When Mom Does What GGGGGGG-Gma Did

They say time heals all wounds. That may or may not be true.

Perspective matters. Emotional attachment matters. Knowing the individuals involved personally involved in a situation matters.

Sometimes individuals wax poetically and eagerly share the “black sheep” in their family. Some view it as romantic when a 18th century relative leaves their family, heads to parts unknown, and starts a new life.  It can be entertaining to read about a relative’s exploits in the newspapers and criminal court records.

I’m not saying that we should hide these stories or that we should be embarrassed by them. We shouldn’t. Genealogists have an obligation to report accurately what information is given in records. We are not responsible for the transgressions of the deceased or activities in which we took no part.

But it’s different when the discovery involves someone the researcher personally knew. What is eccentric about an aunt in the 1850s is an entirely different challenge when it involves your own mother. That 1890 secret about uncle Herman is a something else when it’s your mother’s brother. It’s understandable when a relative does not want to talk about “negative” events in which they were personally involved or that involves individuals the relative knew personally. We can’t force someone to share things they don’t want to share. We can’t force them to react in ways that we would–or think we would.

And we can’t know how we would respond to certain discoveries about our own immediate family until we make them. We can’t know how members of our immediate family we react until these discoveries are made.

It’s academic when an article written by someone you don’t know discusses the three brothers they discovered through a DNA test. It’s not so academic when your own DNA test reveals your mother had children you never existed. The “isn’t that neat?” reaction turns into “holy crap” in an instant.

In the pre-DNA test days of genealogical research, it was easier for some secrets to stay hidden. DNA has changed that. Secrets that some thought would never be discovered are being discovered.

Just remember that when the secrets involve living individuals, the excitement over a “scandal” might not be the sort of excitement you are looking for.


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