View Full Version : Feel Guilty?
Does anyone every feel guilty for what we do as a “hobby”? Essentially we dig up what our ancestors (also known as family) spent their lifetime trying to cover up.
Myself, I have found information that my Great Grandfather wanted hidden, yet I did not stop “hunting”.
So are we wrong for uncovering what our relatives did not want known or is it our responsibility to let the truth be known?
To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield
11-10-2005, 9:23 AM
* uncovering something is one thing
* telling the world is another
I don't feel guilty if I uncover something
thankfully there aren't any serious skeletons in our closet
but I'm reasonably discreet as to who I tell
uncovering some things helps you understand the person
I think I understand my father now he is dead ( over 10 years )
better than when he was alive, which is a shame really
But he was a medic in WW II.
And I never understood why he wasn't involved in the RSA or talked about the war much, but when I started really coming to grips with what he might have seen and dealt with ...
I had a better idea of who the man was.
It's frustrating I know
But you come to understand - why they want to take the past to the grave with them.
11-10-2005, 9:30 AM
I don't feel guilty, more intrigued by puzzles. But, I do think that we have to be sensitive about the issues concerned if they are still fairly recent and they may cause offence to living family members.
As the person carrying out the research though, I have to accept that there may be some unsavoury events which are unearthed along the way.
If I don't like the the answer, I shouldn't have asked the question.
11-10-2005, 9:38 AM
uncovering some things helps you understand the person .................... you come to understand - why they want to take the past to the grave with them.I would agree with that Neville. It also helps us to understand who we are and how we come to be the way we are.
but I'm reasonably discreet as to who I tellAgain - I agree. There are things I wouldn't tell but I don't feel guilty about knowing them. There are other things that were kept secret for reasons which no longer exist.
11-10-2005, 9:44 AM
Why is assumed that we uncover issues our ancestors tried to cover up?
Until the hypocrisy of the Victorian era most issues that seem to cause embarrassment now were openly talked of. It was the Victorians that hid all these things under the carpet whilst carrying on secret dalliances.
We as family historians have a duty to uncover and record such facts and not allow our history to be lost in the mists of time. One of the reasons the genealogist or family historian is not taken seriously by mainstream historians is because many are willing to bend the truth by hiding unsavoury facts.
It is time such family historians came to terms with themselves and paid proper tribute to their ancestors by recording their lives warts and all.
11-10-2005, 10:21 AM
On my husband's line, I solved the mystery of how the *Family money* ended up being left to a Home for Horses. This was because of a second illegal Marriage to a late Wife's sister and she chose to ignore the Will of her husband, who stated that after her death, his Estate should be divided equally between the children of both Marriages. She left the lot to her two daughters, one of which left her share to her sister ..... she being a Spinster adored horses! :(
On my side of the family, there really was a cover-up and I'm still upset about it. My Mother and her sisters were told that their Uncle John b. 1883, died when he was 12 years old after having fits. I found out that he died in 1943 in Storthes Hall Lunatic Asylum near Huddersfield, Yorkshire. :(
11-10-2005, 10:28 AM
We as family historians have a duty to uncover and record such facts and not allow our history to be lost in the mists of time. One of the reasons the genealogist or family historian is not taken seriously by mainstream historians is because many are willing to bend the truth by hiding unsavoury facts. Yes Guy. The truth is what it is and should be recorded as such. We should also be as sure as the evidence allows us to be before jumping to conclusions (another reason we're not always taken seriously). If we opt for anything else then we are deceiving ourselves about who we are and failing in any attempt to understand our ancestors.
However there is a differnce between that and pushing other family members to accept truths that they cannot stomach. The sensibilities may be fairly recent in origin but they exist. Family History is my hobby - not theirs.
11-10-2005, 1:53 PM
So far I have discovered a suicide (which I knew about, but the details of that `handed down' were incorrect), a possible illegitimacy, and a set of gt. grandparents `living over the brush' for many years before actually marrying.
I can't help wondering what the situations were that these people found themselves in, and how they coped. Without actually `knowing' the people, it is rather sad that we can only envisage what it must have been like to carry these secrets to their graves.
My discovery of these facts, doesn't harm anyone in our family, and like myself, all are sad that they must have been desperate at times. I have no feelings that I need to `hide' any of these discoveries, as at this time, the information is for my own family history. If someone else comes along on the same branch, then I would share this information, as it is necessary to form a definate picture of these people at that time. I don't feel guilty that I am revealing that which my Ancestors decided to keep quiet, in fact I think they are probably glad that the truth is now out! ;)
11-10-2005, 2:30 PM
I think there's a bit of the thrill of being a bit of a Sherlock Holmes solving the mystery, tracking down the missing, uncovering all sorts of deeds etc etc
I think also if you have some idea of where you've come from then you have an idea of where you're going .....
150 years ago my ancestor left Britain, arrived in Australia and then arrived in New Zealand.
Part of the puzzle is trying to piece togethers possible reasons why .....
Maybe in 150 years time my descendants will have a better idea of why I moved where I did, and why they live where they live.
Dates and names are one thing
But I like to try to understand the person, who they were, what events shaped their lives.
11-10-2005, 2:36 PM
I have debated this one with myself several times.Way back in the mist of times- late sixties, my Aunt & Mother decided to trace their Family Tree.My Aunt was living in Utah at the time & in correspondence with her Fathers Uncle who had recentily retired infected him with the bug.He drove off to Edinburgh & started the work.He was very excited & passed on lots of info.
Then all the surviving brothers met at my Grandpas home.There was a discussion in private after which my Mother,married with five children was told that no more searching was to be done.No explanation,just stop.
My Mother was always a dutiful & loving daughter but felt this was unfair,this after all was part of who she was & for my Aunt a need to Seal the generations together.
They went ahead after my Grandpas death & what they found was that my Grandpas Mother was born out of wedlock.Not only that they never married & as far as I have been acertain never even met!! He lived with his siblings & widowed Mother a few streets away from Maggie & her Mum.She is registered only in her Mothers name but is using her Fathers surname by age 8.They are both named on her Marriage Certificate(she gets two entries in both surnames)Their is an ongoing relationship with Fathers family which continues even after her Death.He I think eventually marries someone else but has no other Recorded children.
So something which today is becoming more the norm shocked these lovely men to the core.In fact most of my Family seem to specialise in marrying
1.About a year after the first child.
2.If not they marry as close to Birth as possible.
3.They wait several years before having any or dont bother to record the event.
I know their economic status meant that in most cases they couldnt afford to stop work & being in service & married was not often an option so they literary worked until they dropped the child.Having seen the cost of the Marriage Banns they probably couldnt actully afford the price.
This is our heritage we need to understand where we came from,what shaped us I am sure there are some things which I wont pass on but most is in the "Public Arena" so one day if somebody goes digging Im sure it will emerge.
We need to walk in their shoes & be sympathetic to sometimes most painful,heartbreaking things.They have to be seen in context of their times
& what we reveal should be done to illimunate.
All the skeletons I have let out of the cupboard (including suicide, illegitimacy, bankruptcy - all the things it is possible for any family historian to find) have helped my understanding of my (and my husband's) ancestor's lives.
The matter of fact way in which my great grandmother had to get on with her life after her husband hung himself, leaving her with five young children and pregnant with my grandfather - no 'councilling' for her, she just had to get on with it. At least I can try and understand just how hard things must have been for her. She wouldn't have got much sympathy at the time.
As others have said, I love 'turning detective' in rootling out all these hidden truths. I am sure that some of my ancestors would be horrified to know that I have discovered their secrets, but they can rest assured that unless I find a mass murderer amongst them (Heaven forbid :eek: ) I will continue to admire the way they coped with things that I can't even imagine.
11-10-2005, 5:05 PM
" I will continue to admire the way they coped with things that I cannot even imagine"
How very true ! I cannot imagine how they coped with ordinary day to day living, the sheer hard physical labour, poor and inadequate food, infant mortality, childbirth, disease and so on, let alone the so-called 'skeletons. My view is that we should not attempt to judge our ancestors for the way they lived - they were vastly different times from today and we should accept that They made the best of what they had as we still do, but we have more advantages.
Water under the bridge is a phrase that springs to mind - it happened, it is a fact, a part of history, not only Family History. Every family has skeletons; my own extended family includes a murderer, a lunatic, two suicides, a drunkard and wife beater, a whole raft of seven month babies as well as a Lord Mayor of Sheffield, two Master Cutlers and the Sixth Duke of Devonshire's Coachman. Why should I be proud of the latter and want to hide the former ?
I doubt if any of the tragedies or so called skeletons could really be hidden at the time. Neighbours would know if a girl was pregnant or if a man hung himself or cut his throat, or a woman was too fond of the gin bottle and would talk. Churchwardens' or Overseers' Accounts reveal details of bastardy settlements and these would probably be known to the whole parish.
Any trawl through Parish Registers will reveal many marriages considerably less than nine months before a baptism - it seem to have been accepted as a way of life, to prove a woman's fertility since children were needed to share the work, bring in a wage from the age of 12 or 13 and to provide succour for parents in old age.
I treasure the memory of each and every one of my ancestors no matter what. I suspect that it is only the later generations, who sought to hide what had gone before.
11-10-2005, 11:03 PM
OH! well said Eileen, mind you I would give my eye teeth for just one of your black sheep. I have exotic ancestors with my actors but the most you could possibly say about the colour of their fleece is that they were a sort of grubby grey. Those ancestors that were very naughty will show up in records but tracing the good ones is so much harder.
I don't feel I can stand in judgement on anything my ancestors did because if just one of them had not behaved exactly as they did I would not be here and that's something I cannot contemplate :D
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