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Old 04-14-2013, 09:38 PM
5,640 posts, read 16,973,907 times
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Great thread.
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Old 04-15-2013, 04:42 AM
11,702 posts, read 13,164,554 times
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Originally Posted by High_Plains_Retired View Post
If I was trained as a modern journalist, or a prosecuting attorney, I suppose I would report it all the way I think I see it and let the chips fall no matter who it hurts. Luckily though I set out not to be a journalist or a lawyer but instead to simply document a family lineage. I have destroyed family letters that could have easily brought pain to living descendants simply because I knew descendants have no choice in who they are born to while society sometimes acts as though there is a choice.
Hmmm, you may have put your finger on why I take a different tack. I had two majors in college, one was anthropology....and the other was journalism. Either one of which, much less together, can appeal to - if not form, a mind that has an "archeological" turn.

As I have mentioned in the past, I discovered that a guarded remark made to me by an aging aunt to the effect that the reason we lacked a photo of only one of her grtgrandparents was because "she wasn't white." This was a stunner as I had never heard even the remotest hint to that effect, and, in fact, my mother and aunt's grtgrands were so far back that they had all been reduced to simply names.

When I got to doing genealogy decades later, I went through the old records. But initially I started with the paternal side of my maternal grandmother's family as they were Loyalists who had walked to Canada after the Revolution. They were quite a mixed bag of folks, and none of them of English background, surprisingly. Finally, I got around to the maternal side of my grandmother's family.

I didn't get far for a long time....I had the leading surname as Johnson, and it was JohnsTon. Took me forever to have the smarts to start looking for that spelling (dumb!) And there everyone was all over the place...and the most senior Johnston had married a woman whose identity was variously Negro or Coloured. Her children were identified as W. After one census I lost the entire family except for my mother's grandmother...but the woman's parents and siblings vanished after years of living in the same town. They must have moved, but where. I tried chasing them down in the U.S. and Canada, but their names were too common. And then out of the blue a descedent of one of the migrants sent me email, and I found out where they had gone. I also saw in doing my own record checking that the matriarch was now enumerated as W. My take is that she was a light-skinned mulatto who was known as "Coloured" in her home area, but who looked as W as her husband and children and that was what she became to the census enumerators in her new home.

In any case, without any elaboration on my part this data went into the family history, which I them shared with my two surviving materal first cousins. Despite the fact that we were all born and raised in the same area of the NE, they went as ballistic as if they were Aryan Nation or KKK. They freaked. And so much so that they have ceased to communicate with me in any manner.

Sheesh, we have a double-murderer only one generation back, and no one ever hid him or his deed. But this was clearly dynamite, though this woman is our grtgrtgrandmother! Good grief she was born in the early decades of the 1800's. On the other hand, my cousins' father was descended from a Hessian deserter from Burgoyne's army, which seemed to be seen as a star in their crown.

This stuff is history two centuries old, and so I gave a detailed and documented family history that comibined both sides of my cousins' family tree to their local historical society. It is a merry dance of Hessian, Dutch Loyalist, Palatine, African-American and Scot, and two centuries after the fact should not require Prozac to deal with.
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Old 04-25-2013, 07:42 PM
Location: Memphis - home of the king
26,529 posts, read 22,875,874 times
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Originally Posted by silverwing View Post
... But, for all the bad ju-ju that exists around that family photo, I can't dispose of it. As a family historian, I think it should be preserved....
Your instincts are accurate. It is not a historian's job, even a family historian, to EDIT the paste, but simply our duty to preserve it.
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Old 04-25-2013, 09:05 PM
Location: North Carolina
2,657 posts, read 7,024,326 times
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Originally Posted by bjh View Post
Your instincts are accurate. It is not a historian's job, even a family historian, to EDIT the past, but simply our duty to preserve it.
Thanks. I wonder if some sort of karmic prediction inspired this thread. I've learned in the last few days that preserving the existence and accuracy of family history can throw one into a buzzing wasp nest

A male relative died a few years back, so estranged from family that it was only by a spur of the moment search through newspaper archives that I learned of his death. In his obituary, his biological children were not mentioned - more estrangement going on. By one of those rilly-rilly odd happenstances, his second wife had first married, and had children by, a man with the same surname as my relative, though there was no relation (the surname is very common). So, the kids carried the same last name as their stepfather. In the obituary, the step-children were listed as if they were the bio-children of my relative. Even their children were listed as Male Relative's grandchildren.

I didn't consider it any of my business to dig into the motives, but I had associated with all those people when I was much younger. The stepchildren were in their late teens; one was even married; when my relative entered their mother's life. It's not like he raised them, but it appears that they did develop a bond. So, in my family tree, I placed a copy of the obituary, but I also listed the relations in my tree in their true form: first marriage+bio-kids; second marriage+step-kids. I even dug up the information about the second wife's first husband and listed as much information as I could to straighten out the connections. And since Living people can't be seen unless you give permission in the settings, I added a note to the obituary, clarifying that these people shared a very common surname with my relative but were not related by blood.

It appears that someone in that family had signed up to Ancestry, or been advised by someone they knew who saw my family tree ... whatever. My Inbox was blown up with messages. My relative's bio-kids didn't want to have anything to do with their father, his step-children were more like family to him than the kids he had with his first wife, blah blah blah. The biological father of those step-kids abandoned them and their mother when they were little .... more soap opera details. I was ordered to delete the addendum to the obituary.

I replied back that I respected whatever sort of emotional relationship they had with my relative, but what was important to me were the facts of how people were connected. I knew that, on Ancestry, people were always copying trees without research and I was not going to be the source of a confabulated mess by someone taking the listing of people in the obituary and detailing them as blood connections. If that person wanted to construct a tree based on how people got along rather than the correct biological relationships, that was their choice.

A number of expletive messages followed, whereupon I blocked the person. Talk about being an anger ball

So, family-wise, I foresee future generations who will wonder what sort of circumstances lead to the disconnect between relatives. If the information I detailed is copied and preserved, at least those people won't be mixed up about being related to one another because of a common surname.
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Old 04-26-2013, 04:30 AM
Location: Memphis - home of the king
26,529 posts, read 22,875,874 times
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True. Though I love the human interest aspect of genealogy, family trees are about facts, not feelings.
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