The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Family Secrets and what to do with them?
When we set off on our Family History journey and start delving into the past and the lives of our Ancestors, I’m sure that we all envisage some idyllic moments mixed in with some harder times, but are we really prepared, for when we actually find out something awful in our past?
I think that there is a little part of all of us, that likes the idea of a bit of a scoundrel or a loveable rogue in our past, it all adds to the colour of our tree and is actually also a part of the fabric that makes up you and me. A convict transported to Australia in the dim and distant past seems an exciting line of Research to explore, but of course although it’s part of our History, it’s far enough removed from our current stories that we feel distanced enough from it. A Skeleton in the cupboard all seems rather exciting doesn’t it?
But what if we discover something more recent, more painful, that affects some family members that are still alive today, how do we deal with a situation like that?
I don’t think that there is a definitive answer to the question, each and every situation will be different and personal to each and every one of us, our reactions and responses therefore will be different to each other.
We could of course be talking about a verbal testimony from a living relative regarding another living relative, it could be a paternity issue discovered from DNA testing or it could something revealed in a paper trail discovery, either way the consequences can and will be potentially life changing.
So what can we do to protect those involved and more importantly, what can we do to protect those that discover and hold the Family Secret? If you are the “keeper” of the secret, the burden of responsibility can consume you.
Questions you will continually ask yourself will include; should you reveal it and when? Is there ever a right time to do this, in many cases these secrets are taken to the Grave. Equally is there ever a wrong time to reveal? Only you will know the answer to those questions.
Taking this revelation to the next stage, how do we record this in our trees and should we even record this Family Secret? There is a school of thought that suggests we should leave this subject out of our tree completely, but there is a school of thought that suggests, that we should record all aspects within our tree, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
Of course every case will be different and individual and personal to you. We could record the bare facts in the trees we have online, for example, and keep our personal notes, exactly that, for our eyes only, this would obviously include privatising that individual on your tree. What if you left them completely off your tree? There is also an issue then with fellow researchers who follow on from you. They might see a gap in your tree and immediately want to investigate it further. Are there likely to be newspaper reports revealing the story or even court cases and trials, depending on the circumstances of the event.
You might think you are the only person “in the know”, but could others already know the secret. How do you approach the subject without revealing the secret?
There are no real answers to any of the questions that I raise in this blog, all the blog will do is give you things to consider and further food for thought. Every case will be individual. We do however have a duty of care to protect the living and this should always be at the forefront of your mind when you are reaching your conclusions.
Sadly you can’t “Unknow something” and once you have opened Pandora’s Box it’s too late.
So enjoy and embrace your Family History, it’s all part of the fabric that makes you who you are today, but just be careful of those Skeletons in the cupboard, some might be bigger than you expected!