yep, that is Michael Jackson I’m hearing right now.

        My straight lady stalker: Captain obvious.

    • 0

      I work with voter data and there is some truly scary stuff out there, sorry. Unfortunately there’s no way to keep your legal name and address and which elections you’ve voted in (a simple “yes”/”no”, or sometimes “early/absentee/day of”) off the public record. Some states make these records public to anyone who cares to download a zip file online; others charge a nominal fee (usually less than $100) or will only give their files to representatives political parties, but it also will end up getting to one of the companies that compile US voter rolls and sell it to political orgs.

      It shouldn’t be possible to see *who* you voted for, though. I imagine the “who” was a guess based on the site’s modeling of your demographics, which are often quite accurate. I comfort myself that there was a period of time when my race was modeled as “hispanic” even though I have one of the most Jewish names possible, and that my vote propensity is in the low teens because I’m under 30, even though I’ve never missed an election!

  11. 0

    Thanks for this, Ali. It’s truly terrifying. Myself, Parents, Grandparents, Cousins, Aunts, Uncles were all listed with their addresses. Spokeo had a fucking picture of my parents house. It had my mom’s past 8 addresses. NOPE. NOPE NOPE NOPE. And this is available to anyone who just has my first and last name (I didn’t even need to list my middle name or state or any of that).

    • 0

      Yeah, since I own a home, my current address can’t be private. Though the local government database of property records disallows people using the information for “commercial” purposes, so I think I could still stop aggregators from republishing it in a more searchable form.

  12. 0

    I’m lucky: apparently my name is the same as some minor historical figure (even middle name!) so all the first results on google for my name are about her. Regardless, I was on the family tree website which super creepily also had all of my family’s addresses, as well as one of my mom’s old friends that lived with us a short while listed as an associate. (She lived with my family for a while when escaping from a super abusive relationship, but our address isn’t listed on her page, weird!)

    Thank you for posting this guide, though. I try to keep as low a profile as possible because I’m nb/trans but not really out to many people, and I don’t want my chosen name(s) associated with my legal one.

  13. 0

    I understand that autostraddle is a US centric website, but when you’re talking about a website like “Family Tree Now” which at present only collects information about people who have lived in the US, could you please specify?

    Stalking and online harassment turned personal are things I have experienced and have a lot of lingering anxiety about. A disclaimer that Family Tree Now is at present limited to the US would have saved me some of the unnecessary anxiety I experienced this morning.

  14. 0

    This website is very scary and I’m super paranoid about being doxxed as an activist. In addition to watching Reddit, you should also make sure your name doesn’t pop up in a thread on a site called KiwiFarm. It’s the literal asshole of the internet and a hub for doxxing. They stalk my social media accounts on a thread there and it’s impossible to get anything taken down. If you are ever on there get your accounts on lockdown pronto!

  15. 0

    Yikes! I found my whole family on like six different sites: names, ages, and my parents’ current address (I’ve never actually lived there). My parents do not own a house anymore, so I don’t know how this information would have become public. I seem to have given these address-publishing entities the slip, though: when I got married, I changed my name for Reasons, and although “disappearing from public record” was not one of them, it seems to have been a happy side effect. (Leaving the country where I was born might have helped, too.)

  16. 0

    I hope people will still pop by to read this. Another website to check is Intelius.com. I found my name, address, the college I got my degree from, the names of all four of my parents, and a bunch of other stuff. The site also would provide background check stuff. You have to pay to get the information, but the address could be inferred from what they don’t block out.

  17. 0

    Anyone know if there’s a way to change LinkedIn settings? Currently my LinkedIn page, which has all of my recent work history, pops up if you google my name. Having that information public on LinkedIn always made me uncomfortable, but it seemed necessary to getting a job…

  18. 0

    Fortunately I’ve already got most of this under control – as a public school teacher, I always make sure that my profiles are private, I’m near untraceable, and as little personal information is available about me as possible. I hadn’t heard about Family Tree Now, though, so thanks for sharing! It didn’t have my “new” address yet (I’ve been living here for almost 2 years), but that might be because I moved between states and have a pretty common name.
    For those of you looking to have a more in-depth internet cleansing, I would second Ali’s recommendation to Google yourself, but also have someone else Google you. After a while Google knows how you search and can target certain results toward you. When I had a former roommate search, she found other sites and other info.
    Be safe out there, people!

  19. 0

    I feel like those of us with very unique names should create a group where we take each other’s names and make alternate fantastical personas, LinkedIn profiles, and addresses.

    I wouldn’t mind having a livethequestion, penguin relationship researcher, Antarctica address profile out there somewhere, just to throw people off. 😉

  20. 0

    This also happens through several other websites, especially if you are registered to vote in the United States (voterrecords.com). There is also a way to “opt out” on the FAQ page (https://voterrecords.com/faq), though, I regret to say that I have very little faith that it remains with this status for long.

    The warnings of Noam Chomsky on surveillance, internet privacy, and recusing yourself from an internet presence seem more potent in these times. I get sick to my stomach thinking of the power *anybody* could have. I never doubted that As a young person who wishes to become more active and politically involved, I not so much fear for myself, but my family.

    I think it is also hard to resolve to swear off of an internet presence for so many of us, because we find such a strong community that could not other wise be found (e.g. AutoStraddle). An internal conflict that arises fairly consistently…

  21. 0

    This is creepier than creepy. Like how is this even legal?! WTF. It had THREE entries for me, and my name is unique. They were all me. Two entries were identical, but still. The first one had my family’s address on it plus my college dorm PO box address, and the others had my current address. Not okay!

  22. 0

    Is there any way to sue and take these companies down? It just feels like the most profound violation of privacy! I am fulky aware that most online companies just live off mining our information and selling it back and forth but everything about it is so unethical.

  23. 0

    Luckily it didn’t know my real name but it DID know my dead name and from there all my family and my ex-husbands family. Including my dad’s previous wife and other weirdness like that.

    That wasn’t the worst part though… the worst part was that in “known associates” or whatever it was called it knew my scary, abusive ex-boyfriend. It was sickening to even see that name typed out. Ugh…

    Thanks for this super helpful writeup, Ali. <3

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!