When I first started out to trace my family roots, I was so excited and only saw great things. I chose my maternal side to start because I knew most all of them were church-going and down to earth folks. I knew my paternal side had a few issues that would be hard to bypass. I was soon to find out that not everything that glitters is gold!
The strange thing about researching your family is that folks may not know much about their ancestors but they sure are willing to open up about their generation! It wasn’t long before I had so much floating in my research that I didn’t know how to handle. Some things I still don’t know how to handle. Family research is sometimes very frustrating. You want to tell the whole story but can you really do that?
How would you react when you hear stories of relatives who may have abused others? How do you react when you hear stories about robberies and prison? How do you react when you hear stories of such proportions that you wouldn’t even begin to try to think of how to approach it? I’ve encountered many things that are dilemmas to me, both legally and morally! If I were to publish some things I might find myself in a court of law. If I were to tell others, I may find myself being blacklisted! Genealogy is not always fun!
There is one thing that has bothered me in my research that is really puzzling to me. It’s not really a legal or a moral issue, it’s just a judgement call. I have a relative who has asked me to not publish any information about their prior marriages except for the one that gave this person their son! Why? Because this person has told the current spouse that they were only married once in the past! So, you want to respect their wishes but how do you do that and not be truthful in your research? If I leave out the other marriages and someone else knows about them (which others do) then I become an accomplice in this person’s cover-up. If I publish them and this person’s spouse comes across them, then I may be responsible for a divorce! This has truly been the major dilemma I have faced recently. The other things you just use common sense because it is all hearsay and rumors or just information that is not vital to your research. Withholding the information from this person’s marriages would make my research incomplete, false and would lead others to wonder how much more I would be willing to cover up!
How would you react to this request? I’ve thought of publishing complete facts because I really don’t have much of a relationship with this person. I mean, we communicate but we don’t call each other, go to each other’s homes and this person doesn’t come to any reunions because of the fear that someone would leak out the wrong information to their spouse. What would it hurt me to publish the complete facts?
I wonder, what would it hurt? Would I be seen as a person you can trust with your information? Would people be willing to share their family secrets with me anymore? Trust is very vital in genealogy. Your family needs to know they can trust you!
So, I don’t publish the information. What does that do for those who know I am withholding information? Will they begin to ask me to withhold information concerning them? Will they just blow me off as someone who makes up his own rules and they can’t trust?
I may never have a solution for this dilemma. I have the information on the other marriages, I just haven’t published it because I still don’t know what to do!
I’m sure I am not the only one who has come across problems like this. I would love to hear how others would react to this situation. Maybe someone can give me a breakthrough on how to handle this! Feel free to leave a comment with any advice on how you would handle this situation!