Skip to main content

Dealing with Family Tragedy in Genealogy

I have heard that sometimes digging into your family history can dig up some heartbreak. What happens when you do uncover tragedy? Should you share what you found out or keep it hidden to protect the family members still living? There are two camps of thought, those who believe that a genealogist has a duty to uncover the truth and those that believe in protecting the family name.

I haven't met a family yet that didn't have some kind of secret. Humans are not perfect and make mistakes. Sometimes tragic things happen that a person has no control over and they choose to let those tragedies to break them. Some have the patience of Job! No matter what they are still family. Uncovering tragedies brings those family members closer to you. People tend to put their ancestors on a pedestal so much that they are hard to relate to. Knowing that they sometimes slept around or committed sometimes unspeakable acts makes them more human. You can learn that your family has a problem with alcoholism or depression. Sometimes it is important to be aware of those facts for medical reasons. Tragedy also helps explain some weirdness in your family. Putting them in their pocket of history also helps you understand why they did certain things.

Some people however need to put their family on a pedestal. That pride in family history holds their life together. The reality that their family wasn't perfect breaks their heart. Maybe that is a good thing, but sometimes the dead need to be respected. The idea of tearing down a family's reputation comes from Marxism and was popular in Communist nations. It was done to break down old family aristocracies. Later it became popular in the South after the Civil War to break down the Old Southern families. People almost seemed to grin with a little too much joy when it became possible that Thomas Jefferson had an affair with a slave. The idea of respecting the past was destroyed and instead focusing on a family's flaws was more important. It became vogue to write about the fall of great families. William Faulkner made a career of it. Too often it was the reality as the old families destroyed themselves while the carpetbaggers cheered with glee as they took the old Southern families places in society.

I guess I want to protect my family name. They were great and achieved greatness. At the same time I feel the family needs to know the tragedy of our family. Two generations have passed. Most of those directly affected are now dead. Though my family went through a terrible tragedy, the family is doing well today. We aren't the height of society anymore, but we still live good lives and our families are building ourselves back up. Few of us drink alcohol and that seems to help. Diseases like arthritis and chronic depression are more manageable than they were in the past. We understand what our ancestors went through, forgive them, and learn from their mistakes. That is all you can do. It is for this reason that as I have uncovered a dark family secret that I have decided to share it with them but I will not publish in public what I have uncovered out of respect for those still directly connected to the family. A genealogist holds a lot of power and must be responsible. Our job isn't to destroy but to strengthen a family.


Popular posts from this blog

Overprotective Mom's Guide to Pop Music this Week

I have 2 teens and so I try to keep up with what is going on in music. I want to know what my kids are listening to. I also need to be aware of what songs are playing on the radio while my kids are in the van. I listened to the Top Ten pop songs on the Billboard chart and wrote down my impressions of the songs.

My son asked me one afternoon, "Mom, why is Ariana Grande walking side to side?' I usually don't listen to the words and focus on the beat and melody so I was surprised that he caught what the lyrics were. The song he is referring to is "Side to Side" by Ariana Grande featuring Nicki Minaj. I've heard that song around 200 times over the last couple of months. I just figured she was dancing with some guy and they were swaying side to side like you do at church dances. Well, I found out what it really means, prompted by my son's question. She's had sex with a guy all day and all night so she's so sore she walks side to side. (Vomit) Now I ch…

STUFF Clogging My Mind

I haven't blogged in a while. I never made it big in blogging and I never found an audience. I gave up and instead used Twitter as a way to express myself. I primarily used Twitter for about four years and even had my own little community. I had a few major retweets but was never famous or anything. I kept myself anonymous because I didn't want attention. I just wanted to express my feelings. A month ago I quit and it was one of the best decisions I've made.

It was popular last year to say that 2016 was the worst year ever! It was a very strange year for me! I went through many challenges, new baby, c section, deployment, teenagers, a move, and ended the year losing my grandfather, I went into a deep depression and realized that I was spending sometimes 6-8 hours arguing with people on Twitter. I knew that couldn't help my depressed mood so I decided one day to quit. By day three I felt like a new person. I had more energy and I no longer felt hopeless. Instead of wast…

Writer's Block

I usually have great ideas to write about especially if I am not under any pressure. Writer's block is horrible. I've had it at times, especially when I am busy or distracted. It's rare that it happens to me. 
What if I finally published a novel? It became popular and fans wanted a sequel. My anxiety would kick in like a huge block of ice, blocking my flow. What if I disappoint my fans? What if I can't repeat my previous success? Doubt will eventually lead to writer's block. Years go by and I still haven't published anything. Everyday I open up my computer and stare at a blank screen. I distract myself by going to Reddit or Twitter and discuss things like feminism in Star Wars and the worst sunburn I've ever had. 
One day I decide that I need to take my writing seriously. I put on some headphones and play white noise to try to clear my head while walking through a city park. The static masks the sounds of life and I am able to sit on a bench and clear my mi…