So you want to find out about your family history, huh? Where did your grandparents, great grandparents, etc. come from? What was life like? Most genealogists will tell you to start with yourself and work backward. You write down what you know and then start to ask other family members to help fill in the blanks.
WITH ALL THAT DIGGING, YOU ARE BOUND TO UNCOVER SOMETHING.
Now what? You’ve opened the proverbial closet and found a skeleton. You now need to decide – do you close the door and leave the skeleton in there or do you let it out? What? You didn’t plan for this? You didn’t want this much responsibility, you say? Well, it’s too late for that. Genealogy is not just dates and places, it is the story of people. How do you decide what to tell and what’s best left alone?
Here are some things that I take into consideration:
- Will anyone be truly hurt by the information?
- Is there anyone still living that is connected to this person or event? How would they feel if you shared?
- Would spreading the word really be worth it? What is the ultimate goal?
Many families have found unwed mothers that had children raised as siblings. While that may not be a huge issue in today’s society, if those descendants have no idea, that could be hurtful. I would not share this information because I don’t feel it would be beneficial.
My Great Uncle had a life of crime. His first sentence was when he was 16. He was sentenced to 20 years for burglary (must have been some robbery!) . He served 7 years, was out for a year or two, got caught again – served more time, etc. My father remembers him when he was very young and says he was nice to him. Everyone that was immediately connected to my Great Uncle is gone now and he had no children.
There was a controversy surrounding his death in 1944. Family members have told me that he was ‘friendly’ with one of the neighborhood ladies and one night her husband came home and shot my great uncle as he was leaving (fleeing?) the house. The man left him in the backyard to bleed to death. The newspaper articles state that the man said he shot at a burglar, but didn’t know that he had actually shot him. I have no problem sharing pieces of his life as I think it was a rather tragic ending for a man who got in with the wrong crowd and stayed with them…
If you noticed, however, I still haven’t given a ton of details to you. Although I have shared various details with family members, I’m still not sure that item 3 – would it really be worth it? – is worth publicizing the entire situation. I’d much rather explain to you how I was able to uncover all that information in order to better paint the picture of his life, rather than the what.
What types of moral decisions have you had to make? Did you ever regret a decision to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts.